As the Prophet Joseph Smith began to expand the Church’s missionary efforts outside of North America, he felt that he should send missionaries to the Russian Empire. In 1843 he called Apostle Orson Hyde and George J. Adams on a “mission to introduce the fulness of the gospel to the people of that vast empire.” The mission envisioned by the Prophet, however, was not fulfilled at that time.
Decades later, missionaries began preaching in Finland, which was then part of the Russian Empire. They baptized Wendla Lindlöf in 1882. In the 1890s her son Johan wrote from his home in St. Petersburg to the Scandinavian Mission, expressing a desire to learn more.
In 1895 the mission dispatched August Höglund to visit Johan and his wife, Alma. After arriving on June 9, Höglund and the Lindlöfs spent all night talking about the gospel. Johan and Alma asked to be baptized. On June 11, Höglund accompanied them to the Neva River to perform the ordinances but could not find a quiet place along the shore. After offering a prayer, however, Höglund reported that “the boats sailed away and the people left us alone.” Johan and Alma were then baptized and confirmed. “Oh, how happy I am,” Alma exclaimed. “I know God has forgiven my sins.”
In the years that followed, Johan, Alma, and their children faced the challenge of living in isolation as Latter-day Saints. Missionaries occasionally visited, raising their spirits. In 1903 Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited the family as he came to dedicate Russia for the preaching of the restored gospel. Still, missionaries stayed only for a short time, and they only baptized one other convert.
The Lindlöfs considered emigrating to a place where the Church was established, but when World War I began, moving became impossible. The Lindlöfs lost contact with the Church for several years as the family fell victim to violence and tragedy. In 1928 Johan and Alma’s oldest surviving son moved his parents from the Soviet Union to Finland. Mission leaders who visited them praised the faithfulness of the Lindlöf family. Gideon Hulterstrom observed, “They had endured much for ‘Mormonism,’ and were willing to endure more if necessary.” Alma passed away in 1939 and Johan in 1944.