“Mischa Markow,” Church History Topics
Within 15 years of his conversion as one of the first converts to join the Church in eastern Europe, Mischa Markow (1854–1934) served two missions in countries represented today by Hungary, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, Croatia, Germany, Belgium, and Latvia. His preaching and baptizing laid the foundation for several branches that by the early 21st century had grown to nearly 350 congregations with over 80,000 members.1
Raised in Eastern Orthodox Christianity by a Serbian father and Romanian mother, Markow learned to barber and applied his trade to finance a pilgrimage to Orthodox shrines in Jerusalem and Alexandria, Egypt, in 1886. He began to study the Bible and felt the need to seek out the true church of Jesus Christ, determining to visit Constantinople, where he could investigate several Protestant churches.
In another part of the Ottoman Empire, Latter-day Saint missionary Jacob Spori dreamed of teaching a man in Alexandria, so he visited the city to search out the man from his dream. His search failed, and he boarded a ship to return to Constantinople. He encountered Markow on that ship. As Spori began preaching the gospel to Markow, he seemed to Markow like an angel. Markow did not realize he was speaking with the first Latter-day Saint missionary to proselytize in the Ottoman Empire.
Two other missionaries who had recently been called to the Turkish Mission, Ferdinand Hintze and Joseph Tanner, joined Spori and Markow in Constantinople. Hintze baptized Markow in the Black Sea in 1887. Markow returned to his hometown of Srpska Crnja, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.2 A year later, Hintze urged Markow to join the Saints in Utah, but Markow insisted he would not go to Zion without first preaching and baptizing in Europe. True to his vow, Markow preached in Belgium, taught and baptized a family there, and then immigrated to Utah.3
After almost 10 years in Utah, Markow returned to eastern Europe on his first official mission assignment for the Church.4 His experience with many east European languages made him an ideal missionary for introducing the gospel in the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, but legal limits on religious freedom hindered his first efforts. Three months after first preaching in Serbia, Markow was banished from the country. In Hungary, officials accused him of anarchy and had him imprisoned briefly before expelling him. In Romania, Markow baptized 10 people before again being expelled. He preached shortly in Bulgaria in 1900 until he was again banished.5
Forbidden from preaching in four countries, Markow boarded a boat heading west on the Danube River and prayed for inspiration. In his autobiography, he wrote that he dreamed he was preaching in Temesvár, Hungary (now Timişoara, Romania). In Temesvár, Markow experienced his greatest success. A minority group of German-speaking Catholics in the city had eagerly sought spiritual direction. Markow and another missionary baptized them and established a branch among them before Markow was reassigned to Germany, where he labored until he returned to Utah in 1901.6
In 1903 Markow returned to Europe for another mission. Apostle Francis M. Lyman, having just returned from a tour of several countries, including Russia, called upon Markow to explore the possibility of preaching in the Russian Empire. Later that year, Markow arrived in Riga (now in Latvia), where three families requested baptism. Before Markow could perform the ordinances, however, he received a court summons. Rather than risk imprisonment or another banishment, he decided to leave the country. After conferring with Lyman, Markow made his way to Turkey, preaching as he went.7 He returned to Utah in 1905, where he worked as a barber until he died in 1934.8