Country information: Malaysia
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 25,716,000; Members, 5,646; Districts, 4; Branches, 19; Percent LDS, .02, or one in 4,555; Asia Area; Singapore Mission.
On the southeast tip of Asia and the northern half of the island of Borneo, Malaysia is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. Its people speak Malay, Chinese, English, and Indian languages, and practice primarily Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, and local religions.
In February 1854, Elam Luddington, a Latter-day Saint missionary, preached for about five days on Prince of Wales Island, later renamed Penang. There were no other known Latter-day Saints in Malaysia until the 1960s, when Church members from Australia and the U.S. moved there on military or work assignments and began holding worship services in small groups. G. Carlos Smith of the Southeast Asia Mission organized the Penang Group with David K. Smith as leader on 16 May 1971. A second Church group was formed in Kuala Lumpur on 17 June 1973. The first conference of Church members in Malaysia was held the next month, on 28 July, in Penang.
A few Malaysians were baptized in other parts of the world during the 1970s who later became Church leaders in Malaysia: Ivan B. Ho in Taiwan, 1970; Jacob Kong in England, 1977; and Chong Sun Fu in Australia, 1979. See Ba Thee became the first Malaysian baptized in his own country on 26 July 1971. Two local members, Derrick Ho and Chan Wai Leong, were set apart in early 1976 as full-time missionaries to serve in Kuala Lumpur, where they remained for a few months.
The Church was incorporated in Malaysia on 19 October 1977. The Penang Group was dissolved sometime between 1976 and 1978 because most of its Australian and American members had moved from the area.
On 23 June 1978 Werner and Mercedes Kiepe arrived in Kuala Lumpur to serve as special representatives of the International Mission. In February 1980, J. Talmage Jones of the Singapore Mission organized the Malaysia District with J. Floyd Stoker as president. Jones also restarted the Penang Branch. The Ipoh Branch was created in 1981.
Church representatives from outside Malaysia have had difficulty obtaining visas to stay in the country for more than a few months at a time. In 1980, two young men who had joined the Church abroad, David Soon Ewe Seang and Chong Sun Fu, wrote to the mission president in Singapore expressing a desire to serve missions in their homeland. They began their service in June 1981. Other young Malaysian Latter-day Saints have followed their example.
Ivan B. Ho was sustained as the first local branch president in Kuala Lumpur on 3 January 1983 and as the first local president of the Malaysia District on 1 December 1986. Malaysia was part of the Southeast Asia Mission, 1971-1974; Singapore Mission, 1974-1978; International Mission, 1978-1980; and the Singapore Mission, beginning again in 1980.
The Church's efforts in the nation focused almost exclusively in West Malaysia before February 1985, when William and Blanch Dalby were sent to Kuching, East Malaysia. They and their successors, Manahi and Hineapa Paewai, made friends in Kuching and visited with isolated Church members in Miri, Kota Kinabalu, and Brunei, a small coastal country located in the middle of East Malaysia. After the Paewais concluded their service no further missionaries were assigned to East Malaysia for another eight years.
Jacob Kong was one of the handful of Church members whom the missionary couples met in East Malaysia in 1985. Kong joined the Church in England in 1977 and had taught school in Singapore before returning to Miri, East Malaysia, in 1984. He later moved to Kuching. When missionaries finally returned to Kuching in August 1993, Jacob Kong was set apart as group leader. He became the first president of the Kuching Branch on 18 June 1995.
Missionaries began serving elsewhere in East Malaysia during 1995 and 1996, including Kota Kinabalu in June 1995, Sibu in January 1996, and Miri in March 1996. The Kota Kinabalu East Malaysia District was organized on 4 May 1997. By the end of 1998, there were six branches each in West Malaysia and East Malaysia.
On 30 October 1990, King Syed Putra Jamallail, who served as Malaysia's head of state from 1961 to 1965, visited the Polynesian Cultural Center with members of his family. Several Church leaders in Malaysia were privileged to have dinner with King Tuanku Ja'afar and Queen Tuanku Najiha in the Royal Palace in Kuala Lumpur on 28 September 1994. The event was arranged by Church members Vincent and Sandra Gordacan, personal friends of the king and queen.
In 2003, there were 2,237 members.
The first meetinghouse constructed by the Church in Malaysia was dedicated by Elder Daryl H. Garn of the Seventy on 19 March 2006. Members of the Miri Branch in Sarawak were assigned to the meetinghouse.
Sources: R. Lanier Britsch, From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851- 1996, 1998; Southeast Asia Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Anthony T. K. Lim, Church history in Malaysia, 2003, Church Archives; Singapore Mission, Manuscript history and historical Reports, Church Archives; Mike Foley, "Malaysian King Is Met with Royal 'Aloha,'" Church News, 3 November 1990; tourmalaysia.tripod.com/pst_kings.htm, cited 30 July 2004; "Members Dine with Royalty," Church News, 17 December 1994; "Meetinghouse for Malaysia," Church News, 15 April 2006.