Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 86,968,000; Members, fewer than 100; Branches, 2;Percent LDS, .0001 or one in 869,680; Asia Area.
There were probably a few Latter-day Saints among the Americans who were sent to South Vietnam in the late 1950s as advisors in the conflict with North Vietnam. A small number of members, mostly U.S. military personnel and their families, began meeting in Saigon in 1962, and on 30 June of that year, President Robert S. Taylor of the Southern Far East Mission organized them into a group with Cecil L. Cavender as leader.
Many Latter-day Saints in Vietnam actively shared the gospel with their associates. Captain John T. Mullenex became the first known convert there on 3 November 1962. Two Vietnamese women, Duong Thuy Van and Nguyen Thi Thuy, were baptized on 3 February 1963. A future Church leader in Vietnam, Nguyen Cao Minh, joined the Church on 14 August 1963 while receiving military training in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve became the first General Authority to visit Vietnam in May 1963 when he and President Jay A. Quealy of the Southern Far East Mission met with Church members in Saigon. By the end of 1964 there were 140 members in Saigon, 17 of whom were Vietnamese. In August 1963, a small group of servicemen began holding Church meetings on an airbase in Bien Hoa.
In May 1965, President Quealy organized the LDS servicemen in Vietnam into four groups, including the branch in Saigon. He also appointed Harper K. Morris as LDS servicemen's coordinator for South Vietnam and designated the country as a zone of the Southern Far East Mission. In November, the zone was divided into three districts: North, Central, and South, with a president and counselors over each.
Ray A. Young received permission to build a small Latter-day Saint chapel on the Air Force base at Bien Hoa in June 1965. The building was completed by November. At the end of the year, there were an estimated 1,500 LDS military personnel serving in Vietnam from the United States, and meetings were being held in at least 17 locations. Groups were organized wherever three or more members could meet together. The first Latter-day Saint chaplain, Navy Lt. Richard F. Wood, began his tour of duty in Vietnam in February 1966.
In June 1967, the Saigon Branch rented a home that could serve as a chapel. It included a cement enclosure, probably intended as a rain reservoir, that doubled as a baptismal font. The Church was officially recognized by the South Vietnamese government on 26 October 1967. By 1968, at the height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, the Church estimated that there were more than 5,000 Latter-day Saint servicemen in the country, including six chaplains, organized into over 60 groups. About 70 Vietnamese had joined the Church by that time.
Responsibility for Church efforts in Vietnam shifted from the Southern Far East Mission to the Southeast Asia Mission in November 1969. Vietnam became part of the Hong Kong-Taiwan Mission in October 1970 and of the Hong Kong Mission in January 1971.
Cong Nu Tuong-Vy (Sister Vy) was assigned to translate the Book of Mormon into Vietnamese in December 1969. She completed the translation in two years. Book of Mormon selections were published in 1980 and the complete translation was printed on 10 December 1982. Sister Vy, whose whereabouts were unknown for several years after 1975, finally saw a copy of the completed work in 1985.
In November 1991, Elder Merlin R. Lybbert, president of the Asia Area, became the first General Authority to visit Vietnam since the 1970s.
Church affairs in Vietnam were administered by the Thailand Bangkok Mission in the early 1990s and then by the newly-formed Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission beginning on 1 July 1997. In addition to the local Church members who were living in Vietnam, others moved there from abroad during the 1990s. Members of the Asia Area presidency organized branches in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in 1995. Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and other leaders visited with Saints in these two cities on 29 May 1996. He expressed his faith that in "the due time of the Lord, this land will be opened, and many wonderful people will become the beneficiaries of the gospel."
Sources: Richard C. Holloman Jr., The Snap of the Silver Thread: The LDS Church in Vietnam, 1977; Southern Far East Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; R. Lanier Britsch, From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996, 1998; The Nguyen, "Freedom (A Prisoner of War in Vietnam)," Salt Lake Institute of Religion devotional, 6 November 1987; Southeast Asia Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Hong Kong Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; "BYU Alumni Provide Aid to Vietnam Church Members," BYU Today, February 1986; David L. Hughes, "An End, A Beginning," This People, April 1985; Translation Division, Vietnamese Book of Mormon translation history, 1982, Church Archives; Cong Ton Nu Tuong- Vy, "Out of the Tiger's Den," Ensign, June 1989; Sheridan R. Sheffield, "Church Donates Medical Gift to Vietnam," Church News, 11 January 1992; "Church Hosts Recipients of Microscope," Church News, 27 June 1992; "Couples Enter Vietnam to Teach English," Church News, 30 January 1993; "Pres. Hinckley Dedicates Cambodia: Gives 'Addendum' to Prayer During His Visit to Vietnam," Church News, 8 June 1996.