HTown Publishing - LDS History - Southeast Asia
HTown Publishing produces books that document portions of the modern history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To date our focus has been on Southeast Asia, with particular emphasis on Thailand. Founded in 2006, HTown Publishing is located in Sandy, Utah, USA.
The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia is “The Work and the Story” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Indochina: Viet Nam, Thailand, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. The work of Elders Levi Savage Jr. and Elam Luddington in Burma and Siam in the 1850s, the war in Viet Nam that drew the church back to Southeast Asia, the story of Srilaksana Suntarahut, the translator of the Thai Book of Mormon, the baptisms at the Burmese Waters of Mormon, the rapid growth of the Church in Cambodia, and the success of many humanitarian service missionaries throughout this region, where that program had its beginnings in 1980.
The title comes from the forty-fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse twenty-eight, which reads:
And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fullness of my gospel.
It is about the stories of the events that shape the history of the LDS Church in Indochina. While there are historical facts and figures to be found here, the emphasis is on the people and the stories that form the fascinating history of this area.
Young missionaries are preaching the gospel today in only two of the five countries (Thailand and Cambodia). Given this fact, one might think that the history of the area would be minimal at best; however, such is not the case.
For example, Burma's story goes back to the 1850s when Levi Savage Jr. and Elam Luddington served there as missionaries of the East India Mission. They were called to Siam (Thailand), but only Elam Luddington made it there in 1854.
It was the war in Viet Nam that finally brought the Church back to Southeast Asia more than 100 years later. Fifteen missionaries served in Viet Nam from 1973-1975, but left in a hurry as the advancing army from the north moved to take control of Saigon.
Many Saints were stranded there for years after the war, but one home teacher, Virgil N. Kovalenko, did not forget his family. He and others worked throughout the 1980s to bring many saints out of Viet Nam.
Thailand was the first country to accept full-time missionaries in 1968. Missionary work there has continued since that time, but not without challenges such as visas, two missionaries sent to prison in 1972, the translation of the Book of Mormon in Thai (1970-1976), and the first stake in the region created in 1995.
The Church has grown rapidly in Cambodia, particularly during its "Golden Era" (1999-2003) when baptisms easily surpassed 1,000 per year. With two stake sized buildings in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's the country's first stake may not far off.
No proselyting missionaries have as of the time of publication been assigned to Laos, but humanitarian work has been going on there since 1994. That has not stopped a branch with over 200 members from developing in Vientiane, the capital city.
The author spent over 200 hours doing research at the library, located east of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Other research was done by visiting or contacting people who had served in Southeast Asia. The whole experience was one of endless discovery, with unanticipated twists and turns. He originally expected the book to be 450-500 pages in length, but that all changed when he learned that Burma/Myanmar had an incredible history, all achieved with very few missionaries.
The photo at the left was taken at the Church History Library, on the main floor, in the public area. It was here the author found "The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia - A History of the LDS Church in Asia's Ancient Kingdoms" on display adjacent to several volumes of "The Joseph Smith Papers." The shelf was marked "Featured Titles."
The book has six sections: Introduction, Viet Nam, Thailand, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. The author's favorite chapters in each section are:
While the number of members in Southeast Asia is not large, the faithful members there are remarkable people. The Lord has blessed the work in numerous ways, opening doors, providing for translation and gathering Saints from many traditions. Four stakes can be found there today. Thailand (2), Cambodia(2).
Angkor Wat, the national treasure of Cambodia was the site of the largest city in the world in 1200 A.D. It is recognized as the source of the Khmer people of Cambodia. Nearby Siem Reap has been the location of a branch of the Church since 2007. It has its own International Airport to support the number of tourists who visit Angkor.
Large reservoirs accumulated water during the rainy season. The water supported the huge population during the dry season. The lack of muck rain from the monsoon, for a period of thirty years, led to the demise of the great city, which was eventually left to the jungle. The jungle has consumed much of what was left.
Today Angkor Wat is the largest of several temples in the area. It was during this time that the King changed the local religion from Hindu to Buddhism. [Photo: Robert W. Winegar]
In the aftermath of the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 26, 2004, Elder and Sister Zaugg were sent to Phuket, in Southern Thailand, to supervise the Church's relief efforts in that area. The Phuket area was hit hard by the monster waves.
One of the projects they supervised was helping fishermen to get new boats to resume their livelihoods. A total of 70 boats were built. The fishermen themselves were hired to build the new boats. To thank the Zauggs and the Church for their effort and support, the final boat was named "Families are Forever".[Photo: Scott Hansen]
The fascinating ancient ruins of Began Myanmar (Burma). Many ancient pagodas can be seen in this one photo.
Myanmar is slowing changing, allowing more freedoms to its people. LDS Humanitarian services have been on-going in Myanmar since the late 1990s. This year following a pattern that began in Viet Nam in 2012, young missionaries are now serving in Myanmar as "branch builders" under strict rules that prohibit public proselyting of any kind. The branch in Yangon has over 100 members. Several missionaries have been called from Myanmar to serve in other areas in the world. [Photo: Dale Simpson]
Monk to Missionary is the biography of R. Mani Seangsuwan. Born in Chumphon province in the South of Thailand, Mani knew little of the world outside his small village. At age seventeen he left home in search of fun and adventure. He joined a group of "party animals" in Lopburi, Thailand, and thought for a time this was the life for him.
His mother convinced him that he needed to correct his behavior and suggested he become a Buddhist monk. He followed her advice he became a monk at the local monastery. At the end of three months, the typical period of service as a disciple of Buddha, he decided to continue on. After a year he moved to a Buddhist temple in Thonburi across the river from Bangkok. It was here he started to meet Christians. Taking a pamphlet from the Baptists he received a bible study kit in the mail. He studied the Bible in secret while still a Buddhist monk.
His next step was to earn money to become a school teacher. This was the vision that his mother had for him. He met more Christian missionaries and felt good about their message. He was still concerned how other Thais would view him if they knew he was studying about Jesus Christ. The Thai people believe, "To be a good Thai, one must be a good Buddhist". How could he go against his family and the well established culture of his homeland? His decision changed the rest of his life.
As a sample of the content of the book you may read Chapter 3. [Adobe reader required]
”Monk to Missionary“ was reviewed by the “Mormon Times” They also interviewed Mani Seangsuwan, the author, about his life. The book review and the interview can be read on-line using the following links:
"Monk to Missionary" was reviewed by the "Mormon Times" a weekly supplement to the Deseret News. They also interviewed Mani Seangsuwan, the author, about his life. The book review and the interview can be read on-line using the following links:
Ross H. Palfeyman wrote about his mission experiences in “Two Years In God's Mormon Army”. There were eleven other members of Ross' group of twelve missionaries who arrived in Thailand in August 1973. The others were: David J. Castleton, Reed B. Haslam, Delaun Humphries, Kerry E. Judkins, Robin R. Martell, John W. Montgomery, Roger C. Pace, Dennis R. Sorensen, Steven L. Welling Jared L. Woodard and a native Thai Jarensak Chantawichian. They were the first group to arrive after the Bangkok Thailand mission was created that same month.
To learn more about this wonderful description of missionary work in Thailand in the 1970s please see: MormonArmy.net
This book details the story of the translation of the Book of Mormon into the Thai language. Published in 1976, the Thai language was the 24th language into which the full text of the Book of Mormon was translated (excluding translations for languages for which there is no version currently in print). This was a remarkable achievement for a language spoken by about 40 million people at the time of publication.
The story begins with the opening of missionary work in Thailand in 1968 and the conversion of Sister Srilaksana Suntarahut, who became the principal translator. Significant challenges were faced to bring the message of the Book of Mormon into the Thai language. Among these were the lack of a good translation of the Bible in Thai, the lack of words for Christian religious terms like "church", "God", "seer" or "priesthood", and the normal challenges of translating from English to a foreign language, particularly one whose speakers, for the most part, know very little about Christianity.
The Lord's guidance and blessings were evident in meeting these challenges. The principal translator had been fully prepared for the challenge. Her father was the physician to Vajirawut (Rama VI) and her mother was a good friend of his wife HM Queen Indrasakdi Sachi. After the queen was widowed without children she asked Srilaksana's parents if she could raise 3 of their daughters with her in Dusit Palace. Because of this Srilaksana was well educated and became fluent in both the Thai and English languages. Missionaries assigned to work with her assisted in the process. During the period of translation Sister Srilaksana faced several difficult physical and emotional challenges. The Lord provided special blessing to help her. Yet with all that was provided by the Lord the process from start to publication took 6 years.
The author's goal was to produce a story with as much historical accuracy as possible. He spent many hours on the telephone with Sister Srilaksana reviewing the events of her life and the experiences she had during the six years of the translation process. Input was taken from as many additional people as could be found who took the time to share their experiences and their knowledge of the events presented in this book.
As a sample of the content of the book you may read Chapter 2. [Adobe reader required]
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