A Quick History of Latter-day Saints in Afghanistan

A Quick History of Latter-day Saints in Afghanistan

As the eyes of the world are fixed upon Afghanistan, Latter-day Saints may wonder if the Church has (or has ever had) a presence in the country. The answer is one of deep faith and sacrifice.

The arrival of Latter-day Saints began in the midst of war during the early 2000s. As Dr. Kenneth L. Alford describes, “The limited introduction of the gospel in Afghanistan is directly connected to the Al-Qaeda-orchestrated attack unleashed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The first Latter-day Saints combatants arrived during the earliest days of Operation Enduring Freedom—the designation given to military operations there.”

In the early years, soldiers met where they could and official organization was sparse. In 2008, however, the Church officially organized the Kabul Afghanistan Military District to serve members in the area. District President Gene Wikle was given “expanded priesthood authority” from the First Presidency to ensure all work that needed to be completed or performed could be.

The District Presidency, with President Wikle in the center.

The small branches in the district encompassed all foreign personnel, from soldiers and civilian advisers to university faculty and humanitarian workers. Meetings were often held in tents if base or camp chapels weren’t available. Sirens often went off and the sound of rockets filled the chapels during many sacrament meetings. A Relief Society was also organized due to the increasing number of women serving in the military and other organizations. Dr. Alford said, “The conflict in Afghanistan is the first time in Church history that district and local Relief Society units have been organized within an active war zone.”

Though baptisms occurred among those serving in the military, strict guidelines prohibited proselytizing and gospel discussion among Muslims. A few non-Muslim Afghan coverts were recorded. It is believed that between 500-700 Latter-day Saints belonged to the Kabul Afghanistan Military District during the height of the war.

On December 21, 2014, after President Barack Obama announced active combat operations would cease, the district was officially disbanded and Church membership dropped significantly as military members withdrew from the area. In 2018, a single branch in Kabul remained. Today, Latter-day Saints who served in Afghanistan continue to bear testimony of how Jesus Christ served alongside them.

You can learn more about the Kabul Afghanistan Military District and the Saints who served in the area by clicking here.

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