Meet the Mormons: Religious Minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Part I)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) represents a society in which national and religious belonging are tightly bound together. BiH’s religious communities with the largest number of followers are the Islamic community, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to these communities, the Law on the Freedom of Religion also recognizes the Jewish community as a traditional religious community, however, despite this recognition, the Jewish community remains a religious minority. And there might, in fact, be as many as 200 religious minorities in BIH.

One of BiH’s many religious minorities are the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), better known as Mormons, so-called after the “Book of Mormon”, which was named after the last prophet and historian that wrote it. The full name of the religion tells us that it’s a Christian denomination whose church, followers believe, was founded by Jesus Christ while he was on Earth.

“Jesus Christ calls his followers saints in the holy texts. The word ‘saints’ is in the name because that is what our Savior refers to us (LDS Church followers) as, but one should bear in mind that that word does not mean perfect, nor do we see ourselves as perfect. We believe that after Jesus’ resurrection and the death of the apostles, there was the so-called fallout, or more specifically, the loss of the full Gospel as Jesus taught it. That is why there was a need for a restoration, which is where the term ‘latter-day’ comes from—it is used to explain that the restoration of the Gospel has taken after a period of apostasy to the present day and will continue to the end of days,” said a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The LDS community has around 16 million members worldwide, with over 30,000 churches in 100 countries. In BIH, there are three LDS communities: one in Sarajevo, one in Tuzla, and one in Banja Luka. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally recognized in BiH in 2012.

When it comes to BiH’s Law on the Freedom of Religion and the way religious minorities are treated as a result, members of the LDS community told Balkan Diskurs that their position is satisfactory and that they don’t receive any money from the city or state.

“We are financed exclusively through the donations of our members because one commandment says ‘Give a tithe (one-tenth) to the Lord’. The Church uses this money for many purposes, such as to build our places of worship and other religious buildings. It helps supports education, humanitarian work, the printing of books, and all other needs related to the Church,” some of the local members explained.

Missionary Work

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is among the fastest-growing religions in the world, which is a direct result of its members, who spread the messages of the Gospel throughout their lives. Every member helps spread the religion through missionary work. The missionary experiences are very positive, and unpleasant situations are rare.

“In our everyday lives, everyone has asked at least once: “What is the meaning of life?”, and “Why am I here?”, or “How can I be happy?”. Those are exactly the questions to which we can find answers in the Book of Mormon. Often, when people have everything necessary for life, and even a comfortable life, they still aren’t completely happy and content. It is often the case today that people have less and less, and some don’t even have the basic necessities, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon teach us how we can find the light at the end of the tunnel and that we have reasons for joy, peace, and hope for a better life, even in the most difficult of times. It is exactly that peace and joy that all people seek,” members of the Church said about their missionary work.

For young Mormons, a missionary life means serving others through Christ’s Gospel. Currently, there are almost 71,000 missionaries that have devoted up to two years of their lives to helping others to follow Jesus’ doctrine. They do this work voluntarily and raise the money for their missions on their own so that they can bring happiness to people and build their spiritual character. When asked if there are any differences between young Mormons and other young people, the members we spoke with said that they do not like to compare out of respect for the good and valuable traits of others, however, there are some differences.

Credit: Mormons in BiH Facebook Page

“Young Mormons must maintain the code of prudent purity, which states that they mustn’t have any sexual relations before marriage. Physical intimacy between a husband and a wife is beautiful and sacred. It was given by God for creating children and expressing love in a marriage. When married, they also must be completely faithful to their spouse. Another code that must be followed is the code of health, called the “Word of Wisdom”, which states that nothing harmful should be introduced to their bodies, such as alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, coffee, and black teas. Also, they should be careful what they eat (less meat, more vegetables, and fruit), and participate in healthy recreational activities. The Code of Wisdom gives us guidelines for a better life of a higher quality because, within a healthy body, there’s a healthy spirit. Those are just some of the differences,” the members explained.

Young missionaries often stop people on the street to introduce them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which they say is the “gospel of joy”, because it brings happiness to people. In addition to the Bible, LDS followers study the Book of Mormon, another testament about Jesus Christ.

“Within it is the entirety of Jesus Christ’s gospel. In short, this book explains the teachings of the gospel, lays out the plan to salvation, and very simply tells people what they must do to achieve peace in this life and eternal salvation in the next life,” the LDS members concluded.

[1] The restoration is often associated with a number of events that were deemed necessary in order to re-establish the early Christian church found in the New Testament and to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. For most LDS followers, the restoration began with the Prophet Joseph Smith (considered the founder of the LDS movement) and has continued to the present through the work of the Lord’s living prophet’s.

This article is part of the “Religious Minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina” series, which presents information about various religious groups and communities in BIH that aren’t recognized as traditional religious communities but have a significant number of followers.

The Balkan Diskurs Youth Correspondent Program is made possible by funding from the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Anja is a Balkan Diskurs trained correspondent from Banja Luka. She holds a degree in Journalism and Communications from Banja Luka’s Faculty of Political Science and is a Masters in Journalism Studies at the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Political Science. Anja writes for the eTrafika portal and Lola Magazine. Her primary interests include reporting on human rights and marginalized groups.

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