A Brief History of the Church in Australia
The first missionary of the Church to Australia was William Barratt, a 17-year-old English convert who arrived in 1840. He was followed a year later by Andrew Anderson from Scotland, who organized the first branch (a small congregation) in 1844. American missionaries John Murdock and Charles Wandell arrived in Sydney on 31 October 1851. They found the colony in the grip of gold fever. "The more plentiful the gold, the smaller the hearts of the people were," they recorded.
A small branch was organized in Sydney early in 1852 with a handful of members. In September of that year a branch was organized in Melbourne. Many early converts emigrated to the United States, including Joseph Ridges, who was an organ builder. He later built the organ that was used in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. This pattern — baptism followed by emigration — was one of the factors that held Church growth in Australia in check for many years.
Then, in the mid-1950s, the Church in Australia was caught up in an unprecedented surge in membership that has continued ever since. This surge resulted from a number of factors, including a decline in emigration of Australian members to Utah, much-improved social acceptance of the Church, the start of an intensive chapel-building program, growing numbers of local leaders and an emphasis on missionary work.
The first Church building was constructed in Brisbane in 1904.
The country’s first temple, located in Sydney, was completed in 1984. Members gathered for the dedication ceremonies in September of that year.
Church members have contributed to Australian communities in various ways. In the early 1990s, members helped to computerize government genealogical records in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia. Members also helped when 1.5 million acres were destroyed by bush fires in 1993. They donated food to firefighters and stranded motorists. Members have also donated food for drought-stricken farmers. These funds were drawn from the profits of Church-owned farms in southern New South Wales. The farms, the largest rural holding in the Riverina, were purchased in early 1998.
More recently, the Church donated AUD200,000 to the victims of the devastating Cyclone Larry, which hit Australia’s northeastern coast in the state of Queensland. The donation brought the Church’s total for humanitarian aid given in Australia over the last 10 years to over AUD4.2 million.
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