Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Gospel In Iran

This is not a topic one usually associates with Iran (at least present day Iran); however, the Deseret News has a fascinating article about how that Islamic republic once had a flash of the light of the Restored Gospel. The article tells the story of Jamileh Zaifnejad Hogan, an Iranian Church member, who was actually baptized in Iran back in 1975:
Joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a leap of faith for Jamileh Zaifnejad Hogan, who in 1975 was the first Iranian woman to be baptized into the Utah-based church.

"Joining the church is a challenge," said Hogan, a Brigham Young University graduate who spoke to students on Wednesday. "(But) when it is really difficult, that is where there is room for miracles."

Some of those miracles include getting a visa and passport, which allowed Hogan to come to the United States. Another miracle was being able to work with the leadership of the LDS Church in creating a mission in Iran, which lasted only a little while until violence erupted. Another was seeing her mother and sister also join the LDS Church.

Hogan, who has worked as a language analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice for 10 years on Wednesday shared the story of her conversion, punctuated with details of the political unrest that gripped her country.
As I read her story, I thought "here's an actual Latter-day Saint." You know, the kind called on to sacrifice on the scale of the early pioneers--yet her spirit was and remains incredibly optimistic (I think they call that faith).

About her baptism:
On the day she was supposed to be baptized, a student riot broke out at the university in Tehran where the 21-year-old was studying. Hogan described seeing the military move in and open fire on a group of students.

"Blood spattered on the heater (the wall)," she said. She ran to the women's bathroom and hid in a stall, hoping the soldiers wouldn't find her. After hiding for hours, she started to leave so she could make it to her 4 p.m. baptism. She went through a crowd of soldiers who pointed guns at her head and one who hit her with the butt of a rifle. Finally a senior officer told them to let her leave.

Hogan was introduced to the LDS Church through working with Lloyd Miller, an American and Mormon who was studying jazz in Tehran, and the two ended up co-hosting a radio program. Accepting an invitation, Hogan attended an LDS meeting in Iran, made up mostly of international members, not native Iranians.

That led to more questions, months of studying and finally praying to a God she hadn't ever believed in. On Jan. 8, 1975, after breaking through 3-inch thick ice on a neighbor's swimming pool, Hogan was baptized.
Kind of makes your blood run cold (literally to read stuff like this). Its also interesting that at the time in Iran's history, within a few short years they were about to depose Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, and take American citizens hostage. This was not a fruitful time for an American/Utah based Church.

Jamileh's family, at least her parents were supportive--though her brother apparently disowned her. She essentially said good bye to life as she knew it in Iran, and left for the United States to begin an entirely new life on a grand scale:

After her baptism, Hogan traveled to the United States to visit Salt Lake City and the temple. When she arrived, she met with LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball and other church leaders who asked her to help translate mission materials and train future missionaries.

Despite being one semester away from graduating in Tehran, Hogan agreed and stayed in Utah. She enrolled as a freshman at BYU and began to work with church leaders. An initial batch of missionaries was sent to Iran but were redirected to England when riots broke out again in 1978.

Although there is no current LDS mission in Iran, Hogan said there are congregations of Iranian members in Switzerland, Italy, Ecuador and Japan — something she didn't think possible 30 years ago.
I read things like this, and get just a bit more perspective in life. I had no idea the Church even established a mission in Iran--something unthinkable today. But, as Sis. Hogan notes, it is when things are or appear the most difficult that there is room for miracles. She is now a language analyst with the Department of Justice--bet there's lots of work for her these days! You can hear her entire speech here. (Given 6/21/06).

6 Comments:

Anonymous Brian Duffin said...

Guy,

Excellent post! Thank you for taking the time to share this story.

Thursday, June 22, 2006 7:27:00 AM  
Blogger nicolaepadigone said...

wow, that's awesome. those kinds of stories are great. I can't imagine how tough it was during that revolution. I'm glad she made it out alive (and to her baptism safely). I fear that that part of the world is not going to be seeing missionaries for some time with the events playing the way they are right now, but I always hope for a miracle.

Thursday, June 22, 2006 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very interesting.

during my mission to switzerland we taught many iranians. one member, shortly after joining the church, was assassinated in front of his wife. the lds chapel was used for his funeral. his surviving family included small children and a most fantastic wife.

we taught many more iranians and muslims from middle east and north african countries. some were threatened and had their families threatened, both in europe and in their home countries.

the general authorities finally came and visited us and said enough is enough. ca y'est. no more. we were no longer allowed to teach muslims from those countries, as "it wasnt their time." so we stopped.

sadly, there was much we could have done for those refugees. but, when we werent allowed to teach we ceased any service. that was the rules. and as far as i can tell, outside of a few contrived hours of silly service with matching t-shirts on, its still the same for missionaries today.

Friday, June 23, 2006 7:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Mayan Elephant said...

Guy,

I dont think its true that there are congregations of Iranians in those countries. In fact, I dont suppose there is any evidence of an Iranian congregation anywhere.

Perhaps you have some evidence, other than a loose quote in the DN that there is such a congregation.

Friday, June 23, 2006 5:25:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Brian: Thanks for stopping by.

Nic: Yeah . . .great story. I really liked it; and, as I said, helped put some perspective into my life anyway. I suspect you are right that it will be some time before there are any missionaries out in that area.

Mayan Elephant: Nice to hear from you again--though if pressed, I'm certainly going to believe a native Iranian on whether there are or aren't LDS congretations of Iranians around the world--unless you have some "evidence" to the contrary.

Friday, June 23, 2006 5:43:00 PM  
Anonymous mayan elephant said...

guy,

thanks for the welcome bro. but seriously. there are no mormon congregations of iranians. who knows how rumors get started. i am not assigning malintent to the subject. though, the deseret news should know better than to spill out the rumor as if it is fact.

in all likelihood, the author misquoted the subject. i suspect she meant to say there are many people, which is subjective, rather than inferring there are actual iranian congregations, which is quantifiable and verifiable, if in fact it is true, which it is clearly not.

and its silly to believe a bit of fiction as fact unless its proven as fiction. shouldnt the facts be considered suspect until proven otherwise?

ohlala, myohmy. my aching head.

oh, one other thing, i am a native utahn. and as a native utahn, i declare that there are colonies of utahns that can recite the national anthem of every country on the planet currently, as well as every country that has ever existed. and they recite them in each anthem's original language. remarkable i say. and, i am from utah, so i know these things are true.

Friday, June 23, 2006 10:15:00 PM  

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