Feature

Cambodia: Converting Buddhists to Mormonism

The first Mormon missionaries came to Cambodia in 1998, and they&rsquo;ve been pouring in ever since, said Ung Chansophea and H&eacute;lo&iuml;se de Montety in <em>Cambodge Soir Hebdo.</em>

Ung Chansophea and Héloïse de Montety Cambodge Soir Hebdo

The Mormons are here in force, said Ung Chansophea and Héloïse de Montety. The first Mormon missionaries came to Cambodia in 1998, and they’ve been pouring in ever since.

Two by two, missionaries “clad in white shirts and black ties and an ever-present smile” bicycle throughout the streets of Phnom Penh. They are spreading the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they’re doing it “in fluent Khmer,” the result of intensive language courses in Utah. They’ve even got the culture down: Knowing that Khmers tend to be health-conscious, the missionaries start by emphasizing their religion’s ban on alcohol, tea, and other stimulants. The government tried to stop them back in 2004, with a law forbidding door-to-door proselytizing. But the Mormons simply took to the streets. Now there are thousands of Mormons praying in a large, steepled church in the heart of the capital.

Cambodia is still 95 percent Buddhist. But because of the zeal and dedication of the young missionaries, soon enough “Cambodian Mormon” won’t sound like such an oxymoron.

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