LDS Church News,
Saturday, December .., 1963


Here's a memo from Max Zimmer of the News' auditing department and a native of Switzerland:

"Here may be a tip for a small Church News story. We just billed the Swiss Mission for 500 tracts "Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story" in the Italian language.

John M. Russon, mission president, writes on his original order at the end of November: "'Please inform us as to what you have in the Italian language. We are opening the Italian cities of Switzerland and need some literature.'"

Then Max's memo continues:
"This is, to my knowledge, a FIRST in the history of the European Missions, at least for the past 90 to 100 years. At that time, Lorenzo Snow opened the Italian Mission, had some spectacular success during the first months in a couple of towns in Northern Italy, but had to abandon it after only a year or so. I Don't think that since that time any missionary work was done in the Italian language, neither in Italy nor in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. There may be 220,000 people residing in the County of Ticino, or, in the proper Italian language, Cantone de Ticino."

LDS Church News,
Saturday, .. .., 1964

Around the Church


AVIANO, ITALY- When members of the Church get together the urge to organize a branch is bound to follow no matter how far from headquarters.

This was true in Northern Italy where 17 members of the Church and one non-member gathered for a servicemen's group conference at Aviano Air Base. The conference was presided over by John Duns, Jr., coordinator of the Italy District Swiss Mission, and conducted by Paul H. Kelly, Aviano Group leader.

The conference was attended by four Italian members, Roma Bartotto,, Italy District Primary leader, Mr. and Mrs. Pietro Snaidero and Luigi Pittino, all of Comerzo, (Udine) Italy.

At the conference a group Relief Society was organized with Deanne P. Kelly as president and Louise B. Meyers, counselor. Patricia N. Oakes was called to be Primary President and Jesse W. Oakes was set apart as counselor to the group leader.

In the picture, back left to right, A1C Richard Reynolds, Chicago; Deane P. Kelly, Blackfoot, Idaho; Wanda Duns, John Duns Jr., John Duns III, Bakersfield, Calif. Second row: Jesse W. Oakes, Wendover, Utah; 2nd Lt. USAF Paul H. Kelly, Blackfoot, Idaho; Felicita Snaidero, Comerzo, Italy; Patricia N. Oakes, Wendover, Utah; Louise B. Meyers, Salt Lake City; Luigi Pittino, Comerzo, Italy. Front row: Kimberly, Anthony and Becky Meyers, and Teri Duns. Rebecca Oakes is asleep in the carriage.

LDS Church News,
Saturday, January 16, 1965


MILAN, ITALY - A conference in Italy brought members from many parts of this country to hear Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the twelve and president of the European Mission, as he paused in a tour of Italy, Iran, Lebanon, and the Holy Land on assignment from the First Presidency.

The Benson party was met in Milan by Pres. John M. Russon of the Swiss Mission and welcomed by Consul General Crain and his deputy of the U.S. Milan Embassy.

Their tour included a three-hour drive on one of Itay's modern autostradas which took them to Camp Edwards military installation at Vicenza where 72 members of the Vicenza Branch and the Aviano group gathered to hear Elder Benson in a special conference.

At the conference Elder John Duns Jr., former bishop of the Palmdale Ward, Mojave Stake, California, was released as coordinator of the Italian Servicemen's group. He had served for two and a half years, organized two branches and five groups. His wife was released as coordinator of Relief Society.

Elder Leavitt Christensen, former bishop of the Olympia Ward, Puget Sound Stake, Washington, was sustained as district president and his wife, Rula, sustained as district Relief Society president.

The Aviano group was organized as the third branch in Italy with Paul H. Kelly sustained as president. Luigi Pittino, faithful 73-year-old member from Udine, was ordained a priest.

Elder Benson's travels took him to Naples for a conference with the Naples Branch and Rome group. He reminded the members of the vital work they were doing in helping to fulfill one of Nephi's prophecies recorded in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 14:12) which stated: I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the Saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth. They were told by Elder Benson that their work would be a vitally factor in the eventual setting up of a mission in Italy.

They next two days were spent contacting American and Italian government officials in Rome sampling the religious and political climate before departing for Teheran. Elder Benson said the party was cordially received and the possibilities for missionary work in Itay appeared encouraging.

LDS Church News,
Saturday, May 9, 1965


NAPLES, ITALY - Preparations to teach the Gospel to the Italian people is a major project among missionaries and members of the Church in Italy.

Pres. John M. Russon of the Swiss Mission gathered members to Naples to participate in a conference. The meetings were held in the Forrest Sherman Elementary School of the U.S. Naval Support Activity Building.

Members were urged by President Russon to acquire conversational knowledge of the Italian language, so they could teach the Gospel in Italy. It was his second visit to Naples Branch which he organized a year ago. Two Italian speaking missionaries helped President Russon conduct the conference.

He said members of the U.S. military personnel and their children living in Italy might be called to missions in Italy.

The fist Italian Mission was established in La Tour in 1850 under Elder Lorenzo Snow before he became president of the Church. This mission eventually was changed to the Swiss Mission.

One of the big events of the conference was the presentation of copies of the newly translated Italian edition of the Book of Mormon. The first Italian edition was printed in 1852.

Elder John Duns, Jr., Italian district coordinator of LDS groups in Italy, conducted the conference sessions. He is former bishop of Palmdale Ward in California, and is presently living in Torino. Elder Duns said he felt that the Lord had a definite purpose in sending so many LDS members to Italy in the past year, particularly to the Naples area.

Italian members of the church were called on to speak. Elder Don Vincent Di Francesca of Palerno, 77, told of his conversion. He is now the oldest member in Italy. Mrs. Roma Bartotto of Vicenza, Italian district Primary coordinator, spoke to the children and urged them to pray and teach their parents how to pray.

During the priesthood meeting, Kenneth L. Hanka, a California leader of the LDS servicemen's group at Brindisi, was ordained an elder. Conference arrangements were made by the Naples Branch presidency headed by Pres. Glenn H. Briggs Jr., of Canoga Park, California.

LDS Church News,
Saturday, .. .., 1965

Swiss Mission


"We are baptizing in Italy at four times the rate in the rest of the mission," Pres. John M. Russon said of the work in the Swiss Mission's newest area of proselyting activity.

Pres. Russon was released recently as head of the mission after serving there for three years. The work in Italy was resumed under his direction after about a century of inactivity. Lorenzo Snow, a member of the Council of the Twelve and later president of the Church led a group of missionaries into northern Italy in the 1850s but had only limited success.

There are now 28 missionaries laboring in the four districts in Itay. Pres. Russon opened the work there in February of this year. Proselyting in the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland had been stared a year before. He said that the American LDS sevicemen's groups had formed the nucleus for the branches now operating in Italy. Missionaries now are laboring in Milan, Turin, Varese, Brescia, Bergamo, Verona, Vicenza, Pordenone, Florence, La Spezia, and Livorno.

Missionary work also has been resumed in the Middle East under the auspices of the Swiss Mission Pres. Russon assigned two missionaries to labor in Beirut, Lebanon, and a branch has been organized there. He also visited the members of the Church in Czechoslovakia and maintained contact with those in other Iron Curtain countries.

He explained that no direct proselyting work is being done in Beirut, but that the missionaries are attempting to develop friendships through educational programs-classes in English, electronics and other subjects.

Two chapels have been built and dedicated in the past three years and several building sites have been acquired. Problems of obtaining permission to build have curtailed this program, he said.

Seminars for training leadership in the branches have been held under mission sponsorship. The scope of youth activities has been broadened. The first road shows were held in the mission during Pres. Russon's term of office.

"They did so well that the Swiss Mission won most of the road show awards at the recent All-Germanic LDS Youth Conference in Frankfurt, Germany," Pres. Russon said. Pres. Russon has returned to Los Angeles where he has resumed his responsibilities in his insurance agency.

LDS Church News,
Saturday, May 7, 1966


Progress of the Church in Italy is steadily pushing southward over the Italian peninsula with fifty missionaries from the Swiss Mission working as far south as Naples, one-hundred miles from Rome.

Reports of this missionary work were brought to Salt lake City by Lieutenant Paul H. Kelly of Blackfoot, Idaho, who has been in Italy for the past three years stationed with the U.S. Air Force at Aviano Air Base.

Lt. Kelly and his wife, Deanne, and their two children, both born in Italy, returned to the United States when he was assigned to Travis Air Force Base in California.

"The Italian people are friendly and receptive to the Gospel. Social pressure on those studying Church doctrine is great when opposed by Catholic fathers. This has a bearing on our proselyting progress but the members are anxious to stay and help build the Church. Reception of the Church in Italy, is on a par with other countries and is possibly better than in Switzerland proper," Lt. Kelly said.

During February, Lt. Kelly then a member of the Italian district presidency accompanied Mission President Rendell N. Mabey and Pres. Leavitt Christensen from district conference at Naples to Catania, Sicily, where they organized Church members at the Sigonella Naval Air Facility into a Servicemen's Group.

This was the first organization of the church ever made on the island of Sicily. It is located just north of Siracusa, one of the stops made by the Apostle Paul on his way to Rome. Marion C.W. Freeman, a Sea Bee serving at Sigonella, was chosen group leader.

Another significant event took place at district conference in Vicenza when the first group of the church led by an Italian was organized at Brescia with Elder Leopoldo Larcher as group leader. Elder Larcher was converted while working in Germany and was ordained and elder in September, 1965.

Inauguration of missionary work in Italy on Feb. 27, 1965, followed work by U.S. Servicemen members of the Church who have maintained an active program since World War II.

Bishop John Duns Jr., of Palmdale, California, spent four years in Italy with Lockhead Aircraft Company at Torino and Flat Corp. building the F104.

He was assigned as coordinator for the LDS Servicemen's program, organizing Servicemen's groups on the Italian boot from Livorno to Brindisi and from Aviano to Naples.

Another important part in the introduction of missionaries to Italy was accomplished by Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve while president of the European Mission. He sounded out Italian government officials regarding the entry of missionaries into Italy and organized the Italian District of the Swiss Mission in 1964.

Elder Benson had a successful visit in Rome, meeting with the Minister of Agriculture as well as the Minister of Interior and his deputies having to do with non-Catholic religions.

LDS Church News,
Saturday, May 9, 1981

Profiles from the past


By Richard L.

In Cannes, France, Pietro and Felicita Snaidero first heard the message of Mormonism while staying with a daughter and son-in-law, who joined the Church and later immigrated to America. The Snaideros returned to their native northeastern Italy, hundreds of miles from missionaries.

However, the French Mission contacted an Italian Mormon, who baptized them in December 1951. Brother Snaidero was 67 years old, Sister Snaidero several years younger, and Sante Beltrame, a fellow convert from a neighboring village, was 69. Since they were far from any Melchisedek Priesthood bearer, they waited two months to be confirmed by a recently released missionary.

Brother Snaidero's eagerness to share the gospel became very well known in the Village of Comerzo. He carried on lively discussions with a village priest in the local cafe and had gospel conversations whenever the opportunity arose. But opposition was strong. He was once ordered off a bus for discussing Mormonism. Priests in the vicinity warned their parishioners to beware of the Mormons as they would beware of poisonous snakes.

The Snaideros reserved a room in their home exclusively for use as a chapel. Brother Beltrame came to meetings each Sunday on a bicycle. Luigi Pittino and Antonio Morandini, converts in their 60s, were later added to the little congregation. Records were kept; tithes and offerings were paid.

Mission leaders from faraway headquarters visited periodically and were impressed by these people and the spirit that pervaded their services. Occasionally these Italian saints attended conferences in France. A highlight for Brother and Sister Snaidero was their sealing in the Swiss temple in 1958. Full-time missionaries were introduced to Italy in 1965, but the Comerzo saints remained quite isolated.

The Snaideros epitomized constancy amid trial and disappointment. The man who baptized them left the Church. Other Church members died or emigrated. Soon after Brother Snaidero died in 1970, Sister Snaidero moved to France to live with her daughter and son-in law, who had returned from America. Still firm in the faith, Sister Snaidero is a member of the ward at Cannes, were she first heard the gospel.

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