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Early Church History

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The first missionary of the Church to Australia appears to have been William Barratt, who was ordained an elder in 1840 at the age of 17 in Staffordshire, England. When he left for South Australia that year, the Church was still only ten years old.

The first missionaries to be sent from the main body of the Church in the United States did not come until 1851.

John Murdock, age 59, and his companion Charles Wandell, arrived in Sydney on October 31, 1851. They found the colony in the grip of gold fever. Murdock had been one of the first men to be ordained a high priest in the Church, and had been called on two missions. Though he had baptised many wherever he went, he and his companion found Australia unreceptive. On December 3, 1851, a few baptisms were held in Sydney, but "Elder" Murdock chose to seek more fruitful ground in Melbourne.

He left his companion in Sydney a few days before Christmas, but within ten days he returned, reporting that the people were in a perfect uproar. "The more plentiful the gold, the smaller the hearts of the people were," he wrote. A small branch was organised in Sydney early in 1852, with a handful of members. In September of that year a branch was organised in Melbourne, though by this time Elder Murdock had returned to the United States with failing health. A second group of missionaries arrived in Sydney in April, 1853, and by the following month missionaries had been assigned to all the colonies. Meanwhile, Charles Wandell left for Utah with the majority of the "saints" who had opted to emigrate and join the growing Church there. This pattern of baptism followed by emigration was one of the factors that held Australia Church growth in check for many years.

By the end of 1858 all but one missionary was on his way home. Only a few Saints chose to remain.

Missionaries returned in the latter part of the century. By the mid-1950's members were no longer emigrating to America. There was a much improved social acceptance of the Church, and an intensive chapel building program began. These factors along with an emphasis on missionary work and a growing number of local leaders produced a surge in membership growth that has continued ever since.

In 1955, there were 3,000 Latter-day Saints in Australia. By 1960 there were nearly 10,000. That year the first stake (diocese) was organized in the country. A decade later, numbers had more than tripled to 32,000. Australian membership has now topped 136,000.

The first temple in Australia was built in Sydney in 1984. From 2001 to 2002 new temples were completed in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. A fifth Australian temple was dedicated in Brisbane in 2003.

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