The politics of Southeast Asian states are complicated, with a mix of military juntas and authoritarian regimes dotting the area, which makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ success in the region, particularly in Thailand and Cambodia, so impressive. Nevertheless, despite those complicated political and social environments, those countries do not share something with neighboring Vietnam – communism. And yet, the Church also exists in communist Vietnam, and the Vietnamese government just took a big step in normalizing Latter-day Saint activities in the country by granting the Church official certification.
But wait, you say! Didn’t the Church receive official recognition in Vietnam a few years ago? Well done, intrepid news follower! It did. However, mere recognition is not the only milestone worth attaining, as the certificate now granted by Vietnamese authorities allows Latter-day Saints to function in Vietnam relatively unencumbered, per a 2018 religious law. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) explains that the law “granted recognized religious organizations status as legal persons and reduced the waiting period for applications” but “it also required those organizations to seek prior approval for routine religious activities.”
However, USCIRF also noted that the law closed a grey area that now requires groups that had previously operated independently or without organization to register, “effectively criminalizing many peaceful religious practices and activities.”
Nevertheless, the Church is grateful to receive certification, as it will enable its members to worship more freely in the communist state. Madam Thieu Thi Huong of the Vietnam Government Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) expressed her gratitude toward the Church and its members for their character, conduct, and contributions to the betterment of society in Vietnam.
Nearly 150 people were present at the event, held at a JW Marriott (where else) in Hanoi. Elder David F. Evans, President of the Church’s Asia Area, gave closing remarks, thanking the Vietnamese government and promising to “work together in new, fresh, and wonderful ways.
At the time of writing, there are 10 branches in Vietnam across two districts in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, respectively.