LDS Church gains recognition in Kuwait

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that it had received official recognition for its local leaders and organization from Kuwait.

The formal recognition allows church leaders to better serve the needs of the nearly 300 members who live and work in the Persian Gulf country, officials said in a news release.

The population of Kuwait is nearly 77 percent Muslim and Latter-day Saints are prohibited from conducting missionary work among Muslims, according to the online version of “Reaching the Nations: International Church Growth Almanac," which examines the status and stats involving the Utah-based faith in countries around the world.

Latter-day Saints are allowed to do member-missionary work among the Christian population, which numbers about half a million, Matt Martinich, co-author of “Reaching the Nations,” wrote in an email. But there are no young, full-time missionaries in the region.

“This development does not pave the way for any proselytism with full-time missionaries,” Martinich wrote. However, it "will allow for more public awareness of the church in the country and greater freedoms in terms of its operations.”

Martinich, an independent researcher, said the church appears to be the eighth Christian denomination to be licensed and registered, “a HUGE accomplishment," considering the church is small there and not a traditional religious group in the region.

“This also marks the first time a nontraditional Christian denomination has ever been officially registered with the government in Kuwait — usually Seventh-day Adventists get this before Latter-day Saints,” he noted. “The church generally has good relations with all governments in the Middle East as the church is careful to follow local laws governing religious freedom restrictions.”

The church appreciates the government for “allowing freedom of worship in the State of Kuwait, in particular for the expatriate workforce," Bishop Terry Harradine, leader of the Kuwait congregation, said in the release.

Harradine singled out Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al -Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, for his leadership; and the Kuwait Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs "for their assistance in promoting religious tolerance within the country.”

Latter-day Saints have lived in Kuwait since the 1970s, coming from many countries around the world.