Mormons, U.S. officials seek way around Swiss missionary restriction
December 16th, 2010
11:55 PM ET

Mormons, U.S. officials seek way around Swiss missionary restriction

By Kelly Marshall Smoot, CNN

Because of changes in Swiss immigration and labor laws, the Mormon church and other religious groups soon will be unable to send any non-European missionaries to Switzerland.

But Mormon leaders and some U.S. government officials are hoping to find a way around that change in policy.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officials issued a statement on Tuesday saying Mormons have "a long history in Switzerland dating back to 1850. We hope a solution can be found that allows missionaries, regardless of their country of origin to serve the Swiss people."

A group of 13 Mormon members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid drafted a letter in August asking Swiss officials to reconsider their decision, especially as it applies to Mormon missionaries.

"We earnestly petition the Swiss government to reconsider this decision and to work with us and the LDS Church to find a solution which would permit LDS missionaries to continue to perform their missionary service in Switzerland as they have done since 1850," states the letter from Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Robert Bennett, R-Utah; and Reid, D-Nevada; and nine members of the House of Representatives.

The Swiss ambassador in Washington, Urs Ziswiler, said in response to the letter that the ban is the result of a 2002 change in Swiss immigration and labor laws that makes it easier for European nationals to find work in Switzerland and harder for everyone else, including missionaries.

Since 2008, missionary work in Switzerland is "considered as being for gainful employment," Ziswiler said, even though LDS missionaries are not paid for their time or service.

Norbert Baerlocher, the spokesman for the Swiss Embassy, on Thursday explained that the law does not apply just to the Latter-day Saints, but to any religious group that wants to send non-European missionaries or religious caregivers to work in Switzerland. Swiss courts decided that missionary work is "almost always linked to money, and therefore you have to have a working permit."

Baerlocher said the number of permits is decided by the Federal Council of Switzerland and that the number of permits can vary depending on the economic situation inside Switzerland. If the nation has high unemployment, it might reduce the number of permits, but can increase the number to meet the demand for labor during an economic boom.

Though not part of the European Union, Switzerland has made bilateral agreements with the EU that allow freedom of movement for Swiss and EU citizens. Immigration rules will keep out non-European missionaries, but churches can send as many missionaries as they want, as long as they are Swiss or from the EU, Baerlocher said.

According to church records, Switzerland is home to almost 8,000 Mormons and the Bern Switzerland Temple, the oldest LDS temple outside North America, which was completed in 1955. There are 100 Mormon missionaries currently serving in the Switzerland Geneva Mission and 171 missionaries in the Alpine-German Speaking Mission, though not all of them work in Switzerland because the mission boundaries overlap several different countries in the area.

The church was only able to send 80 non-European missionaries to Switzerland this year, it is limited to 50 in 2011, and none will be allowed into the country starting in 2012.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Europe

soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. JJ

    Thank you, Greg. You are a real peace-maker. Best of everything to you.

    December 18, 2010 at 3:24 am |
  2. Greg

    What I know about Mormons was what I learned at Harvard Business School. There are tons of Mormons there, and I think Brigham Young University is the most represented undergraduate school in the MBA program in most years. Very hard working people who are just extremely bright. Now that I am living in Southern California, where there are seemingly many Mormon families, I am amazed at the barrage of insults hurled at them anonymously here on the internet. What I can tell you is that their kids are typically the most sincere and high-achieving students in their respective classrooms. I am honestly beginning to think there is a genuine jealousy of their lifestyle and dedication. From my experience, these are the people you want around you when things go bad. As I observed from business school, these are the people that employers want to hire in the worst way.

    December 18, 2010 at 1:07 am |
    • dpmol

      What I know about LDSers I learned while living is Salt Lake. They are arrogant, prejudicial, cliquish, & self-righteous. They will not do business with those who are not LDS, will cut their children off from any friends they develop who are not LDS, support openly polygamy (despite what anyone else says...go see the polygamist houses around SLC...they are everywhere & obvious), gay-bash, & are hypocritical about things like alcohol consumption. Utah County (home of BYU) is the meth & coke center of Utah. BYU itself is so prejudicial & constricting I don't understand how anyone can go there. Lastly, one gets very very tired of nonstop discussions of LDSism in Utah....one of the major reasons I moved out. Can't have one conversation with anyone about anything without LDS entering the picture...a very oppressive atmosphere, if you ask me.

      December 18, 2010 at 8:58 am |
    • Reality

      It is called the Great Angelic Con:

      Joe Smith had his Moroni.

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      Some added references to "tink-erbells".

      "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Apparently hallu-cinations did not stop with Joe Smith.

      And you might want to "google" the nepotism in LSD to get a larger sampling of Mormon work ethics!

      December 18, 2010 at 9:01 am |
    • 2Bowdown

      @ Reality

      WoW!!!! You put some historical and religous figures in the same sentence and some how uncovered the great conspiracy..... Wait, where is the connection??? Oh yes, they all had "tinkerbells"..... Now, that is a sound argument......

      December 18, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Reality

      More on "tinkerbells", "pretty, wingie, horn-blowing thingies", fair-ies, and demons of the demented that serve as the basis of many religions for they are supposedly god's biblical and koranic messengers:

      "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."

      Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

      "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

      And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

      "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."
      "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

      "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

      For added information see the review at:

      December 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
    • frank roberts

      god bless the swiss gov.the church wants to steel there money to take care of there polygmust wives.thomas s monsen has three

      December 18, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  3. YoRicheee

    If you are an Imam from Saudi Arabia you are welcomed right on in

    December 17, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
  4. ddr

    Poor Mormons. Everyone is always out to get them because they have all the truth.

    Poor poor Mormons. All are victims.

    The real tragedy here is the waste of resources on something this stupid. There are bigger problems than Mormons teaching sorry I mean serving the swiss with religion.

    Tell those congressmen to be serious about their jobs and stop wasting time and resources.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  5. Logic

    Nice spiel – Carolyn- about learning 'religion', What a bunch of crock.

    You don't need a church! You don't need a theocracy to dictate doctrine about useless religions. God doesn't exist behind another person's words nor in the bible. Religion is made up of a bunch of retards who keep on rehashing things from the past of things man did not comprehend before. You fall for the hype and they suck you in out of fear.

    You think for one minute that any another human being is able to justify that his position is closer to God than yours is?
    Do you really think a priest or the pope or whoever others believe can forgive you? Or tell you that someone whose lost their life is going to heaven? That they have the authority and know it.

    Who are they kidding?

    I can commune with God [fact anyone can] if they choose to can with God from their own homes.
    The believe system of the religious is so messed up. They don't even ask questions – all they do is follow man make rules.

    Who the heck told man that wearing black and having a white collar meant anything important. Or wearing that ridiculous cap adorn on the pope. What does the word 'pope', 'saint', 'martyr' have to do with anything about God?

    Geez, the crappy list of the religious terms are a joke. Just words to denote dominion -lordship- to rule over another man. Damn too silly.

    December 17, 2010 at 9:45 pm |
    • 2Bowdown

      Funny, I actually agree with most of what you said. Can be applied to most belief systems whether it deals with God or not.... What do you believe in??? Now apply your comment...... We are one and the same!!!

      December 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  6. Carolyn

    If I seriously wanted to learn about a religion, I wouldn't tune into South Park to find my answers. I would attend the church's meetings, read its literature, listen to its leaders and ask them lots of questions, talk to sincere members of the congregation. Then if I really wanted to know if the church was lead by God, I would study, ponder and pray with "real intent, having faith in God" and patiently wait for an answer as I lived my life the best I could to show my sincere desire to know Him.

    December 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  7. Ian Ray

    Just a correction: The temple in Bern is not the oldest LDS temple outside of North America. The temple in Laie, Hawaii was completed in 1919, significantly before the Bern temple. Although part of the USA, Hawaii is not in North America.

    December 17, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • ELB

      Thanks for the geography lesson. My testimony was almost shaken by that.

      December 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  8. Sasha W

    Don't agree with what Mormon (or any) missionaries are preaching? Then don't listen to them!! My right to listen, or not listen, to a missionary is exactly identical to my right to read (or not read) a religious tract.

    December 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  9. thkgoutloud

    Switzerland is not violating or trampling on anyone's rights. The Church of LDS are all ready represented in the country with 8,000 members and 100 missionaries plus 171 missionaries for german speakers. The country saw fit to lower the limit of non Eu missionaries to 50... what is wrong with that?? Nothing. Why does Congress feel that american mormons need a greater presence in Switzerland??? What... things can't function without large numbers of americans in a foreign country. I believe the missionaries currently in Switzerland and those soon to arrive are more then capable of carrying forward the mission and message of the Church. Congress, we should save our indignation for the real atrocities that are occuring in this world. The voice of our nation is a powerful one. Congress should think twice before using it so frivolously just to acquire some freebie votes.

    December 17, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  10. Rev Mike Talbot

    This has nothing to do with separation of church and state, The state is not saying the the LDS is the better church and you should go there every Sunday or your taxes go up. Nor is this covered under freedom of religion as this is another country we're talking about! The Swiss have the right to run there country as they is fit!!

    December 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  11. claireg

    Am i the only one concerned the U.S. government officials are using taxpayer money to fight a religious fight? what happened to separation of church and state?

    December 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • ELB

      Actually, Senators Hatch and Kennedy often teamed up to write similar letters to leaders of other nations encouraging freedom of religion, such as allowing ministers of any faith into eastern Europe after the Iron Curtain fell. It is an American idea, just like voting that they are promoting.

      Also, as for it being a waste of time, I think the letter was written during Senator Sanders' 8 hour rant against the tax bill- hard to call it a waste of time when you consider things in perspective!!

      December 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  12. Mr. Swan

    What's interesting to me is the amount of criticism and prejudice some people are when it comes to the LDS church. If someone were to actually take the time and learn the history of the church (not cult as some people may mistakenly believe) they would find that since this church was founded people have been prejudice to the "Mormons" in a way unmatched by any other religion. There was even a call to "eliminate" every LDS member of the church before they headed west and started living in Utah. A once barren land, now it's full of life and one of the top cities in the US for business, recreation and quality of life. Now if you think for a moment and forget that there are different churches and religions and think that there is only God and as there is a God there must be an opposite, Satan or the Devil. God's goal is to help his children learn to live a happy life and one day return and live with Him again in Heaven. Satan's goal therefore as the opposite is to stop people from doing that very thing by any means necessary. Having said this and considering the history of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints each time I hear someone's prejudice statement about "Mormons" it makes me realize that those people are letting themselves be tools of Satan to try and stop the inevitable from happening. One way or another, there will always be missionaries in Switzerland. I know this because having served a mission there myself, I know that God wants and needs missionaries there to move his work.

    December 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Mr. Swan

      You Said: "If someone were to actually take the time and learn the history of the church (not cult as some people may mistakenly believe) they would find that since this church was founded people have been prejudice to the "Mormons" in a way unmatched by any other religion."

      Hmmmmmm.... I'm not so sure about that Mr. Swan. I think the 'Church of Scientology' may have you Mormon's beat on that one, to put it nicely, 'questionable beliefs and practices' scale. But, maybe you're right. The Mormons' are certainly up their. As for just kinda' having the prejudice and being hated throughout history, (where millions actually 'have' been killed) I think that the 'Jews' may have a solid claim to that and... for a waaaaaaaaaaaay longer period.


      December 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
    • frank roberts

      yes if you morman took the time to find out the real history of your church you wouldnt be in it today, but you only listen to what they want you to know.like me but i started investigating on my own and found out that its a murderous cult.brother brigham had over twenty people killed because they dindnt mind him,thats not including the mountian meadow massacure of the fancher party from harrison arkansaw,yes they are a great bunch not sorry i left

      December 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  13. Terre

    What about about the sales of magic underwear, sure that most create a lot of income.

    December 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • LDSareChristians

      Actually, it's my understanding that the temple garments are sold (subsidized) at a loss to ensure every member can afford them. So, no, the church doesn't make a profit on garment sales.

      December 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • Guill

      Well we don't think they're magic... We hold them sacred because they are a physical reminder to us of the importance of keeping ourselves moraly pure. Nothing magical there...

      December 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  14. cchild1

    Bigotry is alive and well at the CNN comment section. Just sayin'...

    December 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  15. Kate

    I don't see any problems with LDS. Let 'em do what they want...when they're on their own soil. If another country wants to ban something, it's really their business. They have their reasons, they seem fairly legitimate. This isn't an attack on Mormonism. Really, it's not an attack on anyone.

    December 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  16. ScottV

    Bunch of nuts if you ask me...I took a class at my church about the cult of mormanism those poor people need some psyc help. Although I did get a chance to hear a recital in the tabernacle in St. Lake City once that was awesome, otherwise got no use for them.

    December 17, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
    • GM

      Have you ever heard the saying "don't go to a Chevy dealer to buy a Dodge?" May I suggest you take that advice to heart and look to better sources for your understanding of the LDS people and their respective beliefs.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Pot meet Kettle:
      "I took a class at my church about the cult of [another church]"

      December 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • Peace2All


      *Nailed it.


      December 18, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • frank roberts

      right on scott mormans want mironarys there to convert to raise money for thomas s monsen,he needs a new airplane to fly down and see his other wives

      December 18, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  17. Wall

    Wow! An article about Mormons, followed by postings from anti-Mormon trolls! How surprising!

    I find most of these comments to be quite silly. Don't these commenters realize that what they say and how they say it speaks more about themselves than anything else? Their name-calling, disrespect and dishonesty reveal much.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  18. HOWARD

    The only reason this article is appearing, is because Mitt Romney is a GOP front runner for 2012, and this story opens the door to start building resistance to his chances to of beating Obama in 2012 ... but, I don't think Obama needs any help in sabotaging his chances in 2012 ... besides, Barack may not be able to show up full time for campaigning if it makes him late in meeting with Michelle for their social calendar.

    December 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
  19. Nonimus

    I think everyone is missing the important issue here. Switzerland is a sovereign nation and can generally do what it wants, but why exactly are our representatives in Congress using their elected offices to promote and protect the interests of a religious organization?

    "'We earnestly peti.tion the Swiss government to reconsider this decision and to work with us and the LDS Church to find a solution which would permit LDS missionaries to continue to perform their missionary service in Switzerland as they have done since 1850,' states the letter from Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Robert Bennett, R-Utah; and Reid, D-Nevada; and nine members of the House of Representatives."

    December 17, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
    • crunchem

      I'm sure one of the Senator's asistants crafted the letter in ten minutes and a few phone calls were made to have everyone on the same page. No big waste of time here.

      December 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  20. Kelly Garrett

    Yeah, the Mormons up to their old "backdoor" tricks again. They smile to your face, and offer a shallow "love", while cursing you under their breaths. Like they did with Proposition 8 in California. They professed the love their christ has for us, while working in the background with the other christians pouring millions of dollars form their tithing coffers to derail it with scare tactics and lies. I hope Mitt Romney runs in the presidential primaries...the dirt on the true nature of the intolerant Mormon cult will be all over the place. These are people that put their gay abominations through cruel "Gender Identity Treatments" that include ridicule, guilt and electro shock therapy. When those fail, they actually lobotomize their abominable spawn. Better an asexual vegetable, than a gay human.

    December 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • GM

      You must be a gay human which would explain your animosity. May I suggest that you try to hide your bitterness for having lost in a legitimate exercise of educating the popular vote when trying to portray yourself as having any type of objectivity in expressing an opinion on people you clearly do not understand.

      December 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • Kelly Garrett


      Well, I understand them through their acts, not their words. As a Mormon, you have no ability to understand the gay human, other than what your bible tells you to understand of us. For those that want to see some of their acts, google "8: The Mormon Proposition" for a documentary by Mormons on their faith and how they treat gays.

      December 17, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • 2Bowdown

      @ Kelly

      You mean the proposition which revealed that Mormons do not agree with LGBT behavior......Oh wait we knew that already! Maybe the one that showed that they raised money to legally get out the vote...huh....nothing wrong with that. Did that movie mention that the opposition raised more money and that it ultimately came down to the "Peoples Vote"...

      December 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Kelly Garrett


      Well, if that is what you saw when you saw it, then that is what it was. I am sure it looks quite a bit different to a Mormon than it does to those they call "Gentiles." However, I do wish to thank that cult. Had they not interfered it would not have passed, but we would be left fighting, state to state. Because of it's passage, and the dirty tricks in the background that helped it, it ticked off two very good lawyers. Those lawyers, the ones that battled it out over the Bush-Gore vote, banded together and brought the federal suit. They won, and now it heads to the Supreme Court, where the stay will be upheld at the Supreme Court level. Then, all 50 states will have to issue marriage licenses.

      Thank you Mormons!!! Instead of going state to state, and costing our organizations tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, it will all be settled in one fell swoop. You saved us millions, that we can now put to other uses...like a campaign exposing the LDS and Mitt Romney when he runs in the presidential primaries.

      Isn't it funny how things work out? In winning the battle, you have lost the war, and may have very well ended the chances of a Mormon president for quite a while. That doco will go viral within hours of his announcement of his candidacy. And, that is not the only one out there. Your cult has a lot of secrets out there, and we are tracking all of them down. I wonder how the christians will feel about having the country run by prophets in Salt Lake City, and what would they want done next? Perhaps, since the gays can get married by then, they will push for legalized polygamy.Just educating the voters, is all...just like you did with us. I think your cult's tome has something in it along the lines of reaping what you have sown.

      December 18, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
    • JustJoe

      Let me start by saying I am secular...spiritual, but not religious. I will admit that I WAS apathetic to gay issues. I was not against them, but I really did not pay attention to their causes. I thought the anit-gay thing was in the past, and just a few bigoted hold-overs were left. With recent events, however, I was starting to pay attention. I did a search on the terms that Kelly posted and was lead to a lot of interesting sources. I ordered the DVD for "8: The Mormon Proposition" and just saw it last night. I became so angry, and sad, that it has moved me to be more active with their issues. I am also a black man, and saw and felt what the gay person was going through in my own experiences. It does not matter if I accept their lifestyle, they have every right to be who they are, free from the effects of the intolerance shown them. They will probably never be free from the bigotry, but they should feel no social effects from them, codified in the laws of man. Sadly, I must admit that I also used insensitive terms when referring to them. I was just as guilty as those that used the "N" word, Piccaninny and other terms referring to us.

      When I saw the part of the documentary on how they put their gay children through the psychological torture of their "Gender Identity Disorder" treatments, and the subsequent lobotomization of those that failed to be "corrected" I was absolutely horrified. There is true evil in this world. For evil to flourish requires good men to do nothing. I will no longer "do nothing" in this regard.

      I agree with the Swiss, and wonder, with all that is going on in this country, what our politicians are doing supporting a "faith" group. Perhaps the Swiss government should be sat down and shown this documentary. This proves they are a political organization, hiding behind religion.

      December 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.