Since 2011, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly abbreviated as LDS, was granted full recognition by the Turkish Government. The LDS Church is now allowed to own property and can send full-time, proselyting missionaries to operate on Turkish soil. Originally, missionary activity in Turkey operated under the supervision of the LDS mission in Bulgaria. Currently, the LDS Church has a mission headquartered in Istanbul, which organizes the church’s activities in Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the Turkic Republics of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. However, at this time the LDS Church only has proselyting missionaries operating in Turkey and Kazakhstan. The Church has had missionaries in Kazakhstan for several years, which, until recently, were under the supervision of one of the missions in Russia. Concerning congregations, Turkey currently has five branches: one in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Gaziantep, and at a military base in İncirlik-Adana; Kazakhstan has missions in both Almaty and Astana. As for the rest of the Middle East, the LDS Church has congregations in many countries, such as Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, but these missions are typically limited, or non-proselyting, missions. Most of the members of these congregations are originally from other countries. 

The LDS Church has an active humanitarian presence in the Middle East, investing immense amounts of aid into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The church collaborates with other organizations, including Catholic and Islamic charities to distribute the required supplies. Individual donations to the church’s humanitarian fund and goods donated at the church’s Deseret Industries thrift stores in Utah are often shipped to humanitarian efforts in the Middle East and Central Asia. Various orphanages, nursing homes, and hospitals have accepted donations in the form of cash or equipment. Dünya Göz Hastanesi and Çağ Hastanesi are the major recipients of these donations. 

Many of the LDS missions in the Middle East are humanitarian missions. These missions are non-convert seeking, and the missionaries who operate them tend to be older couples who have decided to serve as missionaries as a post-retirement activity. Additionally, young adults who are unable to undertake a convert-seeking mission may be assigned to any one of several tasks as Church-service missionaries throughout the Middle East. Turkey has hosted humanitarian missions for several years.

Read the full article at TurkishWeekly.