When you look at the requirements of joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it’s no smoking or drinking, a lifetime of fidelity to your spouse, plus the scrutiny of your fellow Mormons, even the Mission president for Cambodia agrees it is not a religion for everybody.
“We ask a lot,” said LDS Mission President David Moon, who lives and works out of a villa on Street 222, heads an LDS church presence in Cambodia where young Mormon missionaries come and go and where young Cambodians can meet a variety of church members, many from the United States.
“If you are looking for an easy religion this is not the one. There is a lot that’s asked,” Moon said in an interview last month.
Moon and his wife Kathryn are elders in the LDS church, in Cambodia on a voluntary mission to promote the religion. Their daughter Mackenzie has just graduated from high school at ISPP. Moon says he finds the Cambodia experience rewarding.
“We have a very warm and good relationship with the Ministry of Culture and Religions. People are warm and hospitable to us.”
Moon, who comes from a long line of Mormon church members dating back to their conversion in 19th century England as well as a journey across the American West, served his own mission at age 20 in Thailand in the late 1970s.
“We had no idea what was going on in Cambodia at that time,” he said.
Since he loved his experience in Thailand so much, he’s happy to be back in the region. He says the atmosphere of Southeast Asia is more friendly for Mormon missionaries going door-to-door than other regions of the world.
“There are a lot of places you could go to serve missions and have doors slammedin your face,” Moon said. “Here in Cambodia the people are friendly and it is delightful to be here.”
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, the church has about 69,000 missionaries worldwide and a membership of about 14.7 million and is ranked as the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States. With a doctrine of “continuing revelation”, Latter-Day Saints or Mormons believe that Jesus Christ, under the direction of the Heavenly Father, leads the church by revealing his will to the church president, who is currently Thomas S Monson.
Here in Cambodia, Moon says he enjoys seeing the lives of Cambodians improve when they start to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It helps people improve lives and have stronger marriages. It helps them to have happier lives and better relationships and not spend money on alcohol, for example,” he said. “It is a big step and not everyone is willing to take it,” he said.
Moon asks the young Mormon missionaries who are serving in Cambodia on bicycles to be extra respectful.
“Our missionaries are very visible and I worry they need to be aware of it and how to treat people. Sometimes they’ve had a hard day and sometimes they aren’t as respectful on their bicycles as we should be,” he said. “We are always sending messages to people by the way we behave. I don’t have to worry about major problems. I am very glad we have missionaries who are sincere and want to be here for the right reasons. It’s a pretty tough place to come and serve a mission,” he said.
Moon and his wife Kathryn come from Alpine, Utah, and have seven children, six girls and one boy, including their daughter Mackenzie.
Two of Moon’s children are on Mormon missions, one in Richmond, Virginia, and one in Sendai, Japan.
They’ve been in Phnom Penh a year and have two more years to go.
“It has been a wonderful experience, we have three years, and we always thought we’d go out on a mission like this.”
Moon is a partner in a real state and investment firm and is happy that his partners cover for him while he serves in Cambodia.The LDS church in Cambodia is much larger than in Vietnam, for example. Moon says there are roughly 14,000 church members in Cambodia today, dating back to 1994 when the LDS church was first organised in Cambodia.
The LDS church has constructed eight buildings in Cambodia and rent an additional dozen locations.
LDS congregations are located in Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
The LDS church has no presence in Myanmar other than one humanitarian couple. In Laos they also have humanitarian couples.