“Go ahead honey, tell them about the party last night,” said Cheryl Kaharazi, wife of Hamid Kaharazi.
Hamid is one of the few Persian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although he is originally from Iran, Kaharazi now attends the first Persian branch of the Church in Del Mar, California.
Since the Iran Tehran mission closed in 1979 and the missionaries returned home, Kaharazi states that every October, on the Friday night before General Conference, the returned missionaries host a get together with all of the Persian members of the Church that are able to come.
“It’s a pretty big gathering for how many of us there are,” Kaharazi said.
According to the 2018 International Religious Freedom report, less than 50 people in the country of Iran are members of the Church. The Iranian Constitution states that the official religion is Islam and “this principle will remain eternally immutable.” Because of this, there is a small Christian population in this dominantly Islamic country.
According to the Kaharazi’s, a group of Persian members of the Church gathers before every conference. The first 18 missionaries assigned to Iran entered the mission field in 1975, all hailing from the United States. The mission was originally named the Iran Tehran Mission until it was closed in May 1979 due to the Iranian Revolution. By the time the mission closed, 15 people had been baptized by these Farsi-speaking missionaries.
“At least four out of this group could talk Farsi very well. They talked behind me, I thought they were Iranian, I never thought they were American,” Hamid said. “They talked that good.”
He also recalled that “they [the missionaries] couldn’t approach people, but if people approached them they could have taught them.”
He compared this to the volunteers for the Church who are currently serving in Russia.
Despite the fact that the original missionaries were technically volunteers for the church, the gospel still began to spread in the area and continues to do so, although the progress may be slow. In the meantime, those faithful members from the middle east, like Hamid, have since travelled to the United States to worship.
While they are free to worship here, they are also free to party here. The semi-annual gathering of these minority saints is said to be a joyful and hopeful occasion for many.
There are no wards or branches currently meeting in the country of Iran, but Kaharazi has hopes for the future. “The church still has the property in Tehran,” Kaharazi said. “And hopefully, one of these days the Lord will have his ways so that we can open something there.”