If one were to ask a returned missionary from Finland, or even a member of the Church in Finland, when missionary work began in that country, a likely response would be that it began in 1946, when Elder Ezra Taft Benson dedicated the land for missionary work. The date is well known, and a small monument commemorating the event has been erected in Larsmo, a small town on Finland's northwestern shore. Although many consider missionaries who served in the years immediately following the dedication to be the first missionaries in Finland, there is a general understanding that some members in Larsmo and nearby Pietarsaari are descendants of those who were baptized in the 1800s by missionaries from Sweden. Studies documenting this time are few and generally not available in English. Thus, Kim Östman's book, a comparative religion doctoral dissertation published in English, is not only the first in-depth treatment of nineteenth-century Mormon activity in Finland, but the first with the potential of reaching a broad English-speaking audience.
Perhaps the neglect of this period has been for lack of scholarly interest, but it may also be for lack of linguistic expertise to do the research. We are fortunate that Östman has both the interest and the language skills for this work. His background has prepared him well for the task. He was born in Pietarsaari, Finland, raised in the Church, and served a two-year LDS mission in Great Britain. Though not presently involved in organized religion, he approaches his study as an objective scholar with no apparent agenda other than to write a well-researched dissertation, which he does with admirable rigor.