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Laestadianism is a conservative Lutheran revival movement started in the middle of the 19th century. It is strongly marked by both pietistic and Moravian influences. It is the biggest revivalist movement in the Nordic countries. It has members mainly in Finland, North America, Norway, Russia and Sweden. There are also smaller congregations in Africa, South America and Central Europe. In addition Laestadians have missionaries in 23 countries. The number of Laestadians worldwide is estimated to be between 144,000 and 219,000.
Family tree of laestadianism in world. Does not include defunct groups.
Family tree of laestadianism in Finland and Karelia. Includes defunct groups.
Family tree of laestadianism in America. Includes defunct groups.
Family tree of laestadianism in Sweden. Includes defunct groups.
Family tree of laestadianism in Norway. Includes defunct groups.
Family tree of laestadianism in Vadsø (in Norway) in 1860-1960. Includes defunct groups.
Family tree of laestadianism in Russia and Ingria (Not so much in Karelia). Includes defunct groups.
Laestadians in Finland are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, but in America, where there is no official Lutheran church, they founded their own denomination, which split into several sub-groups in the mid-20th Century. Because of doctrinal opinion differences and personality conflicts, the movement split into 19 branches, of which about 15 are active today. The three large main branches are Conservative Laestadianism (corresponds to the Laestadian Lutheran Church, in North America known to other Laestadians as the "Heidemans" after 20th Century leader Paul A. Heideman); the Firstborn (in North America, "Old Apostolic Lutheran Church" ("Esikoinens" to other Laestadian denominations); and the Rauhan Sana ("the Word of Peace") group, known in the USA and Canada as the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (to other Laestadians, the "Mickelsons" after 20th Century leader Rev. Andrew Mickelsen(1897-1983)(in some cases: "Mickelson")) . These comprise about 90 percent of Laestadians. Other branches are small and some of them inactive.
In Finland, the Elämän Sana ("the Word of life") group, as the most "mainline" of the different branches of Laestadianism, has been prominent within the hierarchy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland: Two members have been elected bishops of Oulu, and one has served as Chaplain General (head chaplain of the Finnish Defence Forces and the equivalent of a Major General).
All branches share many essential teachings: a central emphasis on the Lutheran doctrine of justification (forgiveness and grace), an essential difference between believers and unbelievers, and that every believer has the authority to testify that others' sins are forgiven. They usually proclaim the forgiveness of sins "in Jesus´ name and blood". When greeting each other, Laestadians say "God's Peace" in English (or in Finnish: "Jumalan terve" meaning God's greeting or welcome). To take their leave of each other, they say "God's Peace" in English (in Finnish: "Jumalan rauhaan"). "Worldliness" is discouraged, and Laestadians frown on pre-marital sex and on alcohol consumption except in the sacrament of holy communion. Conservative Laestadians frown upon "sins" such as dancing, television, birth control, rhythmic music, make-up, earrings, movies, school sports, tattoos, and cursing. The central activities of Laestadians are haps (gatherings of teenagers and young adults to sing Songs and Hymns of Zion and visit), song services, bonfires, youth discussions, caretaking meetings and revival meetings, the biggest of them being the annual Summer Services of Conservative Laestadians. Within Firstborn Laestadianism in Scandinavia, the most important yearly events are the Christmas services in Gällivare and the Midsummer services in Lahti, where thousands of Firstborn Laestadians gather each year from different countries. Different branches publish their newspapers and magazines. In Finland, the Bible version used by Laestadians is the Finnish Bible of 1776 which, unlike newer translations, is based on the Textus Receptus. American and Canadian Laestadianism uses the King James Version, based as well on the Textus Receptus.
Especially large numbers of Firstborn Apostolic Lutherans and many members of the most conservative congregations within the Word of Peace group, for examples, do not use birth control because they believe that a child is a gift from God; therefore, many Laestadian families are large.
Læstadian lay preacher Finnmark 1898
The name of the movement stems from Lars Levi Laestadius, a Sámi-Swedish botanist and preacher. Laestadius started the movement when working as a pastor in the Church of Sweden in northern Sweden in the 1840s. Laestadius met a Sami woman named Milla Clementsdotter from Föllinge in the municipality of Krokom in Jämtland during an 1844 inspection tour of Åsele in Lapland. She belonged to a revival movement within the Church of Sweden led by pastor Pehr Brandell of the parish of Nora in the municipality of Kramfors in Ångermanland and characterized by pietistic and Moravian influences. She told Laestadius about her spiritual experiences on her journey to a truly living Christianity, and after the meeting Laestadius felt he had come to understand the secret of living faith. He had had a deep experience of having entered a state of grace, of having receiving God's forgiveness for his sins and of at last truly seeing the path that leads to eternal life. His sermons acquired, in his own words, "a new kind of colour" to which people began to respond. The movement began to spread from Sweden to Finland and Norway, particularly among the Sámi and the Kvens. He preferred his followers to be known simply as "Christians", but others started to call them "Laestadians."
Some fraction within Laestadianism has believed that the movement is a contemporary descendant of an unbroken line of living Christianity via the Moravian Church, Luther, the Bohemian Brethren, the Lollards,and the Waldensians all the way back to the primitive Church. Martin Luther, Jan Hus, John Wycliffe and Peter Waldo are seen as spiritual ancestors of Laestadianism.
Groups in 2012 
- 1. Conservative laestadianism 115 000 people (in Finland (SRK), U.S.A. (Laestadian Lutheran Church), Sweden (SFC), Russia, Togo (LLC), Canada (LLC), Kenya(LLOP), Ghana(LLC), Gambia(LLC), Ecuador, Norway, Estonia (ELR), Latvia, London, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, etc.)
- 2. Firstborn laestadianism 24 000 people (in U.S.A. (Old Apostolic Lutheran Church), Finland (Esikoislestadiolaiset ry), Sweden, Norway, Russia, Latvia)
- 3. Little Firstborn group (Rauhan Sana group) 21 000 people (in Finland (LFF and LYRS), U.S.A. (Apostolic Lutheran Church of America), Sweden, Norway, Canada (ALC), Guatemala, Nigeria, India, Togo(ALC) and Kenya)
- 4. Torola group 4 000 people (in U.S.A.(First Apostolic Lutheran Church), Sweden and Finland (SVR))
- 5. Reawakening 3 000 people (in Finland (LLK) and Norway)
- 6. Old erikians (Lyngen group) 1 200 people in Norway
- 7. New erikians 800 people in Norway
- 8. Reed group (Pollarites) 600 people in U.S.A. (Independent Apostolic Lutheran Church)
- 9. Aunes group 550 people in U.S.A. (The Apostolic Lutheran Church)
- 10. Elämän Sana group (clericalists) 300 people (in Finland, Sweden (SFK) and Norway)
- 11. Levi group 200 people (in Finland and Sweden)
- 12. Leskinen group 50 people (in Sweden and Norway)
- 13. Kvaenangen group (svärmeri) 50 people in Norway
- 14. Sven group 50 people in U.S.A. (Grace Apostles Lutheran Church)
- 15. Davidites 40 people in U.S.A.
- 16. Gundersen group 30 people in Norway
- 17. Hanka group (Melvinites) 20 people in U.S.A.
- 18. Sten group 15 people in Finland
- 19. Kontio group 5 people in Finland
See also 
- Talonen, Jouko (2001). Iustitia 14, STI-aikakauskirja, Lestadiolaisuuden monet kasvot. Lestadiolaisuuden hajaannukset (pdf). Suomen teologinen instituutti (STI). ISBN ISBN 952-9857-11-X.
- Talonen, Jouko (2012). "Lestadiolaisuuden synty, leviäminen ja hajaannukset. Lestadiolaisuuden tutkija, kirkkohistorian professori Jouko Talosen luento (Virtuaalikirkko has videos from seminar, and they are archived in Internet: http://www.virtuaalikirkko.fi/kirkot/virtuaalikirkkosali/arkisto/196-prof-jouko-talonen.html). Laestadiuksen perintö ja perilliset - seminaari Oulussa 4.-5.10.2012". Oulun hiippakunta, Pohjoinen kulttuuri-instituutti and Oulun ev.-lut. seurakunnat.
External links