World Library  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Laestadianism is a conservative Lutheran revival movement started in Lapland in the middle of the 19th century. Named after Swedish state church administrator and temperance movement leader Lars Levi Laestadius, 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.

Lars Levi Laestadius (1800–61)
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.


  • Organization in Finland and North America 1
  • Distinguishing doctrines and practices 2
    • Emphasis on justification 2.1
    • The "true" Christians 2.2
      • Exclusion and inclusion among Laestadian sub-groups 2.2.1
    • Declaration of forgiveness 2.3
      • In practice 2.3.1
      • A most solemn rite 2.3.2
    • Identifying greeting and farewell 2.4
    • Emphasis on avoiding sin and "worldliness" 2.5
    • Birth control 2.6
    • Social gatherings 2.7
    • Publications 2.8
    • Chosen Scripture 2.9
  • History 3
    • Roots of the movement 3.1
    • Initial effect on Laestadius's Sami parishioners 3.2
    • Rise of Laestadianism among the Sami 3.3
    • "Unbroken line of living Christianity" 3.4
  • Groups in 2012 4
  • See also 5
  • Sources 6
  • Notes 7
  • In literature 8
  • In film 9
  • External links 10

Organization in Finland and North America

Family tree of laestadianism in Russia and Ingria (Not so much in Karelia). Includes defunct groups.

Laestadians in Finland are part of the state 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 Rauhan Sana ("Word of Peace"), known in USA and Canada as the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (to other Laestadians, the "Mickelsens" after 20th Century leader Reverend Andrew Mickelsen.[1][2](1897-1983)[1] 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).

Distinguishing doctrines and practices

Emphasis on justification

All branches share many essential teachings including a central emphasis on the Lutheran doctrine of justification (grace).

The "true" Christians

Another core teaching concerns essential differences in lifestyle and beliefs between true believers on one hand, and false Christians (sometimes distinguished as living faith versus dead faith) and unbelievers on the other.

Exclusion and inclusion among Laestadian sub-groups

The leaders of the two largest Laestadian sub-groups, the Conservative Laestadians and Firstborn Laestadians, have for decades excluded each other and all other Laestadian sub-groups from the kingdom of Heaven even though the denominations' core doctrines are nearly indistinguishable,[3] whereas the leadership of the smaller third main sub-group, the Federation, has continued to regard the other sub-groups as of living faith after having unsuccessfully sought to preserve unity within Laestadianism when its larger counterparts' leaders in the 1930s called for and later required dissociation from the Federation and other Laestadian denominations.[3]

Declaration of forgiveness

The church teaches that every believer has the authority to testify that others' sins are forgiven, sometimes referred to as the audible declaration of the forgiveness of sins. Laestadians usually proclaim the forgiveness of sins "in Jesus´ name and blood".

In practice

Laestadianism holds that when a Christian has committed a sin, whether in thought or deed, she or he should confess the sin to another believer. Thus it is a common practice among Laestadians in or out of church at any time, but especially during the church service prior to the rite of holy communion, to be confessing their sins to one another or, occasionally, to one of the church ministers performing the sacrament. A common declaration is, "Believe your sin(s) forgiven in Jesus' name and (shed) blood." This procedure, ingrained in Laestadianism, differs from atonement as Christ's shed blood.

A most solemn rite

Because a Laestadian takes very seriously the proposition that grace exists only for one whose sins have been specifically forgiven, there is scarcely another rite in this movement that would rival the importance of the declaration of forgiveness. This doctrine is a unique extension of the priesthood of the believer doctrine.

Identifying greeting and farewell

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 (or in Finnish: "Jumalan rauhaan").

Emphasis on avoiding sin and "worldliness"

"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, tattoos, and cursing. Some conservative elements within the church go even further in rejecting the ways of the world, for examples, refusing to buy insurance, prohibiting their children's participation in organized school sports, and removing their car radios.

Birth control

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.

Social gatherings

The central activities of Laestadians are annual or more frequent church conventions, including the Summer Services of Conservative Laestadians, attended by members from congregations far and wide; and for the youth, haps (gatherings of teenagers and young adults to sing from Hymns and Songs of Zion and visit), song services, bonfires, youth discussions, caretaking meetings and revival meetings.

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.

Chosen Scripture

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.


Læstadian lay preacher Finnmark 1898

Roots of the movement

The name of the movement stems 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."

Initial effect on Laestadius's Sami parishioners

Two great challenges Laestadius had faced since his early days as a church minister were the indifference of his Sami parishioners, who had been forced by the [4]

Rise of Laestadianism among the Sami

The rapid rise of Laestadianism among the Sami was due to several factors. Laestadius proudly self-identified as Sami through his Southern Sami mother. He spoke and preached in two Sami dialects. Further he chose uneducated lay preachers from the Sami reindeer herders to travel year around with them and preach to the unrepented among them. Additionally, in the early days of the movement, Laestadius, in order to find common ground with his parishioners, borrowed the Samis' own familiar pagan deities and concepts and adapted them to Christianity. Another factor in the rise of Laestadianism among the Sami was that the state-mandated boarding schools soon came to be populated by Laestadian personnel. Next, the strict moral code including strict temperance of Laestadianism appealed to the Sami. Whole communities that had been wrecked by alcoholism went dry virtually overnight. This had the added positive effect of improving the Samis' social standing with the outside world. Finally, Laestadianism was a faith that the Sami could identify as originating from within inasmuch as Laestadius himself professed to have come to know the true living faith only upon his encounter with the poor abused Sami woman, Milla Clementsdotter.[5]

"Unbroken line of living Christianity"

Some faction 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. SFC), Russia, Togo (ELLT), 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. Reed group (Pollarites) 3,500 people in U.S.A. (Independent Apostolic Lutheran Church)
  • 6. Reawakening 3 000 people (in Finland (LLK) and Norway)
  • 7. Old erikians (Lyngen group) 1 200 people in Norway
  • 8. New erikians 800 people in Norway
  • 9. Aunes group 550 people in U.S.A. (The Apostolic Lutheran Church)[6]
  • 10. Elämän Sana group (clericalists) 300 people (in Finland, Sweden (SFK) and Norway)
  • 11. Levi group 200 people (in Finland and Sweden)
  • 12. Andersonites 50 people in U.S.A. (Grace Apostolic Lutheran Church)
  • 13. Leskinen group 50 people (in Sweden and Norway)
  • 14. Kvaenangen group (svärmeri) 50 people in Norway
  • 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



  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Talonen 2012

In literature

  • An Examination of the Pearl, a book written by Edwin A. Suominen. An Examination of the Pearl is a study of the doctrine and history of Conservative Laestadianism. The book also looks at the teachings of Martin Luther, early Christianity, Christian fundamentalism and sectarianism, and the Bible.
  • Lars Levi Laestadius and the Sami
  • Læstadianism and Its Role in the Loss of the Traditional Sámi Worldview, by Viktor 'Vulle' Cornell
  • Laestadianism
  • Lars Levi Laestadius and the Revival in Lapland, by Warren H. Hepokoski
  • The Laestadian Movement: Background Writings and Testimonies, compiled by Warren H. Hepokoski
  • The Laestadian Movement: Disputes and Divisions 1861 - 2000, by Warren H. Hepokoski
  • We Sinners, a novel about Laestadianism by former LLC-member Hanna Pylväinen. [1]

In film

External links

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.