FARMINGTON — Lorenzo “Hank” Semadeni is getting a glimpse at the history of his ancestral home of Italy, as he seeks out the history of the LDS Church there.
He and his wife Virginia have been gathering information since being called to a mission at the church history department in Salt Lake City last August.
Their research starts with the visit of Lorenzo Snow, later an LDS president, to Italy in 1850, and continues to the present day. The church drew some converts, primarily in the northern Alpine mountain valleys, but then missionary work was discontinued for more than a century.
It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that a mission was opened again. Today there are two missions and a membership of about 25,000, with a new Rome Temple due to open sometime next year.
“A lot of very interesting things occurred that were never really written down,” Semadeni said.
The first chapel is one of those interesting items.
It was a humble structure built in 1944 on the American air base of Decimomannu on the island of Sardinia.
“It was far enough from the mainland that Hitler couldn’t shell it from land. They just had to worry about it from the air,” Semadeni said.
The chapel was built next to an airfield, and following meetings in the chaplains tent, the military members started pooling funds to buy bricks for a small chapel, a short history by Semadeni said. The non-smoking LDS servicemen even sold their cigarette rations to raise money/
“There was a huge brick-making company and they’d make brick and ship it to the mainland,” he said. “During this time, the Germans would sink the barges.”
That meant the brick company was eager to provide materials to anyone on the island.
“The chapel has a tile roof, is nice looking, quite small but it will hold about 30 fellows,” wrote Lt. Marvel F. Andersen.
When it opened in late March of 19444, there was a small portable organ, some pictures of the First Presidency, as well as Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
“They are to be congratulated for their resourcefulness and faith in building what probably is the first LDS chapel in Italy,” said Chaplain Eldin Ricks, who dedicated the chapel.
Use of the chapel was to be short-lived, because the northward advance of Allied troops meant departure of the Anglo-American air force that September.
A four lane road leading to the base is built over where the chapel stood. It leads to what is now an important NATO facility, Semadeni wrote.
Prior to their current mission call, the couple served in the church’s exhibit division, working on designs for temple and other visitor center exhibits.
“We would love to go to Rome next year” for the dedication of that temple, he said.
The couple have lived in Farmington for more than 40 years and have five children. He is a former member of the city council, several county boards and was a soccer coach.