News Story

Australian Mormon Leader Lauds Creation of 100th Peruvian Stake

When the 100th stake (diocese) in Peru was just created, Philip Howes, now serving as Sydney North Mission President, couldn’t help but be amazed at the growth of the Church in this Southern American country.  When he served a mission there as a young man, there were just two stakes and very few members.

Elder Todd Christofferson, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, created the country’s 100th stake in June; just 57 years after the Church began its operations there with the creation of the first small branch in 1956.

President Howes served in Peru for two years in the mid-1970s.  At the time, the two stakes were located in Lima, the country's national capital, and Mormonism was very much a minority faith subject to suspicion and mistrust. 

Now, reflecting the huge growth in membership in many of the nations of South and Central America, the Church is a highly respected institution regarded well by the leaders of Peru.

According to President Howes, Church leaders at the time of his mission often spoke of how South America would become one of the dominant contributors to worldwide Mormon membership.  However, there was very little sign of it when he was walking the dusty streets of the country’s cities and towns.

“Often Church members had to meet in converted houses,” he says.  “Many of the Latter-day Saints were from poorer communities and had little in the way of the luxuries that we were used to in the West.”

“Yet, given the significance of the Book of Mormon to the indigenous history of the Americas, it was clearly evident that the gospel was going to find fertile soil in which to bury its roots.” Now, he says, “It is an exciting time, to have gone from just two stakes to 100 stakes, in the 40 years since I was there.”

According to President Howes, Australian Latter-day Saints are called to serve missions in countries all over the world, as well as in Australia.  Many of the Church’s young men, aged 18 years or older, and young women, aged 19 or older, and senior adults enjoy the great blessing of going to foreign countries for their service.  When they return home they become ‘ambassadors’ for the cultures to which they have been assigned.

“Like the Saints in Australia, the Peruvians learned that the gospel was for everybody.  If people take the time to stop and realise that they have a Heavenly Father, and exhibit the faith of a mustard seed, they will recognise the truths that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to offer."

President Howes said that those in Peru whom he taught came to know how the Gospel could make their lives better. 

“And this didn’t just include the joy that comes through repentance and the grace of Christ,” he continued.  “It could also help them to improve their family relationships, help them to be better homemakers and providers, and help them with the skills they needed to progress in their education and employment.”

“I am amazed at the wonderful growth that has been taking place in Peru, a place still very dear to my heart,” said President Howes.

During the Sunday services in Lima, Peru at which the 100th stake was created, Elder Christofferson encouraged Latter-day Saints to continue to follow Jesus Christ by serving others.

He also spoke about the Church’s rapid growth in Peru, where some 520,000 Mormons in nearly 800 congregations reside.

The first Peruvian stake was created in 1970.  Now, along with the huge number of stakes, the Church has one of its 141 worldwide temples in Lima, with two others (one announced in Arequipa, another under construction in Trujillo) on the way.

On the Saturday night before the conference, approximately 14,000 local Mormons celebrated the Church growth milestone at an event at the University of San Marcos stadium. The Saturday evening program, the largest-ever gathering of Peruvian Latter-day Saints, featured cultural dances, a parade of 300 former and current Mormon missionaries and a video about the Church’s 50-year history in Peru.

While in Peru, Elder Christofferson also gave a live interview on Peru National Radio. He told radio host, Rocio Marmanillo, of the Church’s scheduled day of service to clean Peru’s coasts, slated for 7 December 2013. “All others who wish to participate” are invited to help during the day of service, Elder Christofferson said.

He also met with a Peruvian congressman, the government's director of interfaith affairs and the director-general of justice and worship.

In all of these meetings, Elder Christofferson spoke of the family’s importance in society. He also discussed the need to establish and promote projects that not only improve the future of the needy but also help them to achieve self-reliance in the short term.

Information in Spanish about Elder Christofferson’s visit can be found on the Peru Mormon Newsroom website.

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