Chile Celebrates 50 Years of Missionary Work

  Philip M. Volmar, Church News and Events

  • 21 October 2011
 

Article Highlights

  • Members in Chile recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of formal missionary work in the South American country, which now has more than 563,000 members.
  • Chile’s first mission was organized in 1961 in a theater at Santiago. The country had some 1,100 Church members then.
  • Some 20,000 members attended a celebration on October 15 to commemorate the growth of the Church in Chile. The event included talks by General Authorities, music from a young single adult choir, a play about missionary work, and cultural dances.

“This is a milestone for Chile. What happened in the country is a miracle.” —Elder Valentin F. Nuñez, Chile Area Seventy

“Neville” is not a common Chilean name, especially for a first name. And that is what Sister Noel Cardon—whose maiden name is Neville—realized when she recently met Chilean native Neville Flores in the Santiago Chile Temple.

When Sister Cardon mentioned her maiden name, Sister Flores quickly remarked, “¡Este es mi nombre también!” (“That is my name too!”).

The sisters exchanged stories and found the connection. Sister Cardon, who served a mission in Chile almost 50 years ago when the country first opened to Latter-day Saint missionaries, taught the gospel to a member of the Chilean Air Force band. That man—Sister Flores’ father—named his daughter after the missionary who introduced him to the gospel.

“We were both crying because it was so special for Neville to see who her namesake was and for me to know that one person I had helped teach had been faithful in the Church,” said Sister Cardon.

Stories like this highlight the tenderness, excitement, and jubilee that the Saints in Chile experienced last week as members in the country commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Church’s formal missionary work there in a weeklong celebration.

“Not long ago, we were but a few people in the Church,” said Elder Valentin F. Nuñez, an Area Seventy in Chile. “But Chileans were good recipients for the gospel. Missionaries had a successful time teaching the members here. We’re very happy for what has happened in our country.”

Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge, Area President; Jorge F. Zeballos, First Counselor; and Kent F. Richards, Second Counselor, sponsored the weeklong commemoration and spoke at the event on Saturday, October 15, that culminated the celebrations. The historical event brought some 20,000 members in Chile to Santiago’s Santa Laura Stadium, where talks, songs, a play, and cultural dances commemorated the Chileans’ acceptance of the gospel and the growth of the Church.

During the play, Perla Garcia de Bravo, a member in Chile, played the part of a grandmother telling her grandson how she joined the Church after meeting Mormon missionaries 50 years ago. Members who know Sister Bravo know that her role in the play holds additional significance. Sister Bravo is the daughter of the first Chilean baptized in the country half a century ago.

Today there are more than 563,000 members in Chile, a tribute to the work of missionaries like Sister Cardon and members like Sister Bravo.

“This is a milestone for Chile,” Elder Nuñez said. “What happened in the country is a miracle.”

Church leaders first visited Chile when President David O. McKay (1873–1970) arrived in 1954 to visit American expatriates in the area. Seven years later, on October 8, 1961, the Chile Mission was formed at a theater in Santiago.

Fewer than 1,500 missionaries served in the coastal nation during the Church’s first 20 years there. Currently, more than 2,000 missionaries serve in Chile at any given time. They are sent across nine missions, which stretch 2,600 miles (4,184 km) from north to south.

For Elder Corbridge spoke at Saturday’s event and said this tremendous growth shows the Lord’s hand in bringing the gospel to the country—and the world.

“We are not just Chileans,” Elder Corbridge said at the event. “We are all members of the Church and of the household of Israel.”