The original South American Mission, headquartered in Argentina, was divided in 1935 into the Argentine and Brazilian Missions. President W. Ernest Young was assigned to preside over 14 missionaries and 255 members.
When President Frederick S. Williams replaced him in 1938, meetings were being held regularly in 20 rented halls, and there were 45 missionaries. There were 66 baptisms that year.
The first chapel built by the Church in South America was dedicated in Liniers, a suburb of Buenos Aires, on April 9, 1939, by President Williams. Combined with this progress was the favorable publicity generated when mission teams won Argentine baseball and softball championships.
Progress continued until 1944, when World War II forced all but three missionaries to return home. President W. Ernest Young returned to preside, even though missionaries did not return for more than a year.
With the end of the war a new era opened in Argentina. President Harold Brown was called as mission president in 1949 and under his direction auxiliary organizations were developed, local members were ordained branch presidents, new missionary programs were established, new cities were opened, and missionaries were sent into Uruguay.
Visits by General Authorities spurred on progress in Argentina. President David O. McKay came in 1954; President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder A. Theodore Tuttle visited in 1960. By 1959, a decade after the renewal of fullfledged missionary work, membership had grown to 3,500. Further progress was seen under President Lorin N. Pace, former diplomat to Honduras, who had served as Argentine Mission president in 1948. He sent the first missionaries to North Argentina, opening Tucuman and Santiago del Estero. In 1962 the mission was divided.
Four years later, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, organized the first Spanish-speaking stake in the southern hemisphere. It was in Buenos Aires and included seven wards. Angel Abrea, now a Regional Representative of the Twelve, was its first president.
This first stake has since become five: Buenos Aires East, Buenos Aires West, Cordoba, Mendoza, and Rosario. There are now four missions: two are headquartered in Buenos Aires, and there is one each in Rosario and Cordoba. Church membership in Argentina has soared above 35,000.
The land of Argentina was designed for the connoisseur of climate and geographical variety. There are humid, sub-tropical woods in the northeast, semi-arid deserts and mountains in the northwest, with lush open plains in central Argentina, home of the gauchos. Further south are beautiful pine forests.
Geographical features include the highest mountain in the western hemisphere on the Chile-Argentine border, Mt. Aconcagua, with an elevation of 22,835 feet, and the largest waterfalls in the world, Iguaçu Falls, on the Argentine-Brazilian border. The Andes Mountains run along Argentina’s western border.
Coastal and pampas regions of the north and northeast are population centers. Most of the Argentine people originally came from Spain and Italy, and over 90 percent are Roman Catholic. Population today numbers over 23 million. Major industries include cattle, agriculture, fishing, mining, and lumber.
Argentina declared independence from Spain in 1816 and in 1853 adopted a constitution patterned after that of the United States. It is a federation of 22 provinces, the district of Buenos Aires, and a national territory that includes Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and a section of Antarctica.
All education, including universities, is state-supported, and Argentina has an illiteracy rate of only 2.5 percent.