Friends in Uruguay


Uruguay (pronounced YOO rah gwy) is located on the southeast coast of South America and is the smallest republic in that country. About three million people live there, and almost half of them raise sheep and cattle. Spanish is the country’s official language.

Special holidays that are celebrated include Independence Day on August 25 and the carnaval, the most colorful festival of the entire year, which is celebrated during the three days before Lent. At this time the people sing, dance, and wear bright and beautiful costumes as they parade about the streets and visit with each other.

Montevideo, the capital city, is a favorite vacation spot for tourists as well as for people who live in Uruguay. It is called the City of Roses because of the thousands of roses that grow in almost every yard and park.

The Spanish word for soccer is futbol. It is the most famous game among Uruguayan children of all ages.

Whenever there is any free time, boys will divide into teams and play a fast game of futbol.

Everywhere, throughout the cities and country, children can be seen playing their favorite sport in a deserted lot or in a closed-off street with piles of rocks for goals.

Sometimes fathers organize the neighborhood boys into teams that play each other and teams from other cities. This is called baby futbol because it is a miniature of the professional game. These children try to play like their favorite professional players and are very serious about the game.

In September 1925 Elder Melvin J. Ballard was called to open a mission in South America. Two members of the First Council of the Seventy, Elder Rulon S. Wells and Elder Rey L. Pratt, were appointed to help him. On Christmas Day of that same year Elder Ballard dedicated all the lands of South America for teaching the gospel. (See the July 1972 Friend, pages 38–39.)

Uruguay was originally part of the Argentine Mission. Mission reports in the Church Historian’s Office tell about the beginning of missionary work in Uruguay. Here is part of the exciting story:

“The first contact between the Church and the people of Uruguay began in January 1940 when Rolf R. Larson, an Argentine missionary, was chosen to represent Argentina in the South American basketball championship in Montevideo. He became the attraction of the tournament, and many newspaper articles were published about him in which he was always referred to as a Mormon missionary.

“His stay in Montevideo created such an interest that the president and secretary of the Argentine Mission went to Montevideo with a supply of tracts. They spent three days visiting and talking with people. They were invited to the YMCA to a luncheon and were permitted to explain their beliefs.

“Through Larson’s playing and his good sportsmanship, a friendly atmosphere was created toward the Church.”

Today there are two separate stakes in that country as well as many branches and districts.