“Saints in Albuquerque: Making Impressions with Service,” Ensign, Sept. 1993, 75–76
Flanked by historic Indian pueblos on the north and south, Albuquerque, New Mexico, sits more than five thousand feet above sea level in the western United States. To the east of this dry and sun-drenched land is the Rio Grande, overlooked by the picturesque backdrop of the Sandia Mountains. To the west are distant mountains and the mesa with its more than ten thousand ancient petroglyphs.
Old Town, now part of Albuquerque, was originally settled by Tewa Indians in 1350. Today Albuquerque has a population of 450,000.
Church growth in Albuquerque began in late 1925 when Columbus Whipple set up a Sunday School consisting of eleven adults, seven children, and five missionaries. Four years later, in June 1929, a branch was formed, with Leigh W. Clark presiding over approximately sixty members.
After the city’s first meetinghouse was built, it was dedicated by President David O. McKay of the First Presidency on 2 March 1941. Not until April 1957 was a second branch organized and a second chapel dedicated. However, six months after the second branch was organized, the Albuquerque Stake was formed, with four wards, a Spanish branch, and three Indian branches. Early in 1964, two more wards were formed; membership in the area totalled 5,106.
Today Albuquerque claims three stakes, a total Church membership of 11,500, and approximately seventy full-time missionaries.
Economic opportunities sometimes have brought members to the Albuquerque Stake from other parts of the country. Brother Ashley King, a member of the Taylor Ranch Ward, said the influx of newcomers to the area offers a unique opportunity for service, because people often need help acclimating to a new area. Adding Saints from all backgrounds and professions has created a melting pot of interests, customs, and experiences in the stake.
Members of the Church work shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors as civic volunteers. Through service, Albuquerque Saints are successfully creating a favorable awareness of the Church.
“Service is one of the best ways to fellowship those of other faiths. People see us in action and they say, ‘Who’s that?’ and they’re told, ‘The Mormons,’” Brother King says.
Many young people invite their friends of other faiths to Church activities.
Brother King knows firsthand how important service and fellowshipping is. He had Latter-day Saint friends as a teenager but didn’t know anything about the Church until he began dating a member. “They helped me through a tough period and invited me to a lot of activities,” he says. He joined the Church when he was seventeen years old.
Kim and Joanne Corwin, parents of two children, one of whom is deaf, are members of the Albuquerque Third Ward. They conduct the Story Sign Theater in schools and libraries, a community service project that promotes literacy and provides information about deafness. They also teach the deaf Sunday School class their daughter attends.
Brother Corwin, a native Korean, is a convert to the Church and a returned missionary. After the Korean War, Brother Corwin was adopted by an American family. He felt a sense of loss for his country and people after moving to America.
“Many years later, the missionaries knocked on my door. As they spoke, the Holy Ghost bore witness to me of our eternal family, and I knew that through the gospel of Jesus Christ, I would be an orphan no more. As a member of the Church, not only could I be sealed to my earthly family, but I now had ties back to my homeland, a sense that the Korean members of the Church were my brothers and sisters again.”
Cathy Thomas, a Primary worker in the Star Heights Ward, says everyone serves everyone in her ward. “When there is a need, it is just met. People serve even when they themselves are in need.”
Sister Thomas is a single mother and works as an early intervention specialist as well as caring for her three adopted special needs children: Jamie, twelve; Betsey, nine; and Scotty, six.
“People are receptive to the promptings of the Spirit as they serve,” she said.
One time, after a particularly stressful day, Sister Thomas came home to a house that had been vacuumed, laundry that had been washed, and dinner that had been cooked.
In her ward, the Relief Society has done service projects in the community, such as making lap blankets for a nursing home nearby and throwing a birthday party at a retirement home. “We brought balloons and cakes and cookies. We brought our children. It was a delightful experience,” Sister Thomas said. Members also volunteer at a homeless shelter, delivering care boxes and meals.
Jeff Compton, who serves on a stake high council, and his wife, Anita, a Relief Society Spiritual Living teacher in the Star Heights Ward, also have a testimony of service. They have been both recipients and givers.
One Christmas, Brother Compton was out of work. He and Sister Compton were worried about how they would buy gifts for their four children. “Two days before Christmas we found an envelope on our door with money in it, so we were able to buy presents for our children,” Brother Compton said.
The Saints in Albuquerque know how effective service is as a missionary tool and a testimony strengthener. Serving others gives Saints the opportunity to open doors for sharing the gospel with people of all backgrounds.