Peggy Fletcher Stack’s recent Salt Lake Tribune article on the Church in Chile is definitely worth a read. In particular, I found the statements by Elder Holland very interesting. Ever since Elder Holland and Elder Oaks were sent to Chile and the Phillipines respectively, I have been curious about the results of their tours. I’ve been reading Plutarch lately, so I can’t help but thinking about them as proconsuls, sent out by the Mormon Senate to set the provinces in order. According to Stack, Elder Holland was given two assignments by President Hinckley. “To build strength into the church’s local leadership, which then might improve membership retention, and to experience the church in an international setting.” It is interesting that the flow of information was supposed to be two ways, with Elder Holland helping local leadership, but with the Apostle also getting first-hand information on how the Church runs in Chile.
The article provided an interesting snap-shot in numbers about the the Church in Chile. There are 535,000 Chilean members of record, 200,000 names in the “Lost Addresses” file for Chile, 120,000 people who identified themselves as Mormons on the 2002 Chilean census, and 57,000 average attendance at sacrament meeting, nationwide. Given the often less-than-inspiring results of baptism-numbers only missionary work, I’m not really all that surprised about the disparity between church attendence and membership roles. I am bit surprised, however, at the number of people who self-identified as Mormons on the Chilean census. It looks like about half of the self-identified Mormons show up for Church.
I am still a bit curious, however, about what concrete changes Elder Holland made in Chile (or Elder Oaks in the Phillipines). Stack mentions the consolidation of Chilean stakes from 100 to 74. In addition, he raised the requirements for baptism to include three consecutive weeks of church attendence, emphasized tithing, and formally supported a Chilean law to liberalize divorce. Does anyone know what support beyond endorsement the Church offered or whether it made any difference? Does anyone know what else was done in Chile as a result of Elder Holland’s time there? Stack’s article ended on an upbeat note, saying:
His efforts seem to have made a big difference.
The stakes are running more smoothly, with an increasing number of lay leaders to fill the positions. More Chileans are serving missions.
The church’s two job training centers place about 250 people a month, while its Perpetual Education Fund has helped about 2,500 Chilean returned missionaries get an education. It is adding four more “bishop’s storehouses” to feed the poor; with that addition, it will have most storehouses in Latin America.
Someday soon there may be more families like the Del Pino/Calatayuds. They joined the LDS Church in 1967, becoming ”pioneers” and now are raising the fourth generation devoted to the faith.
On March 11, they joined the more than 45,000 Chilean Mormons packed into a stadium outside Santiago to hear Hinckley speak, and even more filled the 74 stake centers the next day to watch their prophet rededicate the temple.
Just as the temple was remodeled, it was time to remodel their lives, said Francisco Ve as, the church’s area president. “It is a new era in Chile.”
I wonder if we will see future proconsular Apostles sent to other areas of the world. I’m curious about reader reactions to the article, particularlly from members in Chile or those who have served missions there.