The first Spanish-speaking stake in southeast is created in Florida

Meeting challenges was nothing new to the multi-ethnic Miami Florida Stake. When Church leaders issued a challenge two years ago to work for a division of the stake and for the formation of the Southeast's first Spanish-speaking stake, South Floridians got busy. Through missionary work and Melchizedek Priesthood training they met the goal.

On Jan. 16, at a regional conference presided over by Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy and president of the North America Southeast Area, North America's sixth Spanish-speaking stake was formed. (See related story on this page.)"Two years minus three days ago, I challenged the region to develop a Spanish stake, and you beat it by three days," said Elder Morrison to more than 4,500 Saints assembled at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.

"The creation of this new stake was approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve because the Lord said, `that every man shall hear the fullness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language.' (D&C 90:11.) Great blessings will come as the Spirit of the Lord is poured out on the Hispanic members in this area. This Spanish stake will provide opportunities for many more to participate in building the kingdom of the Lord in this part of the world."

Waves of immigration from throughout Latin America have swelled Florida's Hispanic population to the third largest in the United States, following California and Texas. The majority of this population resides in South Florida.

Pres. Johnny West, newly called to the Miami Florida (Spanish) Stake, said that Spanish-speaking Church members will now gain a better understanding of the gospel.

He said, "It is very hard to understand a religion in someone else's language. Some members are bi-lingual, but others are struggling to learn English. When you translate, some of the meaning gets lost in the translation. The formation of this stake will help the gospel spread to those who couldn't speak English or were unable to understand it through translation."

Pres. West added that organization of this new stake also offers many Spanish-speaking members an opportunity to serve in callings where they were unable to before because of language barriers.

"Sometimes members don't have a complete understanding of the Church until they hold a leadership position. Now there will be no restrictions because of language," Pres. West said.

With an estimated membership of 2,500, the new stake consists of 11 units: six wards and five branches. Immediately after the organization of the new stake, another challenge was issued by Elder Morrison - prepare to divide again.

"Formation of the Miami Florida Spanish Stake should give major impetus to missionary work in the Spanish-speaking community of South Florida, which numbers more than 1 million people. There is a wonderful opportunity for growth. Please welcome all who participate with you in the Spanish language. In two years more, organize a second Hispanic Stake here in South Florida," he challenged.

To assist members of the new stake, Elder Morrison offered three suggestions: be as one, refer to their stake by its new name to indicate that it is a Spanish-speaking stake and encourage all members to learn the English language because it is the "primary language of the Restoration."

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