South American prophecy continues to be realized

Credit: Courtesy of the South America Northwest Area
Credit: Courtesy of the South America Northwest Area
Credit: Courtesy of the South America Northwest Area

Almost a century has passed since a latter-day apostle, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, prophesied that South America “is to be a power in the Church.”

Since that time, millions, from Colombia to Argentina and several nations in between, have joined the Church. Temples dot the continent. Hundreds of stakes have been formed.

It’s tempting to say Elder Ballard’s words are fulfilled.

But such a comment would be only a half-truth. The prophecy of South America, according to one of Elder Ballard’s apostolic successors, continues to be fulfilled. Its true power has yet to be realized.

South America “is the setting for one of the leading extended congregations in the Church and will continue to be so,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Much of the present and the future Church growth will focus on all of Latin America.”

Elder Holland is no stranger to South America. He and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, lived in Santiago for two years (2002-2004) when he presided over the Chile Area. Other ecclesiastical assignments have taken them across the continent on numerous occasions.

“I love South America,” he told the Church News after he and Sister Holland returned from a 10-day trip (Feb. 12-22) to Ecuador and Peru. “I love everything about it, and this trip reminded me of that again.”

The apostle presided over two priesthood leadership conferences — one in Quito, Ecuador, and the other in Cusco, Peru — along with several other gatherings for missionaries, youth, young single adults and other members.

“I left both Ecuador and Peru happy and satisfied with the growth of the Church — not only numerically, but also with the growing maturity of the leaders and the strength I saw in the youth.”

He was joined in Ecuador by Elder Hugo Montoya and, in Peru, by Elder Carlos A. Godoy. Elder Montoya and Elder Godoy are General Authority Seventies and counselors in the South America Northwest Area Presidency. The Brethren were accompanied by their wives, Sister Maria Montoya and Sister Monica Godoy.

For Elder Holland and fellow members of the Twelve, the priesthood leadership conferences are key opportunities to meet with bishops, stake presidents and district leaders in units across the globe.

Members of the Quorum of the Twelve once primarily used stake conferences to be with local members, learn their unique needs and share specific instruction. But the ever-increasing numbers of stakes makes it impossible for the Twelve to get to all the congregations and communities in which members live.

Priesthood leadership conferences, said Elder Holland, allow a traveling apostle to meet with local leaders from a dozen or more stakes in one gathering.

“These meetings allow us to better leverage our time and influence. Furthermore, the local priesthood leaders come to know us in a more intimate setting,” he said. “A good portion of the four-hour conferences are devoted to their questions and their issues. As President James E. Faust once said, ‘It’s important for men with keys to be with men with keys.’ ”

Elder Holland also relishes the face-to-face interaction and instruction. “I’m an old ‘has-been’ teacher,” he said with a smile, “so I love the give and take.”

He was also uplifted in Ecuador and Peru to meet with young people at missionary conferences and at youth and young single adult devotionals.

The Church, he observed, enjoys a special dynamic in South America. The older Latter-day Saints have, through sacrifice and hard work, established a solid foundation for their children and grandchildren. The youth, meanwhile, are protecting their sacred heritage by serving in the temple, fulfilling mission calls and starting their own families of faith.

South America has become a land of temples, with dedicated edifices found in several major cities — from Bogota in the north to Buenos Aires in the south. And the building continues. New temples have been announced or are under construction in Peru, Chile and Brazil. Meanwhile, South America Northwest Area President Juan A. Uceda, a General Authority Seventy, presided over the Feb. 20 groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future Barranquilla Colombia Temple.

Being in South America was especially sweet for Elder Holland because he had his wife at his side. A life-threatening illness has limited Sister Holland’s recent travels. But her gradually improving health allowed her to return to an area of the world the Hollands have come to love.

“Sister Holland was courageous and devoted to even try to undertake this trip,” he said. “I’m so grateful she went with me. I do a lot better with her at my side.” @JNSwensen

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