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From acorn to oak tree: How Elder Melvin J. Ballard’s prophecy about the Church in South America continues to be fulfilled

Valentine Alfredo walks with her daughters to Heart of Jesus preschool in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities donated three pre fab class rooms, tables and chairs and other school supplies. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Motorists travel along the coastal highway in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Students perform during a program at Heart of Jesus preschool in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities donated three pre fab class rooms, tables and chairs and other school supplies. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Housing lines the hillside in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Students sit at a donated table at Heart of Jesus preschool in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities donated three pre fab class rooms, tables and chairs and other school supplies. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Motorists travel along the coastal highway in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Children play near a political sign in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Housing lines the hillside in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Elder Floyd Rose helps Dr. Urcia Fernando unload a church donated wheel chair at the Institute of National Rehabilitation in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities have donated 6200 wheel chairs. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Students at Heart of Jesus preschool sing a song in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities donated three pre fab class rooms, tables and chairs and other school supplies. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Blind individuals applaud during a delivery ceremony at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Las Brisas ward in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities donated 1150 canes and 1150 braille readers. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Laundry is hung in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
A store owner waits for customers in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
A student peers out of a window a pre fab classroom at Heart of Jesus preschool in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities donated three pre fab class rooms, tables and chairs and other school supplies. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Physical Therapist Diana Cam Chiock looks over a donated wheel chair at the Institute of National Rehabilitation in Lima, Peru on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. LDS Charities have donated 6200 wheel chairs to the center. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Peruvian women wear traditional dress for a Catholic wedding in Lima, Peru on Oct. 21, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Churros are sold at Plaza Mayor in downtown Lima, Peru on Oct. 21, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Goods are sold at Plaza Mayor in downtown Lima, Peru on Oct. 21, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Trinkets are sold on the streets in Lima, Peru on Oct. 21, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
People walk through Plaza Mayor in downtown Lima, Peru on Oct. 21, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
People walk near Redondo beach in Lima, Peru on Oct. 20, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
People walk near Redondo beach in Lima, Peru on Oct. 20, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
A man walks near Redondo beach in Lima, Peru on Oct. 20, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
A Peruvian woman sells food and trinkets on the street in Lima, Peru on Oct. 21, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Sister missionaries smile after meeting with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lima, Peru on Oct. 20, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Lake Titikaka near La Paz, Bolivia on Oct. 21, 2018. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke in Las Paz. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
A flower garden grows near the Basilica Cathedral of Lima in Lima, Peru on Oct. 21, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
An aerial photo of La Paz, Bolivia on Oct. 21, 2018. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke in Las Paz. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Elder Daniel Texeira, general authority Seventy, looks over inventory as he manages Forever Living in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Texeira took Self Reliance courses to help with his business skills. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Bishop Lorenzo Britez talks about his car wash and auto body store in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lorenzo took Self Reliance courses to help with his business skills. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Bishop Lorenzo Britez talks about his car wash and auto body store in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lorenzo took Self Reliance courses to help with his business skills. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Dr. Miguel Scolamanga removes a cataract from a patient with the help of an LDS Charities microscope in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. LDS Charities donated several pieces of equipment to the Vision Foundation. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Bishop Lorenzo Britez fires up his motorcycle at his car wash and auto body store in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lorenzo took Self Reliance courses to help with his business skills. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Lucy Lane talks with her husband Jorge Robles at Foundation Solaridad in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Robles uses one of the thousands of wheelchairs donated by LDS Charities. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Oscar Corso, Foundation Solaridad, shows one of thousands of wheelchairs donated by LDS Charities in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
A patient is evaluated with the help of LDS Charities donated equipment at the Vision Foundation in Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. LDS Charities donated several pieces of equipment to the foundation. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Credit: Aaron Thorup, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac
Credit: Aaron Thorup, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac
Credit: Aaron Thorup, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac
Credit: Aaron Thorup, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac
Credit: Aaron Thorup, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac, Church History Department, Deseret News Church Almanac
Janaina Silva Molla gets help from her daughter Sofia as she bakes at home in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Molla is building a business with skills acquired by Self Reliance to supply cakes and pastries for parties. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
The sun sets in Old Town in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Pedestrians walking the streets in Old Town in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Children play soccer as the sun sets in Montevideo, Uraguay on Oct. 23, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Barrio Reus has colorful homes in Montevideo, Uraguay on Oct. 24, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Janaina Silva Molla stands win the porch at home in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Molla is building a business with skills acquired by Self Reliance to supply cakes and pastries for parties. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
The sun sets on the Plata River in Montevideo, Uraguay on Oct. 23, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Children play soccer as the sun sets in Montevideo, Uraguay on Oct. 23, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Janaina Silva Molla ices cookies at home in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Molla is building a business with skills acquired by Self Reliance to supply cakes and pastries for parties. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Jose and Janaina Molla read the Book of Mormon at home in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Janaina Sliva Molla is building a business with skills acquired by Self Reliance to supply cakes and pastries for parties. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Janaina Silva Molla bakes at home in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Molla is building a business with skills acquired by Self Reliance to supply cakes and pastries for parties. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Ivy grows around the entrance to a home in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Malanque plays for a birthday celebration in Montevideo, Uraguay on Oct. 23, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Alejandro Bravo sits with his mother Sandra Bravo at their home in Toledo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Bravo was born premature and had other medical complications and received a wheelchair from LDS Charities. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Alejandro Bravo smiles at home in Toledo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Bravo was born premature and had other medical complications and received a wheelchair from LDS Charities. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
A woman walks in the beach in Montevideo, Uraguay on Oct. 26, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Alejandro Bravo is wheeled by his mother Sandra Bravo at their home in Toledo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Bravo was born premature and had other medical complications and received a wheelchair from LDS Charities. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Shipping equipment line the shore in Concepcion, Chili on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
The Andes mountains are snow covered in Chili on Oct. 26, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News
Palm trees line the road entering at the LDS Concepcion Chili Temple in Concepcion, Chili on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

In 1925, three leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — Elder Melvin J. Ballard, Elder Rey L. Pratt and Elder Rulon S. Wells — embarked on a 34-day journey, by land and sea, from Salt Lake City to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Of the trip, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the grandson of Elder Melvin J. Ballard, said: “My grandfather went out into the streets of Argentina. They did not have a great harvest. They did not see the people flock into the Church by any means.”

Instead, they found an apartment to rent and went to work.

On Christmas Day of 1925, in the park of Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Elder Melvin J. Ballard dedicated South America for the preaching of the gospel.

“Bless the presidents, governors and the leading officials of these South American countries, that they may kindly receive us and give us permission to open the doors of salvation to the people of these lands,” he prayed.

Early in the mission, Elder Wells became ill and had to return to Salt Lake City. Elder Ballard and Elder Pratt remained, walking the streets of Buenos Aires passing out handbills about the Restoration of the gospel; their efforts resulted in a single conversion.

Then on July 4, 1926, as Elder Ballard was preparing to return to Utah, he spoke about the future of the Church in South America. From his office in Salt Lake City, President Ballard read his grandfather’s prophecy: “The work of the Lord will grow slowly for a time here just as an oak grows slowly from an acorn. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and then dies. But thousands will join the Church here. It will be divided into more than one mission and will be one of the strongest in the Church. … The South American Mission will be a power in the Church.”

During a recent visit to South America, President Russell M. Nelson spoke of the early missionaries, who “didn’t feel very successful. In fact they finished their visit here feeling rather down that they didn’t get much done.” And President Nelson spoke of the Church today in South America. “It is not just numbers, it is strength, it is power, it is faith,” said President Nelson.

A power and a strength

Indeed, more than nine decades since that inspired prophecy, South America is a power in the Church. Latter-day Saint membership on the continent numbers 4,076,054, with 692 stakes, 4,178 wards, 95 missions and 18 operating temples, according to Church statistics. Since 1970, more than 187,000 missionaries have served in South America.

At the time of the historic dedicatory prayer, President Nelson was 15 months old.

“The Church is relatively young here in South America,” said President Nelson. “Ninety years ago, nothing. … And now … we saw four-generation families.”

One of those families is Eduardo and Jeanet Echevarria Risso. “Our posterity is our most important thing,” said Eduardo Risso. “It is our joy.”

The family, who came into the Church in 1973, has a tradition of missionary work. “We are so proud of our children,” said Risso, noting their first goal for their posterity was Church activity.

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