The weekend of June 2 marked a historic day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at "the ends of the earth."
Tierra del Fuego, or "the island at the ends of the earth" as it is sometimes referred to, is a province in the southernmost part of Argentina. A beautiful and popular tourist destination for those hoping to go as far south as possible on land without reaching Antarctica, the remote South American province is not easily accessed. Infrequent and unreliable flights are the main way to reach the island.
But despite its remoteness, the area has an ever-growing population of faithful Latter-day Saints and, on June 2, more than 800 members there gathered in the city Ushuaia to witness the creation of the first stake on the island — the southernmost stake in the Church.
Elder Mark A. Bragg, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the South America South Area presidency who participated in the gathering, said, "It is historic in that it will be the southernmost stake in the world and will remain that way unless we create one on Antarctica. The people are so excited."
Many members traveled from other countries, including the United States, to witness the creation of the new and historic stake, Elder Bragg told the Church News.
Following a visit from Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to the area in February earlier this year, the area presidency submitted the request for approval of the creation of the Tierra del Fuego Stake from the district, Elder Bragg explained.
"Many have worked over the years to bring this to fruition, but it was the visit from Elder and Sister (Ruth) Renlund in February that confirmed in the minds of the Saints in Tierra del Fuego that the Lord was mindful of them and that they would be blessed with a stake in the very near future," Elder Bragg said.
Laura Sanchez, one of the first members in the area, told Elder Bragg, "Sometimes I wondered if the Lord would forget about us way down here at the end of the world, and then we have a visit from an apostle and then a stake is created. He really is mindful of us."
During his February visit to the country, Elder Renlund had specifically asked to visit some of the more remote areas of the region, Elder Bragg explained, "so naturally the 'end of the world' was on that list."
After meeting the people there, Elder Renlund expressed his love for the people and played a key role in the process of approval for the new stake, Elder Bragg said.
President Lucas Romano, previously of the district presidency in the area, was called as the first stake president of the new Tierra del Fuego Argentina Stake.
In sharing his testimony at the June 2 meeting, President Romano spoke "beautifully" about the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil and the importance of ministering and helping others on the covenant path, Elder Bragg recalled. "It was the perfect message to a new stake," Elder Bragg said of the way President Romano emphasized the vision of President Russell M. Nelson.
President Claudio Salerno, president of the Argentina Comodoro Rivadavia Mission, said, “It was a spiritual banquet. It has been a dream of many members for many years that was brought to fruition by the ministering efforts of members and missionaries working together.”
For Elder Bragg, "being with the Saints and seeing the joy in their faces as they sustained the creation of the stake and the new stake presidency was truly one of the great highlights of my life." Everyone in attendance that day showed joy on their faces, he said.
Also in attendance, on June 2, was Vice Governor Juan Carlos Arcando and other dignitaries from the Tierra del Fuego Province. In February, the governor had met with Elder and Sister Renlund and attended a devotional where they spoke. Elder Bragg noted that the governor was pleased to see the creation of the stake and shared his hope that it would be the first of many in Tierra del Fuego.