Thirty-two years after the first missionaries arrived in Trinidad and Tobago, the Church organized its first stake in the south Caribbean nation March 1.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Presidency of the Seventy presided over the organization of the Port of Spain Trinidad Stake. Elder Francisco J. Vinas, first counselor in the Caribbean Area Presidency, also attended and addressed the conference.
"There was a feeling of long awaited exuberance. There was electricity in the air," Elder Andersen said. "It is great to see the kingdom go forth to every kindred, tongue and people."
About 750 Church members gathered at the Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, to witness the organization.
"I cannot help but think of the prayers and labors of the missionaries, senior couples, mission presidents and early pioneer Saints in Trinidad and Tobago that preceded those of us who were here to witness this tremendous step forward for the members of the Church in this great land," West Indies Mission President Reid Robison said. "Our hearts are filled with gratitude to the Lord for being able to witness this wonderful event."
Elder Andersen announced Emrol Gould as the stake president, with Christopher Danzell and Michael Rupa as his counselors.
President Gould received news of the country's first stake Feb. 12, exactly 20 years after his baptism.
"It was very exciting to receive the news," President Gould said. "Being a member for 20 years, I've always looked forward to this day. There is a great feeling of optimism right now."
In his address to members of the stake, Elder Andersen taught about the importance of a stake.
"There will be a protection here," he said. "It will be a permanent place for you to come to learn and grow."
Elder Andersen exhorted the members to keep the commandments, specifically the law of tithing. Elder Andersen quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley's counsel to the Trinidad Latter-day Saints in his 2002 visit. After referring to the promise in Malachi, President Hinckley said: "The Church can get along without your tithing, but I don't believe you can get along without it."
Following the conference, Elder Andersen and Elder Vinas spent the afternoon training the newly called stake presidency, bishoprics, branch presidencies and high council.
President Gould expressed optimism for the future of the Church in the country.
"We are very pleased with the amount of trust that the Brethren have shown us," President Gould said. "We will do everything we can to develop a celestial culture here."