60th anniversary of Church in Uruguay

Some 200 returned missionaries, their spouses, and Uruguayan members who were baptized in the late 1940s and early 1950s joined to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Church in Uruguay, the third South American country to receive the gospel, after Argentina and Brazil.

Among the returned missionaries from that early day who attended the Oct. 5, 2007, celebration held in Salt Lake City were Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve, who found time between meetings on general gonference weekend to speak to the group and answer questions about his missionary days in Uruguay. He said that he learned a valuable lesson on his mission: that God loves you even when He chastises you.

Another returned Uruguay missionary of that era who spoke was Elder Ted E. Brewerton, Emeritus General Authority, who shared insights into the progress being made on the forthcoming Topical Guide in Spanish. Speaking on behalf of the Uruguayan members was Elder Francisco Vinas of the Seventy who, as a young boy, joined the Church in Uruguay with his family. He spoke of how they had emigrated from Spain to Paraguay, and then to Uruguay at the invitation of Frederick S. Williams, the first president of the Uruguay-Paraguay Mission.

The reunion brought friends together again. For some it had been many years since they had seen these members and former companions, so there were many "abrazos" (hugs) with tear-filled eyes. People traveled from both the East and West coasts of the United States, from Canada, and Uruguay to attend the reunion and general conference.

To help identify the attendees, their name tags contained his or her original mission photograph and name. Nearly all the returned missionaries are now in their 80s and some were quite feeble. But the testimony the missionaries gained or had strengthened on that first mission in Uruguay was still bright and strong. Most of these pioneers had gone on to serve additional missions (as many as five for some), including serving as mission presidents in other lands.

Music was provided by the original Uruguayan Mission trio, Barbara Williams Honey and Argina Williams Black, with Frederick G. Williams substituting for their deceased mother, Corraine. After lunch, a video was shown on the history of the Church in Uruguay down to the dedication of the temple in Montevideo in 2001. The video was produced by Nestor E. Curbelo, a Uruguayan historian of the Church. Today there are nearly 90,000 members in 16 stakes and two missions in Uruguay.

In addition to the speakers, a presentation was shown that contained photographs and color movies highlighting the wide variety of Church activities engaged in by the members and missionaries in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The growth of the Church in Uruguay was so remarkable that President David O. McKay said that since its organization on Aug. 31, 1947, the Uruguayan mission had "progressed faster than any other mission in the Church since the establishment of the British Mission a century before."