Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mission History

Written by David DainesRevised and updated by Troy Young

Ecuador was dedicated for missionary work in October 1965 by Elder Spencer W. Kimball. The first converts were the taxi drivers who took Elder Kimball to the Panecillo Hill for the dedication. He was impressed to invite them to listen to the prayer, and they were touched by the Spirit.
From 1965 to 1970, missionaries in Ecuador belonged to the Andes Mission with headquarters in Lima, Peru. In 1970 the Ecuador Mission was formed, with its headquarters in Quito. The first president was Louis Latimer. President Heward presided during 1973-76, then David Ferrell from 1976 to 1979.

From 1965 on, missionaries worked in Guayaquil, and converts were more numerous on the Coast than in the Sierra. Still, the work took years to blossom into what it is now. It took five years for membership to reach one thousand. That's an average of 200 per year in the whole country! Between 1970 and 1975, 10,000 converts joined the Church, then between 1975 and 1980 another 15,000 were baptized. The work accelerated.

In 1978, two milestones were achieved related to Guayaquil. The first stake in Ecuador was organized there, and the mission was divided to form the Ecuador Guayaquil Mission, presided by President William "Jack" Mitchell. By the time President Mitchell left in 1981, there were five stakes in Guayaquil and one in Portoviejo/Manta.

During 1981, three different presidents directed the mission. After President Mitchell left in July, he was succeeded by President Dale Inkley. A few months later the Inkleys had to return home because of urgent family matters, and President James Jesperson, who was serving as Regional Representative for Ecuador, was called to preside. Later he became the official mission president, serving until mid-1983.

In March 1982 the First Presidency announced plans to build a temple in Guayaquil. Funds were raised, a site was purchased, and members began to prepare themselves. Over the years since 1982 there have been setbacks due to various factors, so members have traveled to Lima, where the temple was dedicated in 1986. President Hinckley selected a new, more suitable site, and ground was broken in August of 1997.

President John Berge presided 1983-86, followed by J. Lynn Shawcroft 1986-89, and Walter Gonzalez 1989-92. The mission was divided in 1991, and Daniel Johnson arrived to preside the North Mission. He was succeeded by President Ramon Antonio Alvarez. James Aulestia presided over the South Mission from 1992-95, and then took charge when the missions were recombined in 1995.

President Aulestia was replaced by President Pablo Fernandez. When the mission was redivided in 1995, President Fernandez was assigned to the Guayaquil South Mission. President B. Renato Maldonado was called to preside over the newly recreated Guayaquil North Mission. President

Robert S. Gabbitas succeeded President Blanco in the South Mission in 1998, and President Maldonado will be followed by President W. David Terry in 1999.Click here for more information about the presidents of the Guayaquil Missions.

Except for the very early years, missionary work has been more productive around Guayaquil than in most other missions in the world at a given moment. During the early 90s, there were times when Guayaquil was the leading baptizing mission in the world. As of 1998 there are roughly 139,000 members of the Church in Ecuador, roughly three fourths of them on the Coast (between Esmeraldas and Machala).

Despite the folk histories that all missionaries all over the world tell about how bad things were in the "old mission" - before they arrived - the overwhelming majority of converts in Ecuador were brought to the gospel by the honest, inspired efforts of full-time missionaries and members and, of course, the movings of the Holy Spirit. It is however also true that in the battle to keep them close to the gospel, the casualties have outnumbered the five-years-or-more survivors. Nevertheless, as time goes on, the advantages mount for holding on to new Ecuadorian converts in stake of Zion, Institutes of Religion and (some day) temples.

In 1987, the Milagro District and Peninsular District were formed in a reorganization that left three Guayaquil Stakes in place of five. Before long, new stakes were again being formed in Guayaquil, then the mission districts of Machala and Milagro became stakes.

Some of the memorable events over the years (besides those already mentioned) include: Jan '81 conference presided by Elder McConkie; regional conferences: 1985 with Elder Oaks, 1989 with Elder Maxwell, 1993 with Elder Scott; impromtu conference with President Hinckley in 1986; first visit by a president of the Church in 1997 (when President Hinckley attended the groundbreaking for the Guayaquil Temple).

Of great importance to the development of the Church has been the establishment of the seminary and institute programs for the youth. The Guayaquil Institute of Religion was formed in 1985, later to be divided in two (one at Norte, one at Centenario). With the Institute program as a social and spiritual support, hundreds of LDS youth have found their spouses, and the wedding (sealing) trip to the Lima Temple has become the norm.

On August 1-2, 1999, the Guayaquil Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley, and opened for ordinance work on August 3. (Click here to see the Deseret News article.) The first mission president and matron were Lynn and Dorothea Shawcroft, who had presided over the

Ecuador Guayaquil Mission just over 10 years earlier.

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