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Documents for the North America Article
Sender: Lloyd Chehda, Cristalina Time: Monday, November 19, 2009, 2:57 pm Receiver: Curbelo Ventura, Jorge Subject: Documents for the North America Article
Dear Anciano Jorge Néstor,
I am writing to you about the article that, as decided in the last council meeting, we will publish in print and also on the Church’s website as a PDF for the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the preaching in North America.
I have gathered the material you requested so that you can be at ease knowing that what you write will be accurate.
I should also point out that there is a record in the Apostolic Archive indicating that around 1851 a missionary was sent to some destination in North America, but there is no further information. Nothing is known about his name or, for that matter, the fate of his expedition. I guess the fact that no one kept a good record of this goes to show just how far removed the northern end of the continent was from the concerns of those early Saints. I will continue searching, but for the time being, there may be no option but to make no mention of that unknown missionary.
Should you have any questions, just let me know.
Sister Cristalina Executive Secretary History Department The Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days
[From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism; entry: “Missionary Expansion”]
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days was founded on April 6, 1825, in Misiones Orientales, Paraná, under the leadership of Prophet Omar Ibayú. A few months earlier, he had been expelled by the people of his town for having received the Book of Mormon, and then he organized a church after the pattern set by the saints of former days. That very same day, the first missionaries put on their now characteristic black soutanes and began the labor of preaching in towns across Misiones Orientales. They then went into other provinces. In 1838 the first missionaries were sent to Paraguay, Brazil, and Tahuantinsuyo. Then in 1841 the first missionaries were sent to Argentina. By 1845 there were missionaries in Colombia. Through the efforts of these early missionaries, many converts joined the Church in the other provinces of Paraná, as well as in parts of South America. The growth of the Church in cities like Purificación and Buenos Aires led to some controversy in the heart of the Church about whether to preach or not to those who had no Lamanite blood. In 1847 the voice of Jehovah was made known to the Prophet Omar regarding the matter through a dream. In it, the Lord confirmed to him that the gentile nations, too, should receive the gospel, in the same manner that the Romans had received it from the ancient apostles.
[Excerpt from the personal journal of Brother Enrique Marcelo Resek Ríos]
May 4, 1936
We held a farewell mass here in Washington, at the Aguilars’ home. I can’t believe that we’ve been in this land for six months now! And I can’t believe that we are about to leave! As requested by Anciano Domingo Antonio, I was the mass’s celebrant. This was bittersweet to me. On the one hand, communing with the Saints filled me with the Spirit, but on the other hand, I was burdened by the thought of the trek we will begin tomorrow, first by train to New York, then by ship to Montevideo, and finally by train to Navú. I did my best to celebrate in a most excellent way so as to set a lasting example for our brothers and sisters Aguilar, Monroy and Echo Hawk to follow after our departure. I extended the welcome greeting, we sang the Gloria together, I invited Brother Rafael to say the prayer, we sang the Kyrie together, I prayed over the bread and passed it, I prayed over the cup of wine and passed it, I did a reading from the New Testament (Revelations 14:6) the fulfillment of which I explained in my homily, I gave Anciano Domingo Antonio time for a few words, and then I concluded the mass with a closing blessing. I was greatly impressed with the words spoken by Anciano Domingo Antonio, who was moved upon by the Spirit, for he could not otherwise have uttered such a solemn prophecy. I feel it important to make a record of it:
“The work of the Lord is but a handful of seeds in this land that is so far removed from the light that the Book of Mormon promises, but the day will come when these peoples will find the light of truth. The work will grow here as with the shape of the ombu tree, first sprouting in one place and then with branches that will reach outward as if they were roots in search of water. From this city we will reach the entire country and the neighboring countries too. The North American Mission will be a power in the Church.”
[From a report prepared by the Chief Apostle for the Three, January 1934]
As you are aware, Brother César has delivered to us on your behalf the two letters that arrived from Washington, United States. We read them in our last Council meeting, first Brother Jorge Aguilar’s and then brother Rafael Monroy’s. We did so in the spirit of prayer. We were greatly impressed that two families of Mexican converts would happen to meet in the capital of a Gentile nation. If only the Aguilars or only the Monroys had moved there, this would not be as impressive, but in this case it is two families of converts that left everything behind in their homeland, all of their own accord, and ended up meeting in a foreign land. We were also impressed to learn that many Indians are moving from the state of Oklahoma to the city of Washington in search of economic opportunities. After reading the letters, we prayed once again. We felt an unmistakable confirmation from the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jehovah is creating the necessary conditions for preaching the restored gospel in North America. Such conditions did not seem to exist until now.
[From a text published on historia.ijspd.org about the first mission to the United States]
In 1860, Apostles Daniel Fernando Hortal González and Víctor Santiago Vásquez Arredondo traveled from Church headquarters in Navú, Misiones Orientales, to Richmond, North Carolina, which was then part of the United States, in order to begin preaching. These missionaries were unsuccessful in establishing the Church and were unable to baptize anyone. Their labor was met with rejection and filled with discouragement. Such was the case to a great extent due to their lack of English-language skills and to the war of independence that about that time broke out in their preaching field. They concluded that translating the Book of Mormon into English was not a viable task for them and that during such violent times it was not safe to proclaim the Church’s position that slavery should be gradually abolished everywhere in the world. As a consequence, after three fruitless months, both Ancianos returned to Navú. There they made a report, first to the full Council of the Twelve Apostles and later to the Council of the Three Pontiffs, in which they recommended that some prudent time be allowed to pass until more favorable conditions existed in North America. In the words of Anciano Daniel Fernando: “I feel compelled by my service in North America, yet I also feel conflicted because I cannot help but always come to the same conclusion. Only once the Book of Mormon is translated into English, only once we hold that book in our hands, will the key also turn for the gentiles that Prophet Omar turned for us when he translated the book into our Spanish.”
[From a letter by Anciano Domingo Antonio Roda Martínez to his wife, November 25, 1935]
My dearly beloved Cata,
I am finally able to sit down and write to you, my eternal wife. There are so many things I would like to tell you, so many things I wish I had lived with you by my side. Perhaps the day will come when those of us sent by the Lord may fulfill the holy apostleship with our companions at our side. But for now, all is according to the will of the Holy One of Israel, who sent me to these lands I never thought I would see. And while it is all rather exciting, I do miss you.
Now, mind you, I am not complaining about the company of my brother Enrique or of Teófilo. As you well know, they are quite agreeable, especially Enrique, to whom I am bound in the unbreakable bonds of Our Lord’s apostleship. Without the company of these my two companions, the voyage on board the Camões would have been very difficult to bear, especially since I do not fancy traveling by ship.
Anyway, we disembarked at the port of New York on November 18th. That was a sight to behold! The city is large, and standing on the ship’s deck, I was impressed by the many skyscrapers there. I suspect that just as I was surprised by everything I saw (the ships, the crowds, the movement of people), many individuals were in turn surprised by us. For example, on the train to Washington, I noticed several times that some passenger or another would stare at us. Anciano Teófilo believes it was the habits we wear. Perhaps he is right, because in the week we have spent here, I have noticed that priests in this country wear suits and ties, which gives them the appearance of businessmen.
We arrived in Washington that same day, and the two missionaries we had sent to this city a few months before were at the station to receive us. Along with them stood a young Indian man called Echo Hawk (whose name the missionaries translated into Spanish for us.) His Spanish is quite impressive, which he learned in his native Oklahoma trading with the Mexicans. He is the only proselyte we thus far have in these lands. He was baptized on October 29th in a river called Potomac. In these parts the fall is very cold around this time of the year, so we are all inspired by the faith of this braided, hat-wearing young man who would not wait a single day more to be buried in the water in order to find new life in Christ the Lord.
That night we also met the two families that wrote requesting the missionaries, namely the Monroys and Aguilars. They are young, with small children, and the light of the gospel shines on their countenances. They treat us with much deference and even invited us to stay in their homes. In fact, as I write to you we are spending the night at the Monroy home. We have felt quite welcome with them, and we have laid our hands on each and every one of them to invoke blessings upon their heads.
Oh, that you could meet the Saints here! That you could see this picturesque city!
[From the personal journal of the Prophet Téofilo, when he was a Seventy]
Today, December 24th, 1935, at about 6 in the evening, in a grove of leafless maples and within a stone’s throw of the Potomac River, it was my privilege alongside Anciano Enrique Marcelo to exercise our faith when our brother Anciano Domingo Antonio knelt and clasped his hands to dedicate the lands of North America for the preaching of the gospel. Night was falling, and a cold breeze blew sharply into our faces, but even so, the fire of the Holy Spirit descended upon us. After the dedicatory prayer, we broke out in Latin chants (as is our custom in such solemn occasions) and also in Spanish songs (as is becoming more commonplace).
[From the talk “Omar Ibayú and the Book of Mormon,” given by Anciano Eduardo Raimundo in the Church’s January 1995 General Convention.]
As a young man serving a mission, I learned the importance of Omar’s prophetic vision to translate the Book of Mormon into a modern language. I was one of the earliest missionaries to serve in the United States. During my whole mission I only had but three proselytes. Early on, it was just my companion and I, with the help of two families of Mexican converts. Other missionaries arrived later, but for several years that was more or less what it was like for everyone. Now, let us compare that with last year, when nearly 40,000 people were converted in that country. What was different? Well, the only thing my companion and I had in English was the Bible, so we could only use the Book of Mormon with the handful of people who spoke our language. Those who spoke English had no interest in a book they could not read, so we were mostly working with the South and Central Americans who lived there. This changed after two of our proselytes, brothers Echo Hawk and Eduardo Raimundo Balderas Ibáñez, finished translating the Book of Mormon into English. Then came the great harvest, first in the rest of the United States and then in the Confederate States and in Canada.
[From the 2008 Church Statistical Book, entry: “North America”]
…In the three countries, the Church now has 3.5 million members, nearly 700 dioceses, and 18 temples…
Sender: Curbelo Ventura, Jorge Time: Monday, November 19, 2009, 5:14 pm Receiver: Lloyd Chehda, Cristalina Subject: Re: North America Article Documents
Dear Sister Cristalina,
Thank you for sending this my way. I skimmed over it just now. It will be very helpful when I get around to writing the article!
Coincidentally, I was on the phone yesterday with the brethren in the North America East Sector. They told me that nowadays it’s impossible to track down the exact spot where the dedication of North America took place. Nonetheless, it seems we have a general idea of where that was thanks to the descriptions in the journals of the Ancianos. The Church historian over there has worked really hard to find that general area, which now is some sort of park on the outskirts of Washington. Of course, the place itself is not as important as the fulfillment of Anciano Domingo’s prophecy. When I travel to the United States next month, we will place a historical marker in that park.
Anciano Jorge Néstor Council of the Twelve The Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days
Gabriel González Núñez is a translation professor at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the author of eleven children's books, a book of poetry, and a short story collection, all of them in Spanish. He translated his Estampas del Libro de Mormón into English as Book of Mormon Sketches.
Art by Jorge Cocco.