LDS Church Growth: 30 Years in Haiti
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called the Mormon Church, visited Haiti in early 2013 to commemorate the Church’s 30-year anniversary in the country.
Three decades ago current Church President Thomas S. Monson—then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—visited Haiti and dedicated the land for the preaching of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mormons dedicate lands and countries for “divinely appointed purposes.” Dedication is the act of devoting or consecrating something to the Lord, or ‘setting apart’ something for a specific purpose in building the kingdom of God. It is a priesthood function performed through an official and formal act of prayer.”1
On February 12, 2013, Elder Andersen and his wife, Kathy, and LDS Church leaders and missionaries serving in Haiti “drove high above the capital city of Port au Prince to Mt. Boutillier—the mountain site where Elder Monson delivered his dedicatory prayer. There Elder Andersen presided over the unveiling of a commemorative plaque that will serve as a permanent reminder of the beginnings of the Church in Haiti.”
- “The members who gathered for the unveiling ceremony were thrilled to view a televised message from President Monson that was recorded prior to the event. Although his duties prevented him from being in Haiti in person, he said that his “‘heart is surely with you as we reflect together on the remarkable progress of the kingdom of God in your country, as well as on the blessings that we all enjoy as children of our Heavenly Father.’”
President Monson noted that since his visit to Haiti in 1983, “with nearly 20,000 members in four stakes and three districts, the Church is becoming a great blessing to the country of Haiti and to her people.” Members of the Church of Jesus Christ are organized into congregations called wards and branches, where the programs of the Church are administered. Normally, a ward is comprised of 300-600 people and a branch is less than 200. About five to ten wards are part of larger units called stakes. Districts are similar in function to a stake and are found in developing areas of the Church. Priesthood holders preside over these units.
- “‘Thousands of faithful families kneel together daily in family prayer to thank God for His blessings and to seek His protection,’” President Monson added. “‘I know that those prayers are heard and answered.’”
President Monson also noted the number of Church youth serving full-time missions or attending seminary and institute (religious education available to high school and college students). He said, “‘Surely, our Heavenly Father is honoring and answering the dedicatory prayer it was my privilege to offer those long years ago.’”
Elder Andersen noted the struggles that Haiti has endured since the dedicatory prayer, including a devastating earthquake that struck three years ago. “‘All the church and all the world cried with you. These have not been easy days for you. We thank you for your examples of courage, of faith, of seeing blessings even in the difficulties.’”
He also noted that missionary service has been a miracle in Haiti. “‘Nothing will change this country as the gospel of Jesus Christ will change this country. Let us speak of Christ. Let us speak of His example, His atoning power, and His resurrection. You . . . are a light to the country.’” (See Alma 31:5.)
Elder Andersen’s visit to Haiti was part of a Caribbean Area tour, where he met with local priesthood leaders, missionaries, and members of the Church through the Caribbean region. After the tour, he spoke with the Church News, which reports the worldwide happenings in the Church, about the many Church-sponsored projects underway in Haiti.
- “Members throughout the country will soon begin planting hundreds of thousands of fruit trees donated by the Church. The trees will provide fruit, shade, and soil conservation for years ahead.”
The Church of Jesus Christ is also involved in educational and employment programs “designed to help the members live providently and serve in their communities and congregations.”