Years of faith and effort for members of new stake in Guam
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Nearly 800 local members unanimously raised their hands in approval as Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve called for a sustaining vote to create the first stake in Guam — the Barrigada Guam Stake — during a conference held on Dec. 12, 2010.
Members of the Church representing a handful of languages and cultures filled the Barrigada meetinghouse to capacity, while members on the island of Saipan, in the Mariana Islands, participated in the special occasion by teleconference. During the meeting, Elder Perry explained that the name "stake" is derived from an Old Testament verse: "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes" (Isaiah 54:2). In Moses' time, the stakes held the curtains of the tabernacle. In the Church, a stake represents an anchor for the gospel of Jesus Christ (the tent).
"The creation of the stake is a milestone for the Church in Micronesia," said Michael L. Dowdle, president of the Micronesia Guam Mission. "It allows Church congregations to be led by local members, rather than by a mission president sent by the Church as in the past. It is the culmination of the efforts of many people over many, many years."
The first known members on Guam came with the U.S. armed forces during WWII, bringing groups of members to the island from 1944-45. During this time, membership grew and auxiliaries were organized within the Guam Branch. Meetings were held in military facilities, and later land was purchased and huts were used as a meetinghouse.
Land for another church building was purchased in the spring of 1964, and on March 3, 1970, the Guam Branch became a ward in the Honolulu Hawaii Stake. The Micronesia Guam Mission was created on April 1, 1980, and selections of the Book of Mormon have been translated into Chamorro.
Since then, growth in the Church has continued, making Church membership today on Guam and Saipan around 2,000 members. For the members on Guam, forming a stake has been a longtime dream — that after years of hard work — has now become a reality.
"Leading up to it there was so much momentum and growth in the Church," newly called President Arthur Clark said. "We just experienced a real growth of the kingdom here. We were given goals from [the Brethren] ... and they became more and more achievable."
Much of the growth of the Church has come from convert baptisms, and because of that, one of the important parts of the process of becoming a stake was preparing and calling leaders native to the area, President Dowdle said.
"From 1980 until December the members have been working toward having a stake," President Dowdle said. "As time progressed the Church grew and grew, increasing desire on behalf of everyone."
For the members, a new stake brings many blessings, President Clark said. Among the blessings are a local patriarch, leaders holding keys of the priesthood and an increase in personal righteousness and care for fellowmen. But more than that, it represents a stronger spiritual foundation for the members, he said.
For President Clark, becoming a stake becomes a representation of how one stake in Zion — representing a lot of cultural diversity — can be united spiritually with the worldwide Church.
"The creation of the Guam stake was made possible by the faith and effort of many Church members over several decades," said President Clark. "It is long-awaited, and I thank the Lord. I am humbled to be called as stake president, and I will trust in His guidance in serving the members of our new stake." — Marianne Holman