Nearly 2,000 members attended a historic stake conference here Aug. 30, in which the Church's 1,900th stake was created by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve.
Most of the 1,949 people who gathered at a local auditorium for the creation of the Orlando Florida South Stake were in their seats an hour before the conference started."Now we will use a little Mormon math in which we multiply by dividing," said Elder Maxwell. The new stake was created in a division of the Orlando Florida Stake. "We make history today not only for your area, but also for the whole Church."
He remarked that in a General Authority meeting in Salt Lake City the previous week, many of the Brethren reminisced about the creation of previous milestone stakes, such as the 300th or 500th. "They all shook their heads in appreciative contemplation of the 1,900th stake of Zion."
Elder Maxwell recounted examples of faithfulness of various members, and said, "Someday, when we get the real statistics of the Church, they will be made of marvelous, heroic moments on the part of sisters and brothers, and children of the Church. I salute them as I salute you on this occasion of some importance in history."
Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy also attended and spoke about the impact of the new temple on the area.
Elder Alvie R. Evans, regional representative, paid tribute to Evan D. Porter Jr., 44, who died July 27 while serving as president of the Orlando stake. Elder Evans also commented, "What a testimony this is to the work of you great and capable priesthood leaders and you wonderful sisters and families in these two grand stakes of Zion. This is a great and historic day."
Called as president of the new stake was Carl E. Reynolds Jr., former bishop of the Windermere Ward. Pres. Joel H. McKinnon, previously first counselor in the Orlando stake, was called as president of the parent stake.
"I hope you will take the opportunity to look around you today and see the amazing growth that we have grown to expect in this area of the Church," Pres. McKinnon said to the conference-goers.
Although missionaries reported some success in the Orlando area in about 1900, the West Florida District, later called the Orlando District, wasn't created until 1934.
Longtime stake member Dorrie Rogers recalled in an interview the early days of dependent Sunday Schools, baptisms in backyard ponds, raising funds for a new meetinghouse, and finally seeing the stake center completed.
Irene Kennedy, another longtime stake member, recalled the Gold and Green balls and covered dish dinners of the Orlando District in the 1940s. Since then, "The growth is tremendous. Soon we will have a temple in our midst. The recognition the Church is receiving is long past due. It's a good day to be a Latter-day Saint in this area."
Farrell Munns, former president of the Orlando stake, said that after the Church purchased ranch land in Oceola County in 1950, it provided an opportunity for members to become better acquainted with Church leaders.
The Orlando stake, the second in Florida, was created Feb. 23, 1958, the 257th in the Church at the time. The new Orlando South stake is the seventh to be created within the boundaries of the original stake.