BETA

Peru: Church is 'strong as an oak'

Temple in South American nation is spiritual oasis

LIMA, PERU

Lima has long been regarded as one of the Latter-day Saint anchors in South America, so it's a bit surprising to remember that the Church is still relatively young in this bustling, typically noisy and always enchanting capital city.

The Lima Peru Temple was dedicated in 1986, becoming the second temple in operation in South America.
The Lima Peru Temple was dedicated in 1986, becoming the second temple in operation in South America. Photo: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

Prior to 1956, there was little here that resembled an organized Church congregation. Besides a few expatriates, there were no branches and few Peruvian-born members. Now Lima is home to dozens of stakes, several missions and a temple that for decades has been regarded as one the Church's crown jewels in western South America.

Now temples can be found in all of Peru's neighboring countries and the nation's second temple — to be built to the north in Trujillo — is under construction. Still, Lima remains a city of spiritual influence — an LDS success story that continues to be written.

Peru's presidential palace stands as the center of government in downtown Lima.
Peru's presidential palace stands as the center of government in downtown Lima. Photo: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

President Frederick S. Williams is synonymous with the story of the Church in South America. While serving as a mission president in Argentina and Uruguay in the 1930s and 1940s, President Williams was able to witness the sure signs that South America, as had been prophesied, was becoming a power in the Church.

President Williams moved to Lima in 1956 and immediately went about doing the work he had learned so well in the south: establishing the Church and helping it grow, according to the Deseret News Church Almanac. He contacted Church headquarters and asked permission to form a branch and begin missionary work.

Fountain is centerpiece of plaza in downtown Lima, Peru, home to the Church's second temple in Latin America.
Fountain is centerpiece of plaza in downtown Lima, Peru, home to the Church's second temple in Latin America. Photo: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

A few short months later an apostle, Elder Henry D. Moyle, traveled to Lima and organized the city's maiden branch. Soon missionaries were walking the streets of this coastal city, sharing the news that Christ's gospel had been restored. By 1959, Lima had become the headquarters of the Andes Mission.

Growth defined the next decade in Lima and full-time missionaries from North America were soon joining forces with Peruvian-born elders and sisters. By 1970 the first stake in the city was in operation.

The Huaca Pucllana ruins in Lima are a reminder of this modern-day city's indigenous past.
The Huaca Pucllana ruins in Lima are a reminder of this modern-day city's indigenous past. Photo: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

The Church in Lima in the 1980s would be highlighted by the construction of South America's second temple, the Lima Peru Temple. As in so many Latin American cities, the spiritual fingerprint of President Gordon B. Hinckley is easily found here. In 1986, President Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, traveled to Lima to dedicate Peru's first temple.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks to Church members in Lima, Peru, during a visit to the country in 2007.  Today there are 94 stakes and nine missions in Peru.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks to Church members in Lima, Peru, during a visit to the country in 2007. Today there are 94 stakes and nine missions in Peru. Photo: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

Today, the temple remains a spiritual and architectural oasis in Lima's placid Molina district. Latter-day Saint Peruvians across the country — from the distant land of Iquitos to the North to the interior city of Arequipa — regard Lima and its temple as sacred ground. Visit a member family in any region of this nation and you will likely find a framed photo of Lima's temple hanging in the most prominent spot of their home.

The Pacific coast in Lima, Peru, typifies the beauty of the city where the maturity of the Church is evident in many ways — including the South America West Area offices, a missionary training center and temple.
The Pacific coast in Lima, Peru, typifies the beauty of the city where the maturity of the Church is evident in many ways — including the South America West Area offices, a missionary training center and temple. Photo: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

The offices of the South America West Area are located just a short drive from the Lima temple. Adjoining the offices is Lima's missionary training center, a symbol of the proven dedication to cultivate missionaries to share the gospel both inside and outside Lima's expansive borders.

The maturity of the Church here is evident in other ways. Lima native Elder Juan A. Uceda, a member of the Seventy, became Peru's first General Authority last year.

Lima service missionaries Jaime and Georgina Joo provide welfare service to people of all backgrounds. The members in Lima offer service throughout the nation.
Lima service missionaries Jaime and Georgina Joo provide welfare service to people of all backgrounds. The members in Lima offer service throughout the nation. Photo: Jason Swensen, Deseret News

Meanwhile, Lima members demonstrated remarkable compassion and capacity in 2007 when they were called upon to organize, collect and distribute humanitarian aid in the first desperate moments following a massive and deadly earthquake that struck cities located several hundred kilometers south of the capital.

It was Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve who prophesied nearly a century ago that the Church in South America would grow strong as an oak. The city of Lima remains one of its stabilizing branches.

[email protected]