On April 28, 1961, then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley stood with a small group at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Philippines, and offered a prayer on the land and the people. In the weeks that followed the Church was legally registered in the country and missionaries were sent to the nation.
“This is an occasion you will never forget,” Elder Hinckley said on that day. “What we will begin here will affect the lives of thousands and thousands of people in this island republic, and its effect will go on from generation to generation for great and everlasting good.”
Three years later, in 1964, missionaries knocked on the door of Augusto Lim, an attorney who would become the Church’s first General Authority from the Philippines.
After meeting with the missionaries, Elder Lim realized that what the missionaries were teaching “was what I believed in the first place. I just knew this was it; this was something I could understand.”
In the years that followed, Elder Lim witnessed rapid Church growth in the Philippines. The Philippines Mission was formally organized from the Southern Far East Mission in 1967 and by the end of that year there were 3,000 members of the Church in the Philippines.
In 1973, when President Ezra Taft Benson organized the first stake in the country, Elder Lim was called to serve as its president.
Elder Lim was also present on Sunday, Sept. 10 of this year, when Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created the 100th stake in the Philippines.
The creation of the 100th stake marked a historic milestone for the Church and the Philippines — the first nation outside of the Western Hemisphere to experience this level of LDS growth. The Church has reached the milestone of 100 stakes in only four other countries of the world — Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Peru.
Today there are more than 746,000 members of the Church in the Philippines — a remarkable number considering that the growth in the country occurred in just more than half of a century.
Keith Erekson, director of the Church History Library, said in a Church News interview that the Church grew steadily throughout its first century, reaching 1 million members in 1947. Then, the growth began to accelerate, rising much more dramatically since the 1950s.
“The places with the fastest growth are in the world’s southern hemisphere, locations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa,” he said.
The fact that there are more members outside the United States than inside indicates that “the international Church plays a very significant role in the Church today,” he said. “We see this reflected in messages in general conference and Church magazines, and in recent developments in Church education. We also see it in modern initiatives, such as with self-reliance, that are developed internationally and then implemented in the United States.”
Prophecies in the Book of Mormon and the early revelations foresaw a time when the Church would spread throughout the earth.
There is no church which can compare with the activity and the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said President James E. Faust, the late second counselor in the First Presidency, during a sesquicentennial celebration of a pioneer ward in Salt Lake City on Feb. 14, 1999. “There is no organization which fosters the principles of truth and righteousness as this Church does. And those of us who stand at the very vortex of it have a hard time even to conceive of what is happening in the onrolling of the work in our day and time. I rejoice in all that has happened in the past. I look forward in confidence to the future. ... The work of God will go forward, as the Prophet Joseph said, nobly and boldly until it fills the whole earth.”
“The progress of the Church in our day is truly astounding,” said President Hinckley. “The God of heaven has brought to pass this latter-day miracle, and what we have seen is but a foretaste of greater things yet to come.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 99).
In a Church News interview in 1999, President Thomas S. Monson declared that “the growth of the Church is unlimited.”
During his decades of service he witnessed much of that growth. “The future is bright ... ,” he said. “More people hear about the Church, see the Church in action and desire to know more about it. What a glorious time to be living and serving the Lord.”
President Monson noted that since its early pioneering days, the Church has come out of obscurity. “Our membership has been imbued with the meaning of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation’ ” (Romans 1:16.)... .
That is the work that Elder Lim and others in the Philippines — and in other nations across the globe — are witnessing. It is a work that continues to move forward and grow throughout the world.
One week after witnessing the creation of the 100th stake if the Philippines, Elder Allen Haynie of the Philippines Area Presidency and Elder Ryan Pagaduan, an Area Seventy, organized the Calasiao Philippines Stake — the 101st stake in the Philippines.
President Monson said in 1999 that it is every member’s responsibility to make certain the work of the Church continues to move forward. “We have the privilege to witness the inspiration of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. All of us are builders of the Church. Our responsibility is great, our obligation is real, our duty calls us to the colors of the Church in our time.”