Timeline of the Church in Latin America

Apr. 6, 1830 Church organized in Palmyra, New York.

Oct. 1830 Four Latter-day Saint missionaries, including Parley P. Pratt, called to preach to indigenous peoples of America. They travel and teach in the Midwest on their way to Missouri.

Jun. 27, 1844 Joseph Smith martyred at Carthage Jail. During Smith’s lifetime, missionary work commenced in the United States, Canada, the British Isles, parts of continental Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and the islands of French Polynesia.

1847 Brigham Young leads Latter-day Saint exodus west to the Great Basin near the Great Salt Lake in Alta California, Mexican Territory.

Feb. 2, 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo shifts land from Mexico to the United States; Salt Lake City is in US Territory.

1851–52 Apostle Parley P. Pratt attempts missionary work in Chile and then returns to United States.

1853 Six missionaries visit Jamaica for a few weeks. Two attempt travel to British Guiana in South America but are prevented by the British government.

1857 Parley P. Pratt dies at an assassin’s hand, never returning to South America and going to Peru as he had planned. His descendants would serve throughout Latin America.

1875 Book of Mormon extracts in Spanish are published. Missionaries travel to northern Mexico.

1876 Brigham Young foresees Mexico as the key to preaching the gospel in all of Latin America.

Apr. 6 1881 Apostle Moses Thatcher dedicates Mexico for the preaching of the restored gospel.

1885–1912 The Church grows in northern Mexico through the efforts of Latter-day Saint immigrants.

1907–31 Rey L. Pratt, grandson of Parley P. Pratt, serves as Mexican Mission president and as a General Authority.

1912 Political problems force Saints from Mexico during times of revolution.

1923 Assistant Church historian Andrew Jenson and Thomas Page embark on a five-month trip through Latin America. This journey becomes the catalyst for the establishment of a permanent Latter-day Saint presence in South America. They visit Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.

Nov. 1925 Apostle Melvin J. Ballard travels to South America with two Seventies—Rey L. Pratt, who speaks Spanish, and Rulon S. Wells, who speaks German—to meet with members living in Argentina.

Dec. 25, 1925 Melvin J. Ballard dedicates South America for missionary work.

Jul. 4, 1926 During his last meeting in Buenos Aires before returning to the United States, Elder Ballard prophesies that the Church will grow like an acorn to an oak tree, eventually filling South America.

1927 Frederick Salem Williams (born in Latter-day Saint colonies in Mexico) becomes a missionary in Argentina.

1928 Missionary work begins in Brazil among German members.

1933 J. Reuben Clark Jr., a member of the First Presidency and a former US ambassador to Mexico, visits the International Conference of American States in Uruguay at the request of US president Franklin D. Roosevelt. He holds an evening meeting on January 2, 1934, with Church members in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1936 The Spanish American Mission is organized for Latinos living in the southwest United States.

1938 Frederick S. Williams becomes president of the Argentine Mission.

1941 Williams writes the First Presidency requesting an extended visit to South America from senior Church leaders. World War II interrupts missionary work.

Aug. 1946 Following an Argentine Mission reunion in Utah, Williams and others (including Don Smith, nephew of President George Albert Smith) meet with President Smith and his counselor David O. McKay to discuss needs in South America.

Sep. 28, 1946 Williams sends a report to the First Presidency outlining ideas for expanding missionary work in South America beyond Argentina and Brazil. He also requests that Church leaders visit the continent.

Apr. 1947 Williams is asked by the First Presidency to open the Uruguayan Mission.

Aug. 1947 Williams arrives in Uruguay and asks for a General Authority to tour South America.

Dec. 10, 1947 Apostle Stephen L Richards writes to Williams informing him of his appointment by the First Presidency to visit the three South American missions with his wife, Irene, in 1948.

1948 Stephen L and Irene Richards visit Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil—the first apostolic mission tour since Melvin J. Ballard’s in 1926.

1952 Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and Assistant to the Twelve Bruce R. McConkie visit Central American countries and create a mission. From Guatemala, Elder Kimball dedicates Central America for missionary work.

1954 President David O. McKay makes the first visit by a Church President to Central and South America. He tours branches in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina and travels to Panama, Guatemala, and Mexico.

1956 Apostle Henry D. Moyle travels to Chile and is granted permission to start missionary work there. The Santiago Branch is organized and the first baptisms in Chile occur.

1959 Elder Kimball returns to South America and recommends that a new mission be created along the west coast of Peru and Chile. Later that year, Apostle Harold B. Lee organizes the Andes Mission in Lima, Peru.

May 1959 Stephen L Richards, first counselor in the First Presidency, passes away.

1961 The Chilean Mission is formed.

1961–65 Elder Theodore A. Tuttle is the first General Authority assigned to live in South America in order to oversee Church development there.

1964 One thousand missionaries are baptizing one thousand people a month in the seven missions of South America.

1965 Ecuador is dedicated by Apostle Spencer W. Kimball.

1966 South America’s first stakes are organized in São Paulo, Brazil, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Missionary work begins in Venezuela.

1967 The Montevideo Stake in Uruguay is created.

1968 Colombia is dedicated by Apostle Spencer W. Kimball.

1970 Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley organizes the first stake in Lima, Peru. Membership in Peru and Chile reaches almost 12,000 and 15,000, respectively.

1976 50 years after Elder Ballard’s prophecy, membership for Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean reaches 393,937.

Jun. 1978 Church President Spencer W. Kimball announces a revelation extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church, fueling rapid growth of the Church throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Oct. 1978 The first temple in South America is dedicated in São Paulo, Brazil.

Dec. 1978 Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Seventy, a grandson of Melvin J. Ballard, dedicates the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

1981 Ángel Abrea from Argentina becomes the first Latin American called as a General Authority.

1988 Senior missionaries are sent to Guiana, Suriname, and French Guiana—the last remaining countries in South America to receive the restored gospel.

1989 The 100th stake in Mexico is organized.

1993 The 100th stake in Brazil is organized.

1996 Church membership outside the United States exceeds membership within the United States, with 4,719,000 international members out of 9,438,000 worldwide.

1997 Church President Gordon B. Hinckley’s visit to Colonia Juárez, Mexico, sparks plan to create small temples throughout the world. 102 temples are built by end of 2000.

2001 President Hinckley announces the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF), from which the first countries to benefit are Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

2002–4 Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland is assigned to Chile to consolidate Church units and emphasize convert retention and real growth in a country with over 500,000 members and high rates of inactivity among members.

2004 Mexico Church membership passes one million.

2005 The Havana Cuba Branch is organized, the last country in the Western Hemisphere to have an officially established Church unit.

Dec. 2005 Apostle M. Russell Ballard speaks to Latino members in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and says of his grandfather’s acorn-to-oak-tree prophecy, “A miracle has been fulfilled.” Elder Ballard states that the South American Mission has grown to 70 missions on the continent, and Latin America consists of 5.5 million members who attend 28 temples.

2007 Brazil Church membership passes one million.

2013 Peru’s 100th stake is organized.

2015 A historical marker is placed in Tres de Febrero Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Melvin J. Ballard’s dedication of South America for missionary work.

2016 The Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple is announced, making Lima the first city outside Utah to receive a second temple.

2018 South America has 4 million members, 94 missions, 5,545 congregations, and 17 temples.

Mar. 31, 2018 Ulisses Soares, a Brazilian, is sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—the first Latin American called as an Apostle.