Church members still cheering new stake in Guam

Published: Thursday, June 7 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Micronesia Guam with his wife, Barbara, to create the first stake in December 2010.

Michael Dowdle, Deseret News Archive

The organization of a new LDS stake in Guam continues to generate joy in the hearts of those who served there, even a year and a half after it was created. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve organized the Barrigada Guam Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a conference in Guam on Dec. 12, 2010. Arthur B. Clark was called as the stake president.

Creating a stake was always a goal for which missionaries like Scott Bell and Will Anderson worked very hard.

“It’s amazing because a stake seemed a long ways away when I was there. Many (members) were American servicemen and few were local,” said Bell, who served in the Micronesia Guam Mission from 1994 to 1996. “It was a happy moment because it makes you realize the work has continued to grow. All the lessons we taught, all the seeds we planted, have blossomed. I’m happy for the people over there.”

“I’m very pleased, very proud,” said Anderson, of Idaho Falls, who served in the same mission from 1999 to 2001.

At the time the stake was organized, Michael L. Dowdle, president of the Micronesia Guam mission, described his feelings like this: “The creation of the stake is a milestone for the church in Micronesia,” he told the Church News in 2010. “It is the culmination of the efforts of many people over many, many years.”

Those efforts began in 1944 when the first known LDS members came to Guam with the U.S. armed forces during WWII. A branch was formed and meetings were held in military facilities. Land was later purchased and huts were used as a meetinghouse.

In the spring of 1964, land for a church building was purchased and in March 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 were translated into the Chamorro language.

LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve strengthened members with a visit in 2000. Many flew in from other islands to see the 90-year-old prophet.

By 2010, LDS Church membership on Guam and Saipan had grown to about 2,000, transforming the goal of a stake into a reality.

Returning to Guam for the organization of a stake had always been a dream of Bountiful residents Lewis and JoAnn Nord. The couple presided over the Micronesia Guam Mission from 1989 to 1992. During that time, one highlight was helping all the district presidents in the area receive their temple blessings at the Manila Philippines Temple. The Nords and many others also mentored many local priesthood leaders. Unfortunately, JoAnn died about a month before the stake was formed.

“We always wanted to take a sentimental journey back. It was something we looked forward to, but she passed away,” the 85-year-old said. “It was an emotional time.”

Bell, now an attorney in Salt Lake City, served on Guam and Saipan. He recalled the opportunity of teaching a man named Patrick Boaz, a “golden investigator” who was baptized and later brought his family into the church.

“It was one of my favorite experiences,” Bell said. “When things like that happen, you realize Heavenly Father is in control and has a plan.”

Bell also recounted a unique meeting with President Hinckley and his wife in 1996. The Prophet was returning to the United States from an extended tour in Asia and learned his plane would land briefly for refueling on the island of Saipan. Upon learning there were members and missionaries there, President Hinckley sent word to invite the Saints to meet him at the airport. Bell was among the throng that enthusiastically showed up.

“We hustled around, got a group of 70 to 100 people to see President Hinckley,” Bell said. “It lasted about 10 to 15 minutes. He said a few words, shook some hands, gave some hugs, it was pretty neat. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for many of these people to see the prophet.”

With the added blessings of a local patriarch, leaders holding priesthood keys and a stronger spiritual foundation, President Clark is excited to maintain the momentum of Guam’s new stake.

“The creation of the Guam stake was made possible by the faith and effort of many church members over several decades,” he said when called. “It is long-awaited and I thank the Lord. … I will trust in his guidance in serving the members of our new stake.”

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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