Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created the Church's second branch in Cuba on Sunday, June 15, during a branch conference attended by almost 100 people.
Accompanying him were Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy, Sister Diane Hallstrom, Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy and president of the Caribbean Area, and Sister Kathleen Andersen. During the conference, the Havana Cuba Branch was divided to create the El Cotorro Cuba Branch.
Though the Church is not yet registered in Cuba, government officials in the Department of Religious Affairs have welcomed the Church since 2004, when the first Cuban branch was organized, and have assisted the Church in its efforts to locate suitable places to worship.
During the last decade, the Free Evangelical Church, the Christian Science Church and currently the Beth-Shalom Jewish Congregation of Havana have, in turn, opened their doors as places for the small but growing congregation of Latter-day Saints.
Jesus Ernesto Rodriguez, along with his wife, Anatalia, and their daughter, Sandra, pioneered the Church in Cuba. He served as its first branch president for more than ten years and was released during the conference. "They are truly modern-day pioneers," said Elder Andersen. "They are revered by Church members in Cuba and have laid a firm foundation of faith for the future."
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered a prayer over the land of Cuba on Feb. 16, 2012. He blessed the country and its people and promised that the Church would take root in the fertile Cuban soil.
Elder Holland visited the site where Elder Bednar offered the prayer overlooking the city of Havana and observed that “the promises of the blessing are unfolding.”
"Cuba is a beautiful country," said Elder Holland, "and the Cuban people are warm and wonderful. We were welcomed and treated with kindness."
While in Havana, Elder Holland, Elder Hallstrom and Elder Andersen met with representatives of the government's Department of Religious Affairs including Caridad Diego, who directs the department. They also met with leaders of the Catholic Church and with representatives of the Cuban Council of Churches.
"The Church blesses people and strengthens families wherever it is found throughout the world," said Elder Holland, "and that is what we intend to do in Cuba."
Elder Hallstrom noted, “The government representatives and leaders in the Cuba religious community respect the Church because we are honorable and trustworthy. Our members are good citizens who respect the laws and traditions of Cuba.”
Luis Wilberto Tito Quintana was sustained and set apart as president of the Havana Cuba Branch, and Pedro Luis Ramos Maqueira was sustained and set apart as president of the newly created El Cotorro Cuba Branch.
"Although we are small in number, each member is precious to us, and Cuba is precious to us," Elder Holland said.
Leaders of the Church in the Caribbean Area travel to Cuba with visa authorization from Cuba and with license authorization from the U.S. government. Those seeking information on meeting times and locations may contact the offices of the Caribbean Area Presidency in the Dominican Republic at 809-692-2161.