Church Is Sinking Deep, Solid Roots in Colombia, Peru

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 2 September 2016

Elder Dale G. Renlund shakes hands with a member following a special stake conference held Sunday, August 14, 2016, at the Barranquilla Colombia Paraiso Stake.

Almost a century has passed since a latter-day Apostle, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, prophesied that South America would become a power for the Church and sprout just “as an oak grows slowly from an acorn.”

One of Elder Ballard’s apostolic successors, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, witnessed the ongoing fulfillment of that prophecy during his recent visit to Colombia and Peru. The Church is indeed “a power” in those nations, he said in a Church News interview, because of the faith, devotion, and good works of individual Latter-day Saints.

“The credit goes to the members—and also to the missionaries who have labored year after year to do good,” he said. “They have done things in just the right way.”

Elder Renlund traveled to South America August 11 to preside over the annual review of the South America Northwest Area. He was joined by Elder L. Whitney Clayton, Senior President of the Presidency of the Seventy. They were joined in their travel by their wives, Sister Ruth L. Renlund and Sister Kathy K. Clayton.

Their 12-day trip allowed them to visit with a variety of members in several cities in Colombia and Peru. Thousands of Latter-day Saints listened to their counsel at various priesthood leadership conferences; stake conferences; missionary meetings; youth, young single adult, and single adult devotionals; auxiliary leaders’ training; and, in Lima, a devotional for Church employees.

Elder Dale G. Renlund and Elder Carlos A. Godoy, South America Northwest Area President, present a Christus statue to Peru's president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, at the National Palace on Thursday, August 18.

Elder Dale G. Renlund presents a statue of the family to Archbishop of Arequipa Javier Augusto del Río on Saturday, August 20, 2016.

Sister Kathy K. Clayton embraces a sister following a devotional for single adult sisters in Barranquilla, Colombia, Saturday, August 13, 2016.

Elder and Sister Renlund and Elder and Sister Clayton were joined at various stops by the South America Northwest Area Presidency—Elder Carlos A. Godoy and Elder Hugo Montoya, General Authority Seventies, and their wives, Sister Monica Godoy and Sister Maria del Carmen Montoya. (Elder Enrique R. Falabella, a General Authority Seventy, will join the Area Presidency later this year.)

“I was amazed by the strength of the local and area leadership,” said Elder Renlund. “We were very pleased and impressed by the Area Seventies and the Area Presidency. They are talented, experienced, and capable.”

Elder Clayton added he was inspired by the capacity and dedication of the Area Seventies serving in the South America Northwest Area. “They are doing a marvelous job in helping the Church grow. They help keep the Church on track.”

Multiple temples in both nations

It’s an exciting time for Colombian and Peruvian members. New temples are under construction or have been announced in both countries. The Renlunds and the Claytons visited the construction site of the future Barranquilla Colombia Temple and the site where the Arequipa Peru Temple will be built. (There are also plans to construct a second temple in the Peruvian capital of Lima.)

The Barranquilla Temple “is being built in a beautiful location where we felt a remarkable spirit,” said Elder Renlund. The temple site in Arequipa, meanwhile, “is a beautiful spot overlooking the city” offering views of Andean volcanoes.

Colombia is a nation renowned for its friendly people and picture-postcard natural beauty. It is also a land of faithful Latter-day Saints.

“They have a hunger and thirst for the message of the gospel,” said Elder Clayton, who visited with members and missionaries in the Colombian cities of Barranquilla, Bogota, and Medellin.

Peru, meanwhile, is home to more than 600,000 members and 101 stakes.

“The gospel has taken hold in Peru, and it is being beautifully transmitted from generation to generation with a real focus on the temple,” said Elder Renlund.

Peru remains a special land for Elder Clayton. He served a full-time mission there and has seen, firsthand, individuals come into the Church and then raise gospel-centered families defined by their covenants and devotion.

Missionary work continues

Despite their busy schedule, the visiting Brethren found time to be with the missionaries in various cities in Colombia and Peru. Elder Clayton also presided over devotionals at missionary training centers in Bogota and Lima.

“Meeting with the missionaries is never a hardship—it’s a priority,” said Elder Renlund.

“It is invigorating. It is inspiring. It is strengthening in every way to see the young missionaries, the senior missionaries, and the mission presidents and their companions serving with such vigor and doing so well as they love the people and bring them the gospel.”

Worshipping and counseling with members

Elder Renlund and Elder Clayton also joined members of the Area Presidency and Area Seventies at various priesthood leadership conferences in Barranquilla and Arequipa.

Local priesthood leaders fellowship and develop one another—ensuring that a maturing chain of leadership will continue across Colombia and Peru.

Youth and young single adult devotionals offered the Brethren and their wives opportunities to answer questions and better understand the challenges facing the future leaders of the Church in Colombia and Peru.

Elder Renlund promised the young people that they will be “richly and abundantly blessed” if they stay faithful to their covenants and keep the commandments.

Building key friendships

On August 18, Elder Renlund met with recently elected Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the presidential palace in Lima. He and Elder Godoy passed along a message of congratulations from the First Presidency and presented the 77-year-old president with a statue of the Christus.

“We were greeted with great hospitality and graciousness,” said Elder Renlund.

Peruvian First Lady Nancy Lange Kuczynski, he added, has already visited the Church’s area office in Lima to learn how the Church welfare system operates.

Elder Dale G. Renlund and Elder Carlos A. Godoy with Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on August 18 at the National Palace in Lima.

Elder Dale G. Renlund and Elder Carlos A. Godoy meet with President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a member of his staff, and Guillermo Estrugo, director of public affairs for the South America Northwest Area, on August 18.

Elder Renlund, Elder Clayton, and Elder Montoya also enjoyed an August 20 lunch with Monsignor Javier del Rio, the Archbishop of Arequipa. The Catholic leader is a “good friend of the Church” who has supported the Church’s efforts to build a temple in Arequipa, said Elder Renlund.

When Elder Melvin J. Ballard prophesied about the future of the Church in South America, he would not have been able to enjoy an audience with key government and religious leaders. But the good works of generations of members across the continent have allowed the Church to make friends and build key relationships of trust.

Elder Dale G. Renlund and Sister Ruth L. Renlund shake hands with President John J. Gallego and Sister Patricia Gallego of the Colombia Barranquilla Mission Saturday, August 13, 2016.

Sister Renlund speaks at a special stake conference held Sunday, August 14, 2016, at the Barranquilla Colombia Paraiso Stake.

Sister Kathy K. Clayton shakes hands with members at a leadership meeting for stake presidencies and stake and ward councils in Medellin, Colombia, Sunday, August 14, 2016.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton shares the pulpit with a young man at a special stake conference for the Barranquilla Colombia Hipódromo Stake Sunday, August 14, 2016.

From left, Elder Whitney L. Clayton, Archbishop of Arequipa Javier Augusto del Río, Elder Dale G. Renlund, and Elder Hugo Montoya on Saturday, August 20, 2016.

Elder Dale G. Renlund greets a missionary at a meeting held with missionaries from the Peru Arequipa Mission Saturday, August 20, 2016.

Elder Dale G. Renlund greets a missionary at a meeting held with missionaries from the Peru Arequipa Mission Saturday, August 20, 2016.