“Dominican Growth: From Zero to Thousands Since 1978,” Ensign, Jan. 1987, 77–78
When the John Rappleye family moved to Santo Domingo in the summer of 1978, they took with them a supply of LDS literature. They knew the Church was not yet organized in the Dominican Republic, and they wanted to tell the gospel story to others.
Among the first people they met were Eddie Amparo and his wife, who had recently returned from living in California for fifteen years. The Amparos had joined the Church in the United States, and they too had brought their own supply of Church literature to their home country.
With the permission of the mission president who had responsibility for the Dominican Republic, the Rappleyes and the Amparos began holding Church meetings and sharing the gospel with friends and acquaintances. Their message quickly created interest, and Rodolfo Bodden, Brother Rappleye’s primary business contact and one of Brother Amparo’s old friends, was soon baptized.
The gospel was so well accepted that missionaries were sent to the Dominican Republic in November 1978, and in December Elder M. Russell Ballard, then a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, was assigned to dedicate the country for missionary work.
The dedication took place 7 December 1978 on an isolated ridge overlooking the capital city. In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Ballard said: “We acknowledge that we have but a handful of members now, but pray thee to bless and prosper, Heavenly Father, this land that from this humble beginning many thousands of thy children might find the truth and that stakes of Zion might be driven down here.”
Brother Rappleye, Brother Amparo, and Brother Bodden have held a variety of Church leadership positions since then. The Church has grown rapidly—from one branch to two, then to districts, then to a separate mission. The Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Mission was organized in 1981. In March of this year, the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Stake, the first in the country, was organized.
In 1979, the year after the missionaries arrived, 354 people were baptized; in the month of June alone this year, there were 355 baptisms. Today there are more than 11,000 Latter-day Saints on the island that Columbus discovered.
Miguel Antonio Tejada is president of the branch at Bani, about forty-four miles west of Santo Domingo. He and his family were baptized in 1983. “We know the value of the gospel, and for this we are grateful,” he says. Family members feel greater love toward their fellow beings. “We work hard to help everyone in Bani come to know the gospel so they can feel the happiness we have found.”
Anselmo Arroyo and his family live in Azua, a little more than seventy miles west of the capital. They have been members of the Church since 1984, but some of their children joined earlier. Their oldest son, Bernardo, served a mission in the Dominican Republic, and two other sons, Jose Anselmo and Nelson, are now serving as missionaries in their homeland. Nearly half of the approximately 170 missionaries in the Dominican Republic are native to that country.
The Arroyo family is supported by a small spice and shampoo packaging and distribution business. Brother and Sister Arroyo say their sons’ missions have taught the family the meaning of the law of sacrifice, and the blessings that come from serving. Before they found the gospel, they say, “our lives lacked objectives. Now we know why and for what goals we live. There is joy in our lives.”
Seventeen-year-old Ingrid Margarita Rodriguez is the Young Women president of the Tierra Alta Branch in Santiago, the Dominican Republic’s second largest city. Her mother, Margarita, says Ingrid and her sixteen-year-old brother, Jose, led the way for her and her husband, who followed their children into the Church. Their father says he had never before felt such happiness and peace as when he found the gospel. Now, Sunday services are an opportunity to partake of the Spirit of the Lord and “return home strengthened.”
Ingrid looks forward enthusiastically to the time when she will be old enough to serve a mission. Young women of the branch frequently go out in pairs, knocking on doors and looking for people who would like to learn about the gospel, so they can refer them to the missionaries.
Rafael A. Mendez of Santiago was surprised by the strength of the missionaries’ convictions when he met them, as well as by the love they obviously felt for him and his family. The Mendez family was baptized in August of 1980. A mechanic, Rafael works hard in his shop six says a week, but the seventh day is dedicated to the Lord. He is second counselor in the presidency of the Santiago District and enjoys visiting all of its branches. “I am happy to be able to serve in the work of the Lord,” he says.
Rodolfo Bodden, that first convert baptized in the Dominican Republic, is currently second counselor in the presidency of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Stake. His family was the first in the Dominican Republic to be sealed in the temple, and two of his children have served missions. “Never could we give sufficient thanks for having been given the gospel,” he says. “These eight years in the Church have been the best of our lives, and we owe everything that we are to our knowledge of the gospel.”
Correspondent: Felix Sequi, high councilor in the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Stake.