Membership Reaches Two Million in South America
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“Membership Reaches Two Million in South America,” Ensign, Feb. 1997, 75

Membership Reaches Two Million in South America

Total Church membership in the 12 countries of South America—Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela—reached the two million mark in June 1996. Members in South America now make up just over 20 percent of total Church membership. The earth’s fourth largest continent, South America is populated by an estimated 313 million people, which represents about 5 percent of the total world population.

The restored gospel first touched South American shores in 1852 when Elders Parley P. Pratt and Rufus C. Allen visited Chile. However, the Church did not gain a solid foothold until missionaries started baptizing people in Argentina in 1925 and in Brazil in 1929 in response to the influence of Latter-day Saint German immigrants in the two countries. When Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated South America on 25 December 1925 for the preaching of the gospel, he said that “the work will go forth slowly just as the oak grows from an acorn. … [But] the South American Mission will become a power in the Church.”

Today Argentina has more than 235,000 members, and Brazil has more than 548,000. Missionaries started preaching the gospel in Bolivia in 1963, Chile in 1956, Colombia in 1966, Ecuador in 1965, Guyana in 1988, Paraguay in 1950, Peru in 1956, Suriname in 1988, Uruguay in 1947, and Venezuela in 1966. Today Bolivia has 89,000 members, Chile 394,000, Colombia 113,000, Ecuador 128,000, Guyana 500, Paraguay 24,000, Peru 279,000, Suriname 300, Uruguay 64,000, and Venezuela 73,000. (Membership statistics by country are as of year-end 1995.)