“Venezuela, Land of Grace,” Ensign, Mar. 2000, 77–78
The land of Venezuela, located at the northern tip of South America, was dubbed “Land of Grace” by Christopher Columbus. With a climate that ranges from Amazon rain forest to high mountain peaks to balmy beaches, Venezuela is indeed a land of beauty. Caracas, the capital, is located at 2,700 feet above sea level and is known as the “city of eternal spring” because of its nearly constant 70-degree temperatures. It was here in November 1966 that Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1897–1988) dedicated the land for missionary work and organized the first branch with 45 members present.
In 1967 newly arrived missionaries found a fruitful vineyard. Typical of those families who accepted the gospel in those early days is the Manuel and Luisa Vargas family. When Manuel and Luisa were married in May 1969, they wanted a lot of children but were concerned about the influences of the world. Six months later, missionaries knocked on their door to bring them the glad tidings of the gospel, and in a few weeks they were baptized. At the time, they were expecting their first child, and when Luis was born, he became the first of a new generation of Venezuelans born and raised in the Church. Since then the Vargas family has had five more sons and a daughter. Today those six sons have all served or are planning to serve missions. “We are looking forward to sharing the happiness we have found by someday serving a full-time mission ourselves,” says Brother Vargas.
Another family, typical of those raised in the Church, is that of José Luís and Paula Castellano, who were married in the temple. Both graduated from seminary and institute programs, served missions, then graduated from college. “All we are, all we have become we owe to the teachings of the gospel and our continued study of the Book of Mormon,” says Brother Castellano, who today serves as legal adviser to the Church in Venezuela in issues related to missionary visas.
With the groundbreaking of the Caracas Venezuela Temple in January 1999, Church members feel their prayers have been answered. Situated next to the Church offices in Caracas, the temple will bless the lives of many faithful Saints who have not previously been able to travel the long distances required for temple attendance. As the Church continues to grow, the temple will serve as an anchor for the future.
Three hundred fifty miles west is the city of Maracaibo, known as the “land beloved by the sun,” possibly because city temperature hovers in the 90s. There the Church continues to grow, as it is doing throughout all of Venezuela, with three stakes and a mission headquartered in the city. The patriarch of the Maracaibo Stake, Brother Eulogio Ramón Quero, has been a stalwart in the Church for many years. He and his wife, Maria Antonia, have raised nine children; seven have served missions. The entire family is dedicated to working in their family-owned restaurant, which has provided for their family and supported their missionaries. “It has not been without a lot of sacrifice,” says Brother Quero. “Yet it has helped our family become more united. We are grateful for the blessings we have.”
Venezuela at a Glance
Number of members: 89,000
Temples: 1 under construction
Missionaries serving from the area: 203
Dedicated for preaching of the gospel: 2 November 1966
First branch organized: 2 November 1966
Missionaries first arrived, sent from Costa Rica: 1967
Missions: Venezuela Caracas Mission, 1971; Venezuela Maracaibo Mission, 1979; Venezuela Valencia Mission, 1994; Venezuela Barcelona Mission, 1994.
Church Educational System program established: 1972
First stake organized in Caracas: 1977