Church History
Challenges of Growth
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Challenges of Growth

In the 50 years from its founding in 1830 until 1880, the Church grew to 133,000 members. By 1983 the Church in Chile had about 140,000 members after just 17 years in the country. By its 50th anniversary in 2006, the Church in Chile had grown to over 540,000 members of record. With that growth, understandably, came many challenges. As new branches were organized across the country and then quickly developed into wards and stakes, many members lost their sense of place in their new faith and fell out of activity.

President Gordon B. Hinckley was deeply concerned about such challenges around the world and called on members of the Church to help strengthen new converts by making sure each had “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God.’” He later assigned Elder Jeffrey R. Holland to live in Chile from 2002 to 2004 and serve as Area President to gain firsthand understanding of the challenges related to growth and to work with Chilean members to pioneer solutions. During this period, many Chilean Saints participated in leadership training as the country’s Church units were reorganized. Increasing numbers of Chilean youth also heeded the call to prepare themselves to serve full-time missions.

A decade later, Church members and missionaries continued efforts to help members find their way back into activity, often by inviting them to fulfill small, specific responsibilities in their branches and wards. After diligently preparing for a week to give a spiritual thought and a brief testimony in a Gospel Principles class, one sister began attending the class so faithfully she was asked to be the teacher. When asked to provide the sacrament bread, one man and his family came to church with the family’s entire supply of bread for the week, believing that the Lord would care for their needs. Without knowing their plight, the man’s mother gave them 20 kilos (44 lbs.) of flour the next day. A musically talented member was asked to direct a newly formed ward choir. At the first practice, he announced he would be with the choir for well over a year and had many ideas to incorporate. Through accepting assignments in their wards, many members who had drifted from the Church returned.