“Establishing a Stake in Cali,” Global Histories: Colombia (2022)
“Establishing a Stake in Cali,” Global Histories: Colombia
In 1977, the Cali Colombia District was struggling. Two years earlier, after the Colombia Cali Mission was created, mission president Jay E. Jensen had consolidated the six branches to four in order to have enough members to fill leadership positions. After the Bogotá Colombia Stake was organized in January 1977, Jensen promised Church members in Cali that if they worked together to build the Church, they too would have a stake. When Church President Spencer W. Kimball held a regional conference in Bogotá that March, Jensen encouraged all the members to attend and paid for the Colombian Saints serving as missionaries in Cali to make the trip. As Jensen had hoped, the experience fortified their faith. “[They] came back with a renewed determination and a greater fervor for the work,” he recalled.
Soon after the conference, with many new Church members having been baptized and the Saints’ faith having been bolstered by the messages they had heard from the Lord’s prophet, the Church members longed to have a stake organized in Cali. When they requested that a stake be organized, however, they were told there was not yet enough priesthood leadership. One quarter of the members in Cali were of African descent and could not hold the priesthood at that time. Undaunted, the Church members prayed to know what more they needed to do and were inspired that they needed to be more unified in their work to build the kingdom of God.
In July 1977, they were reminded that they had been asked to contribute to the construction of the first temple in South America, which was then under construction in São Paulo, Brazil. With just six weeks remaining until the deadline, the Saints in Cali had raised only $175 of the $2,000 USD they had been asked for. Seeing this as an opportunity to unify the Saints, local leaders challenged them to meet the goal. In response, some Saints donated the money made from the sale of personal property, while others fasted and donated the money they saved in the process. When the deadline arrived, the Saints had raised all the money they had been asked to donate.
Local members assumed responsibility for directing mission efforts and staffing local branches. On February 9, 1978, word came from Salt Lake City that a stake would be organized in Cali in June. On June 11, as members gathered to hear who the new stake president would be, they learned that Church President Spencer W. Kimball had received a revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church. For the quarter of Church members in Cali who were of African descent, this announcement was particularly profound; not only would they now have the stake they requested, but they and their families could have the blessing of the priesthood.