Church History
“The Lord Is Smiling on the Philippines”
previous next

Stories of Faith

“The Lord Is Smiling on the Philippines”

In December 1941, as the United States entered World War II, Maxine Tate joined the Red Cross, feeling that there she could “be of the most service” and fulfill her “greatest desires to do good for people.” Late in the war, she was sent to the Philippines. As she had done elsewhere, Maxine, always with her pump organ in tow, began to gather Latter-day Saint servicemen to worship together. In Manila she secured a meeting place at the home of longtime Manila resident Colonel Edward “Pete” Grimm, though he was not yet a member of the Church.

In addition to organizing Church meetings, Maxine was engaged in caring for prisoners of war and providing relief for refugees. As she reflected on how to do the most good for them, Maxine longed to offer spiritual as well as physical relief. At the time, however, the Church had no legal recognition or local congregations in the Philippines, and Church leaders were hesitant to baptize converts without a plan for future support. At least two Filipinos received permission to be baptized despite those reservations: Aniceta Pabilona Fajardo, a friend of Maxine’s, was baptized in 1945, and David Lagman, who knew a Latter-day Saint airman, was baptized in 1958.

After the war, Maxine married Pete Grimm and settled in Manila. By the late 1950s she had organized a Sunday School and Primary with other expatriate families. She was not content, however, to keep the gospel to their group and invited Filipino friends to attend. “She did all she could to teach the gospel to others,” Elder Gordon B. Hinckley recalled. “She pleaded that missionaries be sent.” By 1960 Church leaders prepared to do so; Pete helped with the legal paperwork that would allow the Church to send missionaries to the country. Finally, in April 1961, Hinckley opened the Philippines for missionary work. David Lagman was among those who heard Hinckley pray that there would “be many thousands who shall receive this message and be blessed thereby.”

The few Saints in the Philippines were overjoyed when the first missionaries arrived on June 5, 1961. “Surely,” David Lagman thought, “the Lord is smiling on the Philippines.” In August, David’s wife, Eloisa, became the first convert baptized since the missionaries’ arrival. Others rapidly embraced the message. Ruben M. Lacanienta said that for his family, the restored gospel was “like a diamond sparkling among a heap of dirty coal,” which offered them “the courage to change for the truth.” Maxine and Pete continued to support the missionaries and the new Church members—many of the first 2,000 baptisms took place in their swimming pool. By the end of Maxine’s life, Church membership in the Philippines had reached over 700,000. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that the work would be this successful,” Maxine said. “The Filipinos were ready for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Photograph taken during a baptismal service in the pool at the home of Maxine and Pete Grimm, circa 1964