Two apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will begin overseas assignments for one year starting in August this year-the first time such senior leaders have lived and presided in an international area of the Church for nearly half a century.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks will serve as area president in the Philippines, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland will serve in the same capacity in Chile.
The appointments were announced today by the First Presidency in a post-general conference training meeting with general authorities of the Church.
Assignments of Church apostles to reside in international areas have not been a practice in the Church for some four decades. Ezra Taft Benson, who was ordained an apostle in 1943, presided over the European Mission in the mid-1960s.
David O. McKay similarly served as a mission president while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He presided over the British Mission in the early 1920s.
The move is aimed at meeting the challenges that the Church has faced for years in many developing areas: rapid Church growth and the need to train leadership, and to help new members assimilate into the Church and attend the temple. The assignments will enable members of the Quorum of the Twelve to gain additional experience in meeting and resolving these challenges.
Church growth in the Philippines has been pronounced. In the past decade, Church membership there has grown to nearly half a million following implementation of modern day missionary work in 1961 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve.
By 1969, Church work in the Philippines had spread to eight major islands and the Philippines had the highest number of baptisms of any area in the Church. The Manila Missionary Training Center was established in 1983.
Philippines membership was 76,000 in 1984 and 237,000 in 1990. Today, it is approximately 496,000, in more than 1,200 congregations grouped in 80 stakes and 13 missions. A temple was dedicated in Manila in 1984.
Missionary work in Chile was begun by Elder Parley P. Pratt in 1851. Chile now has more than 520,000 Latter-day Saints.
Church President David O. McKay visited expatriate Church members in Santiago in 1954. On 26 May 1956, Chile became part of the Argentine Mission, and the first Chilean branch (a small congregation) was organized in July.
The Chile Mission was organized on 8 October 1961, with 1,100 members. When the first stake (similar to a diocese) was organized 11 years later, membership had grown to more than 20,000.
When the Santiago Chile Temple was dedicated 14 September 1983, there were some 140,000 members of the Church in Chile. On 29 October 1988, Chile became the fourth country in the world to reach 50 stakes.
At the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the Santiago Temple in 1993, it was noted that Chile, with the fastest growing Church membership in South America, had doubled in membership and in the number of stakes during that decade.
Continued growth, including the creation of 26 new stakes from 1994-96, led to the creation of the Chile Area in 1996. On 25 April 1999, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to some 57,000 members in Santiago, the largest gathering of members in South America.