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Church Members Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Missionary Work in the Philippines

Philippines-60th
Philippines-60th
On April 28, 1961, around 100 Latter-day Saints gathered on the grounds of the American War Memorial Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio as Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, rededicated the Philippines for missionary work.

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Christine Rappleye, Church News

About a hundred people gathered with then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley on the grounds of the American War Memorial Cemetery in the Philippines as he rededicated the Philippines for missionary work on the morning of April 28, 1961. The country was part of the Southern Far East Mission of the Church.

His prayer included “that there shall be many thousands who shall receive this message and be blessed thereby.”

Now, 60 years later, there are more than 825,000 members in 1,250 congregations, 23 missions and two dedicated temples — with five more temples announced or under construction — across the nation of more than 7,100 islands in the western Pacific Ocean’s Southeast Asia region. The country’s land is roughly the area of Italy or the state of Arizona.

“The 60 years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines is a celebration of faith,” Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, president of the Philippines Area and a General Authority Seventy, wrote in response to questions from the Church News. “We look back at the faithful pioneers who laid the foundation and look forward to the rising generation to help establish the Church in the Philippines.”

Missionary Work Begins

The Church’s roots in the Philippines go back to the late 1890s when two American Latter-day Saint servicemen, Willard Call and George Seaman, were set apart as missionaries before being deployed to the country during the Spanish-America War. After World War II, Maxine Grimm was in the Philippines with the Red Cross in 1945 and introduced the gospel to Aniceta Pabilona Fajardo, who was the first Filipino to join the Church in the islands.

Meetings for servicemen were organized during the 1950s. On August 21, 1955, President Joseph Fielding Smith at Clark Air Base dedicated the Philippines for the preaching of the gospel.

After six years, the Church received legal recognition and was allowed to have full-time missionaries enter the country. Elder Hinckley, then an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, rededicated the Philippines for missionary work in 1961.

Philippines-60th
Philippines-60th
Members of the Church hold a sacrament meeting under a tent in Kidapawan, Philippines.

                                                                                                                                                                  At the unveiling of a timeline of significant events of the Church in the Philippines, in February 2021, Elder Wakolo mentioned the early Filipino pioneers, including Fajardo.

“I think I know what was in Sister Fajardo’s mind when she accepted the invitation to be baptized in 1945. I think I know what was in Elder Ray Goodson’s and his companions’ mind[s] when they first arrived in Manila in 1961,” he said at the event. “Imagine the joy in Elder Hinckley’s mind when he offered a prayer at the American Cemetery in 1961 when only a handful of members attended and 35 years later when he returned as a Prophet where 35,000 gathered for a devotional.”

In 1967, the Southern Far East Mission was divided and the Philippines Mission was created. Now there are 23 missions across the islands. The Manila Philippines Temple was announced in 1981 and dedicated in 1984. Now, there are seven temples dedicated, under construction or announced in the Philippines.

“We know that our Father in Heaven loves all of His children. Those upon the isles of the sea like the Philippines are no exception,” Elder Wakolo told the Church News. “He has blessed us with the introduction of the restored gospel that has touched and improved the lives of Filipino families.”

Celebrating 60 Years

In addition to the timeline on display in the tunnel leading to the Manila Philippines Temple, a statue depicting the First Vision, when young Joseph Smith prayed and was visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, was unveiled at the Philippines Missionary Training Center in Quezon City, Metro Manilla, in May.

Elder Wakolo said he hopes those who visit the First Vision statue can “see beyond the statue that it did happen, it is reality.”

Philippines-60th
Philippines-60th
Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, left, General Authority Seventy and Philippines Area president, with counselors Elder Steven R. Bangerter and Elder Yoon Hwan Choi pose with the timeline of the Church in the Philippines, unveiled in spring 2021, which notes significant events.

                                                                                                                                                                “We want them to see that the First Vision opened the windows of heaven through a simple desire of a young boy who asked through prayer to know the truth,” he said. “With that question, priesthood keys were restored to bless all of God’s children.”

Also planned is “A Celebration of Faith” concert, which will be scheduled as conditions allow. A history book and launch, discussions with early members of the Church in the Philippines, an online museum and open houses at various chapels throughout the islands are also being planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Church in the country. The Church’s Philippines Newsroom site and local social media channels have shared stories and history of the Church.

“We want them to look back at their rich spiritual heritage to inspire them to help build and establish the Church in the Philippines and to share the message of Christ to others,” Elder Wakolo said. “As our members participate in these 60-year celebratory events, we hope they will feel inspired to share the joy of the gospel and the hope the Savior’s life, ministry and atoning sacrifice has brought to the people of the Philippines.”

A board with photos of those who have served as area president is scheduled to be unveiled, and it includes then Elder Dallin H. Oaks, now first counselor in the First Presidency, who served as the Philippines Area president from 2002 to 2004 when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Looking to the Future

“The Church continues to grow at a fast pace because of the faithfulness of members who continue to live their faith and strive hard to stay on the covenant path,” Elder Wakolo said. “As the gospel culture becomes interwoven with the strong traditions of family and Christian values that form the foundation of life in the Philippines, the blessings of self-reliance, education and a life of service to others lifts and builds members of the Church to become leaders and examples among their fellow men.”

Elder Wakolo notes how those serving in leadership positions, such as Area Seventies, temple presidencies, stake presidents, bishops and many of the mission leaders, are Filipinos. He’s also seen the value of those who have served as Area Seventies and in temple and mission leadership positions and are now serving their wards and branches.

Philippines-60th
Philippines-60th
Elder Taniela B. Wakolo and Sister Anita Wakolo, center left; Elder Steven R. Bangerter and Sister Susann A. Bangerter; Brig. Gen. Raul S. Cino, chief of Chaplain Service, left; and the Rev. Father Carlos Reyes, minister for ecumenical and interfaith affairs with the Archdiocese of Manila, right, and Robert Borje, chief of presidential protocol and presidential assistant on foreign affairs, Office of the President; unveil the First Vision statue at the Philippines Missionary Training Center.

                                                                                                                                                              “The Church will continue to be strengthened locally by these leaders who have gained spiritual experiences as they serve,” he said. “More women are serving in key positions that allow them to train organizations in leaderships and to minister to the needs of others.”

The area presidency launched the “I Will Go, I Will Serve” campaign on May 16, 2021, inviting the youth of the Philippines to plan to serve full-time missions. The goal is to have 4,600 full-time Filipino missionaries serving in the Philippines by December 2022.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, missionaries returned to their home countries in 2020. In the Philippines, that meant 1,700 foreign missionaries left. There are currently 1,900 Filipino missionaries serving in the Philippines, and they cover about half of all the wards and branches.

“Currently, we are working hard to have 4,600 missionaries in order to become self-reliant in preaching the gospel. We now have close to 2,000 Filipino missionaries and it is only a matter of time when we will get there,” Elder Wakolo said. “The pandemic has inspired us to see our potential and be laser focused on it.”

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Philippines-60th
There are two dedicated temples in the Philippines, in Manila and Cebu City. There are five more that are under construction or announced. Graphic courtesy of Church News. Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company.

The Church in the Philippines

Membership: 825,000

Stakes: 120

Districts: 59

Congregations: 1,250

Missions: 23

Temples: 2 operational; 5 under construction or announced

Timeline

1898: Two American servicemen are set apart as missionaries before being deployed to the Philippines.

1945: Sister Aniceta Fajardo becomes the first Filipino baptized in the Philippines.

August 21, 1955: President Joseph Fielding Smith dedicates, at Clark Air Base, the Philippine Islands for the preaching of the gospel.

1966: First youth conference in Los Baños, Laguna.

1961: The Church receives legal registration. On April 28, 1961, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, rededicates the Philippines for missionary work.

June 28, 1967: The Southern Far East Mission is divided to create the Philippines Mission.

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Philippines-60th
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, where President Gordon B. Hinckley offered a prayer on the Philippines in 1961. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver, courtesy of Church News.Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company.

1973: The first stake is organized.

July 1, 1974: The Philippines Mission is divided into the Philippines Cebu Mission and the Philippines Manila Mission.

April 1, 1981: A temple in the Philippines in announced. The groundbreaking on the Manila Philippines Temple takes place on August 25, 1982, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on the northern island of Luzon. The temple is dedicated by President Hinckley on September 25, 1984.

1983: The Philippines Missionary Training Center is established in a rented house in Manila.

1984: There are 75,000 Latter-day Saints in 15 stakes.

1992: A missionary training center is built across from the temple. It is expanded in 2011, 2012 and 2017.

2002–04: Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles serves as the area president.

April 2006: A temple in Cebu City, in the central Visayas group of islands, is announced. The groundbreaking takes place on November 14, 2007, and the Cebu City Philippines Temple is dedicated on June 13, 2010.

Philippines-60th
Philippines-60th
The creation of the 100th stake in the Philippines was presided over by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on September 10, 2010, during a special conference held at the New Frontier Theater (formerly KIA Theater). The first stake in the country was created on May 20, 1973.

October 2010: The Urdaneta Philippines Temple is announced. The groundbreaking for the temple on the northern island of Luzon takes place on January 16, 2019.

April 2017: A temple in Alabang, on the south side of Metro Manila, is announced. The groundbreaking takes place on June 4, 2020.

September 10, 2017: The 100th stake in the Philippines is created.

2018: In April, the Cagayan de Oro Philippines Temple on the southern island of Mindanao is announced. In October, a temple is announced on Mindanao in Davao City. The groundbreaking for the Davao Philippines Temple takes place on November 14, 2020.

2019: A temple in Bacolod, Philippines, in the Visayas group of islands, is announced.

Copyright 2021 Deseret News Publishing Company

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