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Mission History

Pre-Civil War Mission History compiled by Rahn D. Price

Missionary work in Central America began in September of 1946 when President Arwell Pierce of the Mexican Mission visited Central America to investigate the possibilities of sending missionaries in. Based on his visit the suggestion was made in December 1946 to President George Albert Smith that missionaries be sent to Central America.

In the summer of 1947 Central America was officially added to the Mexican Mission and "four missionaries were sent to Guatamala and to Costa Rica"

In 1952 the mission had 12 missionaries. On 16 November 1952 Elder Spencer W. Kimball offered a special prayer creating the Central American Mission.

President Gordon M. Romney (1952-1955) was the first president. He was followed by Edgar L. Wagner (1955-1959), Victor C. Hancock (1959-1962), Leslie O. Brewer (1962-1964), and Terrence L. Hansen (1964-1967).

The First Presidency announced the formation of a new mission in Central America in 1965. President Hansen remained in Guatemala as mission president of the Guatemala Mission and Bishop Teddy E. Brewerton (now more commonly known as Elder Ted E. Brewerton of the First Quorum of the Seventy) was called to serve as the first mission president of the newly formed Central American Mission ˜ now comprised of Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama.

The Central American Mission was officially formed August 5, 1965. Depending upon the source, the mission began with either 61 or 65 missionaries. President Teddy E. Brewerton was young; ˜he brought his four children and wife, Dorothy to Costa Rica; ˜ had their fifth child in Costa Rica on 18 December 1967. The membership in the whole mission (all four countries Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama) grew from 4,412 in 1965 to 5,762 in 1968.

President Brewerton was replaced in July 1968 by Milton R. Smith. He too was a young president serving with his wife, Valoy, and seven children. While President Smith served the membership grew from 5,762 to 8,864.

President Quinten Hunsaker, his wife Shirley, and their 4 children began their service in July 1971. From 1971 to 1973 the membership increased to 9,938. In 1973 there were 5 districts in the mission, one of which was the Nicaragua district, and there were 23 branches, five of these branches were in Nicaragua.

President John E. Eagar and his wife replaced the Hunsakers in July 1974. They served until July 1977 when President Muren (now a member of the seventy), his wife and five children came to occupy the President's chair.

The Nicaraguan membership at the close of 1973 was 1,562. At the close of 1974 the membership had increased to 1,732.

The following information on Nicaragua was taken from a progress report prepared for President Eagar by President Hunsaker in June, 1974. Mission membership at this time was 10,758.

... the area of the mission which has made the least progress is the Nicaragua District. On December 23, 1972 an earthquake destroyed a large portion of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, killing 15,000 and leaving tens of thousands homeless and jobless. By the grace of God, none of the members were killed to our knowledge. The Church immediately began to pour in supplies of food and clothing via Costa Rica and attendance to Church meetings soared. Unfortunately, once the immediate crisis was over and the food supply were ceased, attendance once again dropped down. Reconstruction of the Managua I Branch chapel has been long and difficult due to the unwillingness of the members to donate labor, materials or money. [the LasPalmas chapel -DJS-] There is much dissension and apostasy among the members, and it is hard for the missionaries to fellowship investigators into the Church. Progress has been, but it has been slow and painful...

From that same report the statistical information for the Nicaragua District was:

    "The Nicaragua District consists of four independent branches and two Sunday School groups run be missionaries. The district is still recovering from the earthquake of 23 December, 1972 particularly in terms of membership activity and local leadership. Strong leaders are needed but few have been found."

    • Granada
      • Membership: 15 (recently opened)
      • chapel: rented house nice
      • Leadership: Missionaries (Sunday School Group)
      • Conversions: good

    • Leon:
      • Membership: 82
      • Chapel: rented house
      • Leadership: 2 Elders (Sunday School run by missionaries)
      • Conversions: slow

    • Managua I: [Las Palmas -DJS-]
      • Membership: 1119
      • chapel: Under reconstruction - nearly finished
      • Leadership: 27 Elders
      • Conversions: fair

    • Managua II: [San Judas, I believe -DJS-]
      • Membership: 479
      • Chapel: Small rented house prefabricated chapel to be built as soon as permission is obtained from the government
      • Leadership: 12 Elders
      • Conversions: fair

    • Masaya:
      • membership: 131
      • Chapel: rented house - nice
      • Leadership: 4 Elders
      • Conversions: good

    • Matagalpa:
      • Membership: 52
      • Chapel: Rented house
      • Leadership: one Elder (Branch President)
      • Conversions: slow, but of good quality

    War Breaks by David Shafer

    By 1978 a stake was formed with 4 wards in Managua, 1 ward in Masaya, and branches in Leon, Matagalpa, Granada, and El Rosario ( a small village near Jinotepe, Carazo). With the revolution of 1979 all church property was confiscated, All missionaries were evacuated to Costa Rica, Joseph C Muren was president at this time.

      Chapels and what became of them:

    • Bello Horizonte became the military conscription center-- returned in 1990
    • Granada was confiscated and ransacked, returned in 1990
    • San Judas became an elementry school-- was returned to the church in 1994
    • Masaya, Leon, and Matagalpa were confiscated, returned in 1990
    • Las Palmas (the former stake center) was spared by a quite interesting and miraculous story. It served as the temporary missionary home when the mission was re-opened until the late 90's
    • El Rosairo was destroyed and rebuilt in 1992

    The stake was disbanded and the church was re-ogranized into home units called "Nucleos" that functioned independently. The church was pretty much a silent entity for 10 years with no missionaries and little communication between the Nicaraguan members and other members or leaders.


    by Gardiner Russell

    The man across the aisle from me was reading a book. I asked him about his line of work. He ignored the question, continued reading. A few minutes later I tried again. This time he slowly put aside the book, looked at me. "I am Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca and work with the Ministers of the Sandinista government". I identified myself as a member of the Mormon Church and a General Authority. He commented on the beautiful building--the Temple--which he had seen during his visit to Guatemala, and asked how Nicaragua might have such a building. I briefly explained the purpose of the Temple and informed him that to qualify for a Temple there would need to be, other things being equal 50,000 members of the Church, but that it might be possible to consider a Temple once 30,000 Nicaraguans were members. "How many members of your church are there in Nicaragua?", he asked. I replied that there were approximately 3,000. We talked for awhile. He then extended an invitation for me to visit Nicaragua.

    Following my report to the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve at October General Conference, I received authorization to travel to Managua, Nicaragua, which I did, arriving there in the afternoon of October 28th. Accompanying me was Elder Carlos Amado, Regional Representative, and Isaac Ferguson of Welfare Services joined us later. As we disembarked at the Managua airport, we were met by Alvaro Martínez González of the Foreign Office, taken to a V.I.P. lounge while our entry papers were processed.

    The following morning Alvaro took us to the office of Dr. Martínez Cuenca and we visited the offices of Otoniel Arguello, Minister for Water Resources, and FACS (Augusto Césa Sandinista Foundation). The impression came that Arguello might someday become a member of the Lord's Church. At 5:00 p.m. Elder Amado, President Gustavo Ortega of the only stake in Nicaragua, and I were ushered into a well-appointed office, then after a short wait, into a second office. Finally we entered the office of Minister René Núñez, Secretary to the governing Ministers. He stood before a large desk, the Star of Lenin on his jacket. He did not acknowledge our presence or invite us to sit down, so I began the conversation. "Honorable Señor Ministro, we appreciate your seeing us..but you have a problem." He frowned "What problem?" "Well, I replied, "President Brigham Young of our Church once said that if a man is 26 years of age and not married, he is a danger to the community,and our escort Alvaro is 28 years old and single." The Minister laughed with some relish and it was obvious Alvaro was not one of his favorites.

    He asked what we wanted. I handed him a copy of a list of requests which we had purposely pencilled on a yellow pad the night before, instead of a formal document. "Mr. Russell, if we return the chapels to you, would you come to officially accept their return?" "No, Mr. Minister. The chapels belong to our Nicaraguan members. They are not a matter for the main church. Our Stake President Gustavo Ortega would be happy to represent the Nicaraguan church members. You should know, however, that a total of 85 Nicaraguan members have fought in the Sandinista armed forces, and six have been killed>" "Is this true?" "Yes, Mr. Minister, here is the list which can be verified. Incidentally, of the six soldiers killed, none was active in the Church." And, I handed him the following list:
    Barrio Killed Discharged Still Serving
    Barrio 1 2 8
    Barrio 2 6 6
    Barrio 4 3 6 15
    Masaya 1 2 4
    Granada 6 2
    Matagalpa2 1 4
    Leon 2 2
    Chinandega 6
    Rosarios 2
    TOTALS 6 2549 89

    "Mr. Russell we will plan to return two chapels soon. What else?" "Señor Ministro, we need permission for a Mission Home." "Like a Casa de Seminaristas?", he asked and I replied, "More or less." And for our missionaries to receive visas to work in Nicaragua." He nodded approval. "Only the mechanics need to be worked out". I mentioned that the Honorable Minister could verify with the leaders of East Germany that our beliefs include obeying the laws of the land, and that we had a Temple there.

    Before the end of the year, two chapels had been returned to us and the first Nicaraguan missionaries were called. Since Mexicans were welcome in Nicaragua, the Brethren approved sending 20 missionary leaders selected from the missions in Mexico, to serve with the first 20 Nicas. Later, Guatemalan missionaries also served and the elders received full two-year visas. President Adolfo Avalos directed the missionary work in Nicaragua from his Guatemala Mission Office, through one of his Counselors ,the CES representative in Nicaragua.

    The LDS Church in Post-Santinista Nicaragua by David Shafer

    Soon after the Nicaragua Managua Mission was organized with president Alverez from Guatamala City, Guatamala as the first president.

    There were still no official wards or branches as the church in other countries knew, very few chappels, and a surge of new members with few trained leaders. To get around these problems the church had a "plan pilote" (pilot plan). Under the "plan pilote" the church still met in "nucleos" in members homes. Essentially each all-member active family held mini-services in his home with with part-member families and single members attending the closest "nucleo". The nucleos reported to districts. Each district would take a turn and have one "Traditional" block meeting per month in a chappel (if one was available).

    The North American missionaries returned in 1992. Also in 1992 the Nicaragua Managua mission received a new president. Jose Evenor Boza Dompè, a native of Santo Domingo, Chontales, became the first Nicaraguan to hold the office of Mission president. In 1993 work began on re-orginizing the church as is the rest of the world and in early 1994 the Masaya district was organized with 8 branches, using the existing chapel and several rented buildings. By the end of 1994 all areas of the church were organized into branches and districts. In 1998 the Managua Nicaragua stake was organized which comprises of the western half of Managua.

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