LDS Church News Archives,
Saturday, May 11, 1991

 From a tiny seed comes great growth


 In a sunrise service held in the Philippines on April 28, 1961, a special prayer asking a
blessing on missionary work was given and a tiny seed was planted. Now 30 years later,
the tiny seed has grown into a "mighty tree" - like the mahogany trees that dot the forests
of this island country.

 President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, prayed that
the people of the land would be friendly and hospitable, and kind and gracious to those
who would come to the Philippines. He also prayed, saying "there shall be many thousands
who shall receive this message and be blessed."

 Thirty years later, members have seen that prayer answered with the Philippines becoming
one of the fastest growing areas of the Church with an average of 1,870 convert baptisms a
month. Last year 22,556 convert baptisms were recorded.

 There are now more than 250,000 members in the Philippines in 42 stakes, 52 districts and
12 missions (three were opened in 1990).

 "We are anticipating doubling membership in the next five years," said Elder L. Lionel
Kendrick of the Seventy and president of the Philippines/Micronesia Area. "That is just
through normal growth, not by expanding our efforts."

 In his prayer given at the American Memorial Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio, on the outskirts
of Manila, President Hinckley also prayed that many faithful, good, virtuous and true men
would join the Church and receive the blessings of the priesthood and grow in leadership.

 "The big challenge still remains to train leadership and keep up with increased growth,"
Elder Kendrick said. "When you get large growth patterns, you find yourself calling
bishops and branch presidents that have not been in the Church very long.

 "Great emphasis is placed on leadership training to try and keep up with the growth so
leaders are not overwhelmed by the mass influx of new members."

 Missionaries "are focusing on families and looking for leaders to be baptized so we are
sure we've got enough leadership potential coming into the waters of baptism to take care
of others being baptized."

 Current priesthood leadership also remains strong and provides a great example for new
members joining the Church, Elder Kendrick added.

 "We are extremely pleased with the caliber of our regional representatives and mission
presidents," he said. "They are mature in the gospel. They are great leaders and we rely
heavily on them. That's a very encouraging sign in the Philippines."

 About 42 percent of the mission presidents, five out of 12, are Filipino members. About
2,000 missionaries currently serve in the Philippines with 67 percent, or two-thirds of the
missionary force, being Filipino.

 "We feel this is a good mix. We are very encouraged," Elder Kendrick continued.

 Church meetings were held in the Philippines as early as 1898, but most meetings were held
for soldiers stationed in the area or for the few converts who joined the Church after
hearing about the gospel from the soldiers.

 The Philippines was dedicated Aug. 21, 1955, at Clark Field by President Joseph Fielding
Smith of the Council of the Twelve. But it wasn't until June 5, 1961, that the first
missionaries arrived in the Philippines.

 Now there are 233 wards and 463 branches in this tropical country. The Philippines also
has its own Missionary Training Center, established in 1983, and a temple, dedicated in

 The temple was a great boon to members, who earlier had to travel to Japan, Hawaii or
New Zealand to go to the temple. Built on a hilltop, the temple has become a symbol of
faith for Filipino members.

 "The members are excited and feel extremely pleased with the growth of the Church here,"
Elder Kendrick remarked.

 "Our focus as a presidency is to look at the real growth of the Church, not only convert
baptisms and the normal increases with birth, but also what the activity level is and how
many we are retaining and how many are reactivated.

 And they are seeing the fruits of their work. In the Philippines Naga Mission, for example,
there is now a 74 percent retention rate of new converts.

 "What we want to do is stay with the basics and do them well. Our feeling is that we need
to take the Church to the people. We are trying to construct buildings closer to people to
address the real needs of members."

 A significant cause of inactivity in the Church is high transportation costs, Elder Kendrick
explained. Many members are unable to come to Church meetings and activities on a
regular basis because of high costs. For some members, it could cost a day's pay to bring
the whole family to a stake conference.

 "One way to increase reactivation is to get the units closer to the people so it's not such an
expensive process to attend Church. There are rather large families in the Philippines and
sometimes only mom and dad or some of their children can afford to come to meetings.

 "We hope to be able to cut down the geographic size of stakes and districts and hold
divided sessions of conference - one session in one end of the stake and the second session
at the other end. We are looking at ways we can take the Church to the people."

 Communication challenges must also be overcome, Elder Kendrick remarked. Although
most Church meetings are held in English, there are 87 different dialects, with Tagalog being
the national language.

 As of the first of January this year, Tagalog was added to the languages at the Missionary
Training Center in Provo, Utah. Once the missionaries pick up one dialect, it is easy to
master another, he said.

 "We are indeed living in a moment in time in the history of the Church in the Philippines that
is of the greatest importance," Elder Kendrick declared. "President Hinckley spoke under
the inspiration of the Spirit and we have been blessed just 30 years later to see those
prophecies come true.

 "The Filipino people are some of the greatest people I have ever associated with. They
have sweet spirits and deep testimonies. What a joy and blessing it is to serve them and live
among them," said Elder Kendrick. - Sheridan R. Sheffield

 (c) 1996 LDS church News and Deseret News Publishing Co.