Guatemala


Population: 17,005,497

Income per capita(US$): $3,903

LDS Membership: 267,470

Number of LDS Congregations: 430

Number of LDS Missions: 6

Number of LDS Temples: 2

LCF Programs in Guatemala

Chulac District

Cobán Stake

Cuilapa District

Escuintla Stake

Jalapa Stake

Malacatan Stake

Momostenango Stake

Momostenango Paxajtup District

Momostenango West District

Motagua District

Patzicia Stake

Pueblo Nuevo Tiquisate District

Puerto Barrios District

Quetzaltenango el Bosque Stake

Quiche District

Retalhuleu Stake

Rio Blanco District

Salama District

San Felipe Stake

Serchil District

Sololá District

Totonicapán Stake

Guatemala – History & Demographics

Guatemala is located south of Mexico and is bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The land boasts steep volcanoes and vast rain forests, and it is known for its ancient Mayan sites. The Mayan civilization flourished in Guatemala and the surrounding countries in Central America for hundreds of years. Guatemala was then a Spanish colony for nearly 300 hundred years until winning its independence in the early 1800’s. Unfortunately, in the 20th century Guatemala experienced many years of internal conflict, including a 36-year guerrilla war, and more than 200,000 people lost their lives. In addition to the vast number of deaths, many were left without homes and hundreds of thousands became refugees. 

The climate in Guatemala is tropical with hot and humid lowlands and cooler highlands. In size, Guatemala is slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania. The terrain is mostly mountainous with narrow coastal plains and rolling plateaus of limestone. There are numerous volcanoes including the active Pacaya volcano, which has erupted several times in the past decade and often covers Guatemala City in ash. Pacaya is located about 19 miles southwest of Guatemala City near Antigua, which is known for its cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial buildings.

History of the Liahona Children's Foundation in Guatemala

The largely indigenous areas of Momostenango, Solola, and Quetzaltenango were the last holdouts of the ancient Mayan empire, and the lands where many believe the events of the Book of Mormon took place. Full of volcanoes, stunning lakes, and verdant valleys, missionary work has been quite successful among these rural descendants of the Mayans. Unfortunately, poverty is common, with malnutrition rates of 50% among the LDS children screened. In 2008, Guatemala was one of the first countries in which the Liahona Children's Foundation established nutritional supplementation programs. The nutrition program in Guatemala has grown from one stake in 2008 to now include 13 stakes/districts as of November 2014.

The LDS Church in Guatemala

John Forres O'Donnal arrived in Guatemala on May 21, 1942. He had graduated from the University of Arizona and came to work for an American company that wanted to start the rubber industry in this country. John was the perfect person to guide the development of this product in Guatemala and to this day rubber continues to be produced in the country. In September 1942, he met Maria del Carmen Galvez and they married in January 1943, and so began the O'Donnal family. John and Carmen, now deceased, had 4 children, 26 grandchildren, 66 great grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

Along with the O'Donnal family, the Church began to grow in Guatemala. Upon his arrival, John asked the Church to send missionaries. In 1947, Central America was added to the Mexican Mission and on September 4th of the same year the first four missionaries arrived. In less than three years, the first congregation of the Church was organized in Guatemala.

On November 16, 1952, the Central American Mission was created with Gordon M. Romney as president.  Elder Spencer W. Kimball presided at the organizational conference, and he was accompanied by Elder Bruce R. McConkie.  130 people attended in a rented house on 3rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenue in Guatemala City.

In 1965, the mission was divided to create the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission headed by President Terrence L. Hansen with 32 branches and fourteen thousand members, and the Central American mission headed by President Ted E. Brewerton with three thousand members and 8 branches with headquarters in Costa Rica.

On December 17, 1951, Clemencia Pivaral, the first female member was called as a missionary assigned to El Paso, Texas, USA.

On January 9, 1955, the Chapel Montufar on 12th street 3-37 zone 9 was dedicated as the first chapel in Guatemala by Elder Le Grand Richards, one of the apostles of the Church.

On February 12, 1956, Elder David O. McKay visited Guatemala, who conducted three conferences with an attendance of 141, 201 and 273 members each.

In 1964, Elder Marion G. Romney presided over a conference and said if you want to have a stake in Guatemala, you have to work like the devil.

On May 21, 1967, the first stake was organized in Central America under the direction of Elders Marion G. Romney and Theodore Tuttle, with Udine Falabella as President, Enrique Rittscher and Erwin Rafael Afre Gutiérrez as Counselors.  There were six wards, with Bishops Gonzalo Valenzuela, Samuel Ramírez, Alberto Vásquez, Gerardo Eduardo Mendoza, Pedro Fernández, and Humberto Ardón.  The first missionary to be called from this stake was Enrique Falabella.

In November 1966, the first temple tour to Mesa, Arizona was organized, and the seminary program began.

On August 4, 1967, the Mission President was David G. Clark. It was in this period leaders conducted visionary study on the future of the church in which was outlined how step by step by 1987 there would be 21 stakes in Guatemala.  It happened just as planned. It was also at this time that the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission had the highest number of baptisms in the world. Subsequent Presidents were Glade Harvey, Robert Arnold and Carlos Amado, with Elder Amado presiding 4 years instead of the usual 3. Then in 1976 the mission was divided again to create the first Guatemalan mission. Today there are six missions in the country. In 1966, the Church was officially recognized by the government and was granted legal status. The church had grown to 10,000 members.

In 1975, missionary work began addressing people speaking indigenous languages. The gospel message was well received by them and today this group is an integral part of the Church in Guatemala. Like other members, they are faithful and have sent many missionaries to participate in the Lord's service.

Carlos H. Amado and Enrique R. Falabella, both of Guatemala, are members of the First Quorum of the Seventy. The scriptures promise "Before the coming of the Lord the Lamanites [Latin people] will blossom as a rose." Guatemalans are making an important contribution to fulfilling this promise. The Church as an organization strives to serve Guatemalans through wellness programs, employment and humanitarian service.

July 1, 1976, the Quetzaltenango Mission was organized, with John F. O'Donnal as president.

The church has grown rapidly, has organized stakes, divided missions, called Seventies, and as General Authorities we preside over our own soil. The Lord is working hard and our peak has not been reached. We remember the admonition of President Kimball in the area conference on February 21-22, 1977: “BROTHERS AND SISTERS KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS”.

In 1981, the construction of the temple of Guatemala was announced, and it was dedicated December 14-16, 1984. John F. O'Donnal was the first temple president. At that time, the membership had grown to forty thousand members with 8 stakes and 13 districts. President Gordon B. Hinckley gave the dedicatory prayer. Currently, there are over 420 congregations, 40 stakes and two temples in the country.

 (History compiled and written by Gloria P. Rosales of Momostenango, Guatemala. Gloria is also the LCF Regional Supervisor of Central America and oversees all of the LCF nutrition programs in Central America.)