KWES Channel 9 in the Midland-Odessa area of west Texas is reporting an upsurge in Hispanic members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the local area.
During the past few years, the LDS Church has established two new Spanish-speaking branches -– one in Midland and one in Odessa -- to accommodate the increase in Hispanic members. The combined total of both branches is over 300 members. The LDS Church establishes linguistic congregations when there is sufficient demand because we believe everyone should hear the Gospel preached in their own native language whenever possible. The Hispanic members of these branches voluntarily attend their services; they are free to transfer their membership to a standard congregation, or ward, at any time. Hispanic growth has accelerated further during the past year; from May 2009 until May 2010, the Texas Lubbock Mission, which includes the Midland-Odessa area, reported a 41 percent increase in Hispanic baptisms.
The branches fall under the jurisdiction of the Odessa Texas Stake, which has a total of 10 congregations. To find locations and meeting times, visit the Meetinghouse Locator. Members of the Stake who have temple recommends do their temple work at the Lubbock Temple, which is their assigned facility.
The one Hispanic Mormon profiled in the story, Miguel Salazar, learned about the Church from classical cold-calling missionaries. "The missionaries came and knocked on our door and asked if they could have the opportunity to teach us the gospel and we did...I felt the spirit and I liked it," Salazar explained.
As Mormons, we believe most Hispanics (and Amerindians) possess some degree of Lamanite ancestry, although we now acknowledge that the Lamanites and the Nephites were not the only people living in the Western Hemisphere between 600 B.C. until the finale at Cumorah in 384 A.D., the time period covered in the Book of Mormon. As a result, outreach to Hispanics and Amerindians has always been a special-interest item since the establishment of the Church. Nevertheless, we do value EVERYONE who joins our ranks. I encourage readers to visit the newly-reorganized Mormon.org website and read the stories of those who have joined.