Brigham Young University

The first Latter-day Saints to arrive in Chile were Elder Parley P. Pratt, his wife Phebe, and Elder Rufus C. Allen. Because of revolutionary conditions and the missionaries’ inability to learn Spanish, they remained only a few months. On 2 March 1852, Elder Pratt left Chile “without a sufficiency of the language to turn the keys of the Gospel as yet” (Pratt, 397). The next Latter-day Saint presence did not come until the early 1950s, when the family of William Fotheringham moved to Santiago. President David O. McKay visited them there in 1954. In 1956 Chile became part of the Argentine mission. In June of that year, Elders Joseph C. Bentley and Verle Allred arrived from Argentina, and on 25 November they baptized Ricardo Garci­a and others. The first branch was organized at Santiago on 5 June 1956 (later known as the Ñuñoa Branch). There were about 450 members in Chile in 1959 when the country became part of the new Andes Mission.

The Chilean Mission, with Delbert Palmer as president, was organized 8 October 1961 with 1,100 members. By 1972 there were 20,000 members in the country, and on 19 November Elder Gordon B. Hinckley organized the first stake at Santiago, with Carlos Cifuentes as president. That same year the Church Educational System began the seminary program in Chile and for a time operated a school in Santiago.

On 27 February 1977, President Spencer W. Kimball addressed an audience of more than 7,000. On this occasion, Elder Bruce R. McConkie prophesied that the Church would become the most powerful influence in the nation. He predicted that the existing seven stakes would become seventy times seven. The Santiago Temple was dedicated by President Hinckley in 10 sessions 15-17 September 1983. In 1996 the Chile Area was organized with F. Melvin Hammond as president and Jerald Lynn Taylor and Eduardo Lamartine as counselors. The following year the 100th stake was organized at Puerto Varas, Chile, becoming one of four nations to have 100 or more stakes. This came only 25 years after the first stake had been organized.

On 23 August 1998, the land of Chile was officially dedicated by Elder M. Russell Ballard, grandson of Elder Melvin J. Ballard, who had dedicated the continent of South America three-quarters of a century earlier. On 26 April 1999, President Hinckley presided at a conference attended by about 57,500 in a large stadium in the nation’s capital. At the beginning of the year 2000 there were 502,153 members in Chile living in 186 stakes and 1,879 wards and branches. Church members represent more than 3% of the population the highest ratio of Latter-day Saints of any country in the world outside of Polynesia.

Year-end 2005: Est. population, 15,981,000; Members, 539,193; Stakes, 74; Wards, 424; Branches, 183; Missions, 9; Districts, 24; Temples, 1; Percent LDS, 3.3, or one in 30; Source 2007 Church Almanac.]


1997-1998 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1996. 308-11.

Palmer, A. Delbert. “Establishing the LDS Church in Chile.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1979.

Pratt, Parley P. Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966. 371-403.


From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 199-200. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.