LDS Church celebrates Latino culture

The Salt Lake Tribune/November 14, 2004
By Dawn House

The presence of about 16,250 people at a Spanish-speaking event at the LDS Conference Center indicates a modern Mormon migration akin to the settlement of 19th century pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, an LDS General Authority said Saturday night.

Speaking at the "Luz de las Naciones," a celebration of Latino culture, Elder Jay Jensen of the First Quorum of Seventy also told the audience to obey laws of the land, be prayerful and follow counsel of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Dancers, singers, musicians and entertainers presented the diverse cultural heritage of Latin America. The program also featured colorful, authentic national dresses, folk arts and video footage of countrysides throughout Central and South America.

The audience joined in singing familiar national songs, such as "Mexico Lindo y Querido," or "Mexico, Beautiful and Beloved," clapped to the rhythm of a Paraguayan harp, an Argentine Malambo, a Guatemalan marimba and hummed along to the haunting strains of an Andean pan flute.

"We become near to the Lord through music more than any other thing except prayer," said Jensen. "We have been close to the Lord tonight."

Said M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of Twelve, on behalf of the LDS First Presidency, "God bless you." He also told the 1,000-volunteer cast "it's been a marvelous evening."

The program was entirely in Spanish, and not all audience members understood the language. But that didn't seem to matter.

"It was beautiful," said Rebecca Atwood, Salem. "I didn't understand the words, but the hymns that are my favorites were every bit as beautiful sung in Spanish."

Spanish is the second most common language spoken by Mormons. Worldwide membership in the LDS Church is about 12 million, said church spokesman Dale Bills. About 31 percent of Mormons worldwide speak Spanish, compared with 5.9 percent of the world's population of 6.2 billion.

The third most frequent language spoken by Mormons is Portuguese, which 7.5 percent of the LDS Church population speaks.

The 4.3 million Mormons living in Latin America - including the Portuguese-speaking Brazil - is fast approaching the 5.2 million LDS members in the United States.

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