Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 45,644,000; Members, 163,764; Stakes, 27; Wards, 167; Branches, 98; Missions, 4; Districts, 13; Temples, 1; percent LDS, .36, or one in 279; South America North Area.
Located in the northwest corner of South America, Colombia is a republic.
Andes Mission president J. Vernon Sharp and his wife, Fawn, visited Bogota in 1960 to assess prospects for missionary work. However, active efforts did not begin until early 1966, when approximately 45 members, mostly North Americans, were meeting in branches in Bogota and Cali. Two missionaries, Randall Harmsen and Jerry Broome of the Andes Mission, were assigned to Bogota in May of that year. They soon rented the former residence of a military general for the first Church meetinghouse. Among the first converts in Bogota was Antonio Vela. Aura Ivars was the first convert in Cali. A government resolution on 6 December 1966 gave the Church legal status. The Colombia-Venezuela Mission was created in 1968. By 1971, there were 27 branches established in 10 cities, and the mission was divided, with the new Colombian Mission headquartered in Bogota. In 1975, the Colombia Cali Mission was created and the Colombia Barranquilla Mission was formed in 1988. Seminaries and institutes were begun in 1972, and by 1976, there were 900 students taking part in the educational programs.
President Spencer W. Kimball visited Colombia and spoke to a gathering of 4,600 at an area conference on 5 March 1977. That year, the first stake in Colombia was created in Bogota on 23 January. Two years later, Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, visited Colombia in January 1979.
In September 1989, internal political difficulties led to a temporary withdrawal of North American missionaries. In the 1980s and early 1990s, extremists occasionally committed acts of violence against Church facilities. Despite these problems, missionary work continued to progress. Membership in Colombia by 1999 had reached 129,105. The first General Authority from Colombia was Julio Davila, who was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in 1991.
A temple was announced for Colombia on 7 April 1984, and a site for the temple was announced in 1988. However, construction was delayed pending government approvals. Following countrywide fasts of Latter-day Saints, government approval was received and the long-awaited construction of the Bogota Colombia Temple began in the late spring of 1995. President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Bogota 8 November 1996, spoke to 7,100 members, and toured the temple construction project while there. After 15 years, the temple was dedicated on 24 April 1999, in what President Hinckley called “the greatest event in the history of Colombia.”
Earlier that year, on 25 January 1999, a devastating earthquake struck the mountain community of Armenia, Colombia, and the Church responded immediately with relief supplies. The day after the earthquake which killed 920 people including three Church members, a truck from the stakes in Bogota arrived in Armenia with food, clothing, and water. Two trucks arrived later from Cali and another from the two stakes in Medellin and nearby districts.
In 2002, membership reached 139,351, and 146,302 in 2004.
The warm relationship between the Church and this South American country was highlighted 2 December 2005 when the Colombian Congress honored the Church for its humanitarian service that has bettered the lives Colombians in need. Elder Claudio R. M. Costa of the Seventy accepted the congressional commendation.
Sources: Andes Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Colombian Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Gordon Irving, “Colombia: A Background Paper,” Church Archives; Sistema Educativa de La Iglesia, Historia de la Iglesia en Colombia, 1986; Bombing of the El Prado Ward meetinghouse, January 1994, Church Archives; Donald Q. Cannon and Richard O. Cowan, Unto Every Nation: Gospel Light Reaches Every Land, 2003; Jack E. Jarrard, “Church in Colombia Moving Ahead,” Church News, 1 February 1969; Colleen J. Heniger, “The Saints in Colombia,” Ensign, October, 1976; “Colombia,” Ensign, February 1977; Dell Van Orden, “Love, Respect and Emotion End Area Conference Series,” Church News, 12 March 1977; “9 Missions Created, World Total Now 221,” Church News, 19 March 1988; “Work Begins on Colombia Temple,” Church News, 3 June 1995; “Prophet Visits South America,” Church News, 16 November 1996; “Hundreds of LDS Affected by Earthquake, Church News, 6 February 1999; John L. Hart, “Greatest Event in History of Colombia,” Church News, 1 May 1999; Jason Swensen, “Colombian Congress honors LDS humanitarian service,” Church News, 10 December 2005.