Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: Bahamas

Published: Monday, Jan. 25, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 309,000; Members, 810; Branches, 3; District 1;Percent LDS, .26, or one in 381; Caribbean Area; Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission.

A Caribbean commonwealth, the Bahamas is made up of nearly 700 islands. Its English-speaking population includes Baptist, 29 percent; Anglican, 23 percent; and Roman Catholic, 22 percent. A sizable portion of the population are Creole-speakers from Haiti.

In the late 1960s and 1970s LDS families from America held their own Church services while living in the Bahamas during work assignments. In the summer of 1979 two LDS families, Larry and Margery McCombs and Albert and Karen Ballard, moved to Nassau and suggested to Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission president Richard L. Millett that missionaries might be welcome in the Bahamas.

The next mission president Glen E. Stringham sent four missionaries to Naussau and two missionaries to Freeport in November 1979. The elders only stayed for a few months because their visas were not renewed by the government. President Stringham met with government officials, including the Christian Council, who expressed concerns about the Church's intentions to convert people throughout the island. Full-time young missionaries were not permitted to return until March 1985. However, missionary couple Thomas E. and Donna Bauman, arrived in 1982 and did medical volunteer work, strengthened the branch, and were followed by other couples.

Alexandre Paul, consul general from Haiti to the Bahamas, and his wife Helene were baptized on 6 January 1980. The Nassau Branch was organized in February 1981, with recently returned missionary Chris Ballard as president. Over the years membership in the Church has come primarily from the Haitian and Bahamian population in the country. In May 1982 Antoine Ferrier a Haitian became the first local branch president, a calling he held for eight years. His wife Leona, was called at the same time to serve as the first local Relief Society president. Some 48 investigators and members attended the first branch conference on 12 September 1981.

In June 1986 the Soldier Road Branch was formed for Creole-speaking Haitian members. The first meetinghouse in the Bahamas was dedicated on 8 May 1988. The Soldier Road and Nassau Branches were combined in 1998 and the New Providence Branch was created with meetings in English and translation in Haitian-Creole. An expansion was made to the chapel and was dedicated for the New Providence branch on 24 September 2000. Though a branch had been formed in 1979 in Freeport on the Grand Bahama Island, it was later discontinued in 1982 due to a reduction in membership. In May 2000 there were enough members to form the Grand Bahama Branch.

On 20 November 1997 Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Nassau and blessed the land. One family he visited with was the Adolfo and Elizabeth Rabasto family, a Filipino family who moved to the island of Exuma in August 2000 where he is a physician. As of 2004 they were the only Church members on the island and hold their own Sunday meetings and seminary for their teenage children.

In 1987 Bahamian Edward R. Smith decided to take free Creole classes given by his friend Antoine Ferrier in the Soldier Road meetinghouse in Nassau, which led to Smith's baptism in April 1988. He later served as branch president from 1990 to 1998. Smith was called as the first native district president in June 2003, less than a year after the New Providence Bahamas District was formed on 15 September 2002.

Sources: Margery McCombs, Telephone conversation, 15 June 2004; "First Dedication Nears," Church News, 19 March 1988; Florida Fort Lauderdale, Mission Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Joe and Julia Todd, Electronic mail, 19 May 2004; Joe and Julia Todd, Telephone conversation, 7 June 2004.