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

Country information: Jamaica

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 2,826,000; Members, 5,990; Districts, 4; Branches, 21; Missions, 1; percent LDS, .21, or one in 472; Caribbean Area.

Located in the West Indies, south of Cuba, Jamaica is an independent state where English and Jamaican Creole are spoken, and 70 percent of the people are Protestants.

The first LDS elder called to Jamaica was Harrison Sagers in 1841, but it is unclear if he ever left Nauvoo and arrived in Jamaica. Twelve years later, James Brown, Aaron F. Farr, Alfred B. Lambson, Darwin C. Richardson, Elijah Thomas, and Jesse Turpin arrived to preach the gospel. They preached in Kingston, Linstead, Spanish Town and near Falmouth. They baptized an English widow, Eliza Kay and her two grandsons near Salisbury and an unknown person in Kingston. Due to resistance from government officials, the elders had few opportunities to preach, and after they were shot at and threatened by mob violence, all but Elder Richardson left about four weeks after their arrival. Elder Richardson followed shortly thereafter upon completing his assignment to ordain Eliza Kay's grandsons to the priesthood.

Little transpired from then until 1969 when two American LDS families, the John L. Whitfields and Jay P. Bills families, came to Jamaica to work for an alumina plant. The two families began holding meetings in Mandeville, and the Mandeville Branch was created 22 March 1970. The Bills also found a Jamaican member, Iris M. Blair, who began attending their meetings. She had joined the Church in 1967 outside of Jamaica and had returned to her homeland. Church member Paul Schmeil introduced the gospel to a Jamaican co-worker, Victor E. Nugent, in 1973.

The first native converts in Jamaica were the Victor and Verna Nugent family baptized 20 January 1974. As new converts, the Nugents remained faithful when the branch's priesthood leaders moved away. They introduced the gospel to the Errol and Josephine Tucker family in February 1978. The two families became the branch's nucleus.

Amos Chin joined the Church while living in Montreal, Canada, in 1976. He returned to Kingston and in 1978 became the first Jamaican missionary. Chin served in the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission and was sent with five others in November 1978 to begin missionary work in Jamaica following President Spencer W. Kimball's June 1978 revelation on the priesthood. The elders were assisted by senior missionaries Rolla "Mac" and Nellie McBride, who served for six months in 1979.

Victor E. Nugent was the first native elder and first Jamaican branch and district president. The first district was organized in Kingston on 4 February 1983 and a second district was formed four years later in Mandeville. Elder M. Russell Ballard, then of the Seventy, visited Jamaica on 5 December, 1978, and in April 1983 Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve was the first apostle to visit the island.

The Jamaica Kingston Mission was organized in 1985 with Richard L. Brough as president. From 1985 to 1988 the Church was persecuted greatly in the press. The period of persecution resulted in greater interest in the Church and membership grew from 520 in 1985 to 2100 in 1989.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, en route to two temple dedications in South America, made a stopover in Kingston 15 May 2002 where he addressed 2,000 people at a fireside. Later that year, in October, the Montego Bay and Linstead districts were organized. All four districts celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Church in Jamaica from 5-7 December 2003 which included the participation of Elder H. Aldridge Gillespie of the Seventy, former mission presidents, and pioneer members Victor and Verna Nugent and Josephine Tucker.

In 2003, there were 5,113 members. In 2005, membership reached 5,499.

Sources: Ella Sagers Swanson, The Sagers Clan, 1980, pg. 55-59; Millennial Star, 2 April 1853; Aaron F. Farr, diary, 1853, Church Archives; Norman B. Manley, Jesse Turpin Pioneer, 1998; Journal History, 11 February 1853; George A. Smith, Rise, Progress, Travels, 1872; Edwin O. Haroldsen, "Jamaica Branch Sees Chain of Baptisms," Church News, 28 August 1976; Jay and Shirley Bills interview, Church Archives; Victor E. Nugent interview, 28 January 2003, Church Archives; Amos B. Chin interview, 16 January 2003, Church Archives; Nellie McBride interview, 13 December 2002, Church Archives; Jamaica news clippings, 1980-2003, Church Archives; Church Almanac, 1991-1992; Greg Hill, "2,000 meet in Jamaica," Church News, 1 June, 2002; Rodney and Geneva Showalter and Sharol Moore, "Joy in Jamaica," Church News, 20 December 2003.

Mission — 1

(As of Oct. 1, 2007; shown with historical number.)

(186a) JAMAICA KINGSTON MISSION

36 1/2-38 Red Hills road

Kingston 10, Jamaica

West Indies