In August of this year, 1997, Saints in Uruguay celebrated the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Uruguay mission. One of the early missionaries, LaMar Williams, participated in this event. He said: "All were impressed with the feeling that in spite of the distance and the years that have passed, the friendships that you make in the gospel are eternal. This was an experience never to be forgotten for all of us who traveled to Uruguay for such a special occasion." (Church News, "Uruguay mission, created in 1947, still flourishing," September 27, 1997)
The highlight of this anniversary year was a visit from President Gordon B. Hinckley on August 9, 1997, when he spoke to 250 missionaries, 1,264 priesthood leaders, and 11,500 members in a general session of the conference in Montevideo.
In the Priesthood session, President Hinckley said: "Ours is the responsibility as stake presidents, as bishops, as quorum presidents, as officers of the Church in whatever capacity, to care for those who come into the Church. Look after the convert. Save the convert and you will look after the future of the Church in this land. From this day forward, let us resolve to save the convert." (Church News, "Visit is climax to events, greeted with reverence, joy," August 23, 1997)
On August 10, 1997, President Hinckley spoke to thousands of Saints gathered at the Cilindro Municipal Stadium. Providing music for the conference was a 600-voice choir, all dressed in white shirts or blouses. At the conclusion of the meeting, members waved with white handkerchiefs and stood in reverent and tearful silence as President Hinckley and his group left the stadium.
Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy and president of the South America South Area was with President Hinckley at this conference. He said: "His comments were extremely exciting. "There is a new vigor and enthusiasm in Uruguay, and the prophet capped it. The work was going well, but now we are in a new era, and President Hinckley started it."
Earlier during this anniversary year, Uruguay received its second mission -- The Uruguay Montevideo West Mission. The Uruguay Montevideo Mission was divided in half, with nine stakes or districts in the new mission and 10 stakes or districts retained. The president of the Uruguay Montevideo Mission, Lynn G. Robbins, returned home and was called as a member of the Second Quorum of Seventy in April. He said: "What a marvelous experience it's been to work full time in the Lord's service and see the many miracles happen. The miracle of miracles is witnessing the change that comes in people's lives when they come unto Christ, and seeing their countenance actually change." (Church News, "This testimony grew line upon line as he exercised faith," June 28, 1997)
Elder John B. Dickson commented about Uruguay: "These are a beautiful people, anxious to follow Heavenly Father and come close to Him and know His Son and participate in the blessing of the restored gospel. Three new stakes were created in Uruguay last year and there is a real excitement in the area about the Church. The work is rolling ahead very nicely.... We have second- and third-generation Saints who know how to do the work and they are getting better all the time. The mission presidents have done an excellent job in helping these people catch the vision of what to do to prepare for the future." (Church News, Church to Create Eight New Missions," March 1, 1997)
Also during this anniversary year, Saints in Uruguay participated in the worldwide Pioneer Heritage Day. Edgardo Borba reported to LDS-GEMS that 104 members of the Montevideo Uruguay Flores Stake gave 570 hours of service repairing a grade school. "We generally repaired and maintained the electrical installation of all three floors; cleaning and paint of the front doors to the school (8 doors); scraping and painting of the front wall; removing old plants from the front of the school; changed 40 windows, repaired non-working windows, repaired six bathrooms;sanding and fixing 80 desks, chairs, tables, etc.; fixing some defects in the finish-work on the walls;cleaning and painting 25 chalkboards;sweeping and mopping of 120 square meters of inside floor; giving 40 pillows from the Relief Society, clothes for the children, shoes, etc.; fixing of the stairs and metalwork, clean (remove grass, etc.) the sidewalks in front of the school, and a general clean-up of the school." (See: http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/service/service.html )
There are now about 67,000 Saints in Uruguay, in 14 Stakes.