History of the Church in Barbados

David R. Crockett

Barbados is the easternmost Caribbean island. It is an independent sovereign state of Great Britain. Barbados gained its independence in 1966. The inhabitants are English speaking. The island about 14 miles by 21 miles with 260,000 people. See map of West Indies on the West Indies Mission page at: http://www.j2.net/westindies/ See also Barbados tourism page: http://barbados.org/

In 1853, missionaries were sent to open up the West Indies for missionary work. Initially they started their work in Jamaica, baptized a few people, but were forced to leave the island because of opposition. They planned to next sail to Barbados, and purchased tickets on a ship. However, the prejudice was so great against the elders that the harbor agent or naval officers would not allow them to be shipped to any English island. They had to abandon their mission in the West Indies and sailed for New York. (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 4:75)

Over the years, members of the Church have visited Barbados briefly as tourists, or while sailing to South America ports.

In 1950 the government of Barbados invited N. Eldon Tanner (later a member of the First Presidency) to come to Barbados as its guest. The government asked Brother Tanner to help them design a conservation policy on energy resources and to assist in drafting their oil and gas legislation. On April 5, 1950, the Tanners flew to Bridgetown, Barbados, where they were taken to Government House as guests of the governor general, Sir Alfred Savage. Brother Tanner worked hard on negotiations on behalf of Barbados with the British Oil and Petroleum Company, Trinidad Leaseholds, and Gulf Oil Company. He drafted regulations and by early May had worked out agreements. Brother Tanner said: "Though I did not get all I wanted for the island, I am satisfied that they got a good deal, and everyone seemed to be happy and appreciative." During the summer of 1951, the governor and his wife, Sir Alfred and Lady Savage, visited the Tanners in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Included in their grand tour of Edmonton, was a stop at the new LDS chapel. (Durham, N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service, 103-4, 134).

In 1954, future mission president Richard L. Millett visited Barbados briefly, on the way to his mission in Argentina. He wrote: "Barbados is an enchanting island. I first had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with it in 1954 as I traveled in the company of other missionaries to South America by ship on the "SS Brazil," a large ship of 60,000 tons. I have always remembered the day we spent on the island as the ship anchored in the harbor of Bridgetown on its to way South America." This group of missionaries went ashore in a small boat. Brother Millett recalled that young black boys swam out to the ship, begged for the passengers to throw coins overboard, and they would dive and retrieve them.

In September 1959, Elder Harold B. Lee, a member of the Quorum of Twelve visited Barbados briefly on the way to South America. He was traveling to Brazil to divide the mission there. He sailed from New York on the "SS Brazil" and made a short stop at "steamy" Bridgetown, Barbados. (Gibbons, Harold B. Lee: Man of Vision, Prophet of God, 376).

Church History in Barbados - Part 2

In the 1970s, a young man named Greg Young was studying in Scotland. During a break from school, he traveled throughout the United States and received a copy of the Book of Mormon during his travels. He read it and became convinced of its truthfulness. He went to Salt Lake City, to the Church Administration Building and asked to see President Spencer W. Kimball. When asked why he wanted to see the prophet, Greg stated that he wanted to be baptized. The order of the Church was explained to Greg, he was referred to the missionaries, and later baptized.

Greg Young's parents lived in Barbados and owned a hotel. Greg went to visit them and was reunited with old classmates from earlier years. Among these classmates in Barbados was John Naime. Greg, John, and other friends had enjoyed discussions in the past about religion. They had investigated various religions looking for something better. When Greg came back, he didn't mention that he had joined the Church. John Naime had already expressed his opinion that the LDS Church was just another American religion.

But on one particular trip to Barbados in April 1978, Greg began to teach John Naime about the Church, using the missionary discussions as a pattern for teaching. Greg sat through these discussions, often talking with Greg all through the night. John's wife June, and brother Norman also became interested.

Richard Millett shared their conversion:

They talked for many days through the night with John asking, and Greg answering many questions. Because of the truth that John had previously found through his study, he was hesitant about becoming a member. As he listened to Greg explain the same principles to a mutual friend, John could see things clearly and received a testimony through the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of the Gospel. He knew it was "the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth." He knew that Joseph Smith had been an instrument in establishing the Church, and he experienced a great amount of joy. He was happy but could not explain why he felt that way.

John shared his feelings with his wife, June, and she felt it was important to be of the same persuasion. John Naime, June Naime, Norman Naime and Gema Naime were all baptized together at a beach in Barbados, at 7 a.m. on April 16, 1978. Brother Young had received permission from his bishop in Scotland to baptize some people before he returned to Barbados, not realizing there was a mission of the Church in the Caribbean. One by one, Greg confirmed the four converts and conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon John and Norman and later felt impressed to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood on John so that he could conduct church meetings. The next day Greg baptized Sister Foster, whom John had been with when he received a witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel and who had also been a member of their discussion group.

In June 1978, the John and June Naime visited Salt Lake City. At the Church Administration Building they met a Brother Stoneman, who had remembered Greg Young's earlier visit. Brother Stoneman sent them to Patriarch Eldred G. Smith for their partriarchal blessings. Elder Richard G. Scott made some calls to verify that the Naimes were indeed members of the Church and found their records in Oxford, England. He discovered the events surrounding their unusual entrance into the Church and verified with Greg Young's bishop that Brother Young had been worthy to perform the ordinances. Elder Scott then called President Richard L. Millett of the Florida Ft. Lauderdale mission and asked President Millett if he would accept the baptisms of the Naimes. President Millett felt good about this. He was surprised and delighted to learn that there were members of the Church in Barbados. The Naimes were asked to stop in Florida to visit with President Millett on their return trip.

John and June Naime visited the mission home in Florida on July 19, 1978. President Millett wrote in his journal: "We spent most of the day visiting and getting acquainted with the Naimes. They are fine people and will be helpful in getting the Church established in their country. Because they are completely new to the Church, we spent a great deal of time instructing them about doctrine and Church organization. We gave them materials so that they could begin holding organized meetings and sent them on their way back to Barbados. We plan to visit them soon to see how things are progressing."

In the months to follow, President Millett kept in contact with John Naime by phone and worked with him to start the work of obtaining recognition for the Church in Barbados. President Millet also visited Barbados a few times. The Naimes met together as a small group, the pioneer members of the Church in Barbados. (From a history written by Richard L. Millett, "The Work Spreads to the Other Islands of the Caribbean.")

In July 1979 the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission was formed. It included Barbados and other islands of the Caribbean. During September 1979, Richard L. Millett, president of the mission, opened up Barbados for missionary work. The first missionaries were LDS-Gems subscriber Brent Hintze and Kent Bunker. Later sent were Mark Griffith, Sean Price, and a missionary couple, Elder and Sister Slade. They were later replaced by Ralph and Faun Johnson who provided wonderful experienced leadership.

The missionaries experienced immediate success. A few converts joined the small number of devoted Saints. A house was rented for the group to meet in. On October 20, 1979 the Christ Church Branch was organized with John Naime as the branch president, with his brother Norman as one of his counselors.

Norman Naime and his wife Sharon visited the Milletts in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Sharon Naime had not yet been baptized. Norman Naime received his patriarchal blessing during this visit and they attended Church meetings in Florida. President Millet recalled:

I invited Sharon Naime to visit with me and asked her why she had not joined the Church. She knew that the Church was true, but something was holding her back. I invited her to be baptized and quoted Mosiah 18:8-10 to her, which helped her to commit to joining the Church. I suggested to Sister Naime that it would be nice for her husband Norman to baptize her, but it took some convincing to get him to do it. It was accomplished, and she was baptized before returning to their home. (From a history written by Richard L. Millett, "The Work Spreads to the Other Islands of the Caribbean.")
The gospel moved forward with great speed in Barbados. This rapid growth soon slowed as strong opposition grew and anti-Mormon articles appeared in newspapers and other media. President Millett made visits to Barbados to hold meetings with the missionaries in members. He recorded in his journal:
We had an interesting experience during one of our visits to Barbados. We had a very enjoyable visit with the missionaries. They are doing a marvelous job and making many friends for the Church. The Naimes have added a lot of strength to the Church. We have called Brother John Naime to serve as branch president and his brother Norman as his counselor. They were hesitant to serve because of their lack of experience in the Church, but they have not only served well but have given a great deal of strength to the new branch.

At our investigator-member meeting in the evening, we had a very good turnout of members, new converts and investigators. The meeting went very well. President and Sister Talley gave wonderful testimonies of how the Gospel had changed and helped their lives and family. [Frank Talley was a counselor to President Millett.] I was the concluding speaker, and I was blessed with an abundance of the Spirit as I talked. (Ibid.)

In January 1980, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Seventy toured the mission with President Millett. During their stay in the Dominican Republic, they drank some bad punch at an open house for the Wirthlins. When they arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados, they were "a sorry lot" and could hardly walk. President Millett wrote in his journal:
Elders Hintze and Bunker met us at the airport, after our 'march' from the airplane to the terminal. Most of us looked like 'death warmed over.' Denna just about fainted and Sister Talley could hardly put one foot in front of the other. However, we did make it to the hotel. Elder Wirthlin and I were starting to feel somewhat better than the rest because we had forced ourselves to eat even when we didn't feel like it, and this appeared to help us get over the bugs we had ingested in the Dominican Republic. . . . By late evening we went to the branch for an open house with the members and investigators. We had a wonderful meeting, and the spirit was very strong. Those who attended were impressed with Elder Wirthlin's comments and those of the others who participated in the service. (Ibid.)
The Barbados government started to require that missionaries obtain work permits in order to enter the country. These permits were expensive to the Church and limited the number of missionaries that could be sent. In about 1982, Richard Millett, now working for the Missionary Department was asked to gather information for the Brethren regarding these visa problems. Brother Millett contacted "Bill" Marriott, Jr., stake president in the Washington D.C. area. The Marriots had a hotel in Barbados and employed the wife of the Prime Minister of Barbados. Brother Marriott was able to help resolve the work permit problem, allowing more missionaries to enter the country.

On June 20, 1983, the West Indies Mission was created which included Barbados. The first Mission President was Kenneth L. Zabriskie. Barbados was chosen for the mission headquarters. The mission home was established in a house that once belonged to a prime minister of Barbados. On August, 24, 1983, the Black Rock Branch was organized with Norman Namie as the branch president.

In 1984 Roy Caddick was called as the mission president in the West Indies. He was followed by A. Dean Jeffs in 1988.

In 1988 the government again put restrictions on the number of missionaries allowed to come to the island. No more than ten missionaries could serve on the island at any one time. At that time there were twenty missionaries in Barbados. At its peak, there had been as many as twenty-four. All of the missionaries that were required to leave Barbados were transferred to Trinidad, which had recently allowed missionaries to once again serve on that island. (From history by Matthew Fisk.)

This reduction in missionaries contributed to the closure of the Speightstown Branch. The branches that remained operating were: the Christ Church Branch, the Black Rock Branch, and the Oistins Branch. (From history by Joshua M. Ausborne).

In 1990 Lloyd and Betty Stoker, of Idaho, served as missionaries in Barbados. Brother Stoker served as president of the Black Rock Branch. He desired to see local members receive the blessings of the temple. He explained:

There came a letter from the Church informing us of a special fund available to help members get to the temple. Of course, the members were to do all in their own power to finance themselves first. With the extra-mile effort of the mission president, his assistants, stake leaders in Washington, D.C., the temple presidency and the area presidency, a group excursion to the Washington Temple materialized. Church members in Washington helped with housing and local transportation.

The Barbados members worked hard to finance themselves. Most were able to, but some, due to extenuating circumstances, needed help from the fund. My wife and I chaperoned them to and through the temple, on our way home to Idaho, where we then lived. In addition to the temple experience, which included endowments, baptisms for the dead and sealings, stake patriarchs were arranged for to give the group patriarchal blessings. The temple president spoke at a special fireside.

The group consisted of one brother from the Oistins Branch, one family of four from the Christ Church Branch, and six members from the Black Rock Branch. What a thrill and blessing it was for us to see these wonderful members from Barbados have the opportunity to go to the temple. (Church News, February 21, 1998)

In 1991 Eldon L. Wood was called as the new mission president. He was followed by President Roy R. Valentine in 1994. During that year the West Indies Mission headquarters was moved to Trinidad.

In 1997 there were eight missionaries serving on the island. There were more than 500 members. During that year Kenneth J. Mason was called as the new mission president.