Mission History




LA MISION ESPANA BARCELONA
A Brief History of the Spain Barcelona Mission

Prior Dispensations
The earliest mention of Spain with regards to the Gospel is found in the Nephi’s account of the great vision he received in which he saw not only the Tree of Life but was shown key events in the Restoration in the Last Dispensation. Writing in approximately 600 B.C., Nephi records:

And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.  (1 Nephi 13:12)

The “man among the Gentiles,” of course, was Christopher Columbus, who sailed in 1492 A.D. under the Spanish flag and changed the course of history. Columbus’ great voyage of discovery set in motion a series of events which led to the founding of a new nation in the New World where the Gospel could be restored for the last time. So significant was the role of Columbus that the Lord showed his voyage to Nephi over 2000 years before it took place.

In his epistle to the Saints in Rome, the Apostle Paul speaks of his plans to visit Spain (see Romans 15:24, 28). Paul was in Corinth at the time (probably 57 A.D.), from where he planned to travel to Jerusalem, then visit Rome on his way to Spain. He did travel to Rome, and was imprisoned there for two years (probably 63-64 A.D.). There is no reliable record indicating that Paul did, in fact, visit Spain. Nevertheless, popular legend has it that he visited Spain in 64 A.D., sailing into the harbor of Tarragona, then the primary Roman port on the Iberian Peninsula.

EARLY ATTEMPS IN THIS DISPENSATION

Beginning with the first mission to England in 1837, missionaries of this dispensaton began the great effort to carry the message of the Restoration to every nation. In March of 1853, Elders Edward Stevenson and Nathan T. Porter arrived at Gibraltar, then a British Army outpost, and were immediately summoned to appear before the police and establish their right to remain on the “Rock.” Elder Porter was required to leave, but Elder Stevenson, an Englishman who had been born in Gibralter, was allowed to remain, but the governor forbade his preaching “Mormonism.”  He remained in Gibralter for over a year and baptized several, amidst threats, prohibitions and constant opposition.  He also endeavored to open up the work in Spain, but was not permitted by the authorities.[1] A branch of the Church was organized by Edward Stevenson, at Gibraltar, Spain, with 10 members.[2]
In 1894, Melitón Trejo, a native of Galicia and a former member of the Spanish Army, visited Salt Lake City and became the first known Spaniard in this dispensation to be baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[3] Brother Trejo began the first Spanish translation of the Book of Mormon and was instrumental in beginning missionary work in Mexico.
In 1932, Elders Ray L. Richards and Garland F. Smith traveled from the Swiss and German Mission to Spain to investigate the possibilities of doing missionary work there.  No report of their experiences is known and it is assumed that they were unable to conduct any missionary activities in the country.[4]

The Spanish Civil War ended in 1939 and the country came under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. During the early years of the Franco regime religious liberty was expressly prohibited, with the Catholic Church supported by the state and all other religions banned. Nevertheless, in 1952, a young man from Barcelona by the name of Juan Ventura, who had come in contact with the Church through correspondence in 1949 with an American member living in France, traveled to France to be baptized. As there was no Church organization in Barcelona (or elsewhere in Spain), Brother Ventura made a practice of posting a notice at the docks whenever a  U.S. Navy ship came into port, announcing Church services at his home in the city. When the police arrived one Sunday and broke up the meeting, Brother Ventura determined to leave Spain and immigrated to the United States. He and his wife, Betty, returned to Barcelona in 1972, shortly after the Church was established, and were instrumental in building up the Church in Barcelona in the early days.

THE WORK BEGINS

In 1953, the United States and Spain signed an agreement allowing for the establishment of U.S. military bases in Spain. This treaty ended a period of relative isolation for Spain. The U.S. military presence ultimately included a number of Latter-day Saints, leading to the creation of Church branches on several military bases. On 7 January 1967, the West Mediterranean District of the French Mission was created, the first Church district in Spain is this dispensation. With the creation of the district, four district missionaries were called. Elder Theodore M. Burton cautioned the missionaries “of the difficulties the Church can get into if we antagonize the civil authorities before the new religious freedom law is passed.  Tread cautiously, the Lord is opening the way but let us not jeopardize his plans by our own ambitions.”[5]

Meanwhile, in 1966, Jose Maria Oliveira, a former attorney and casting agent in Madrid, traveled to France to be baptized. He had met the Church through his future wife, Pat, a native of Bountiful, Utah. Brother Oliveira was called as one of the four district missionaries and was the only native member of the Church in Spain at the time.

On 27June 1967, the Ley del Ejercicio del Derecho Civil a la Libertad en Materias Religiosas (Religious Liberty Act) was passed by the Spanish Cortes. The new law allowed for a degree of religious freedom and provided a means for non-Catholic churches to be legally organized in the country. The passage of the law opened the way for the Church to become established in Spain. The Madrid Spanish Branch held its first meeting on 4 February 1968 with approximately 40 members attending. With the exception of Jose Maria Oliveira, all were non-Spaniards, mostly Americans working in Madrid. The branch met in a small building at Jorge Manriques 15. The branch rented the facility only on Sundays; during the week it housed a pre-school for toddlers. In addition to the Oliveiras, those early pioneers included Bill and Ellie Fotheringham (the first baptisms in 1969 were held in the Fotheringham´s swimming pool), Sterling Nixon (who later served as president of the Spain Mission), and several other families from the United States. Elder Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited Madrid in March of 1968 but felt that the time was not yet right to begin missionary work.

In the Spring of 1969, Brigham Young University conducted a “semester abroad” program in Madrid and several LDS students spent the Spring in Madrid, meeting with the Spanish Branch. The students befriended a young college student, Angel Herrero, who was baptized in May 1968. Late in May, Elder Marion G. Romney visited Madrid, having been authorized by the First Presidency to offer a dedicatory prayer over the country if he felt so impressed.[6]

Angel Herrero met the church through a college friend named Antonio Llorente who had been baptized into the church earlier.  Angel was baptized in May 1968.  Later he was the first Spaniard called from Spain to be a full-time missionary in October 1969 and became part of the first wave of missionaries who opened up the country serving in Sabadell, Tarragona, Sevilla and other places. 

On 20 May 1969, Elder Romney and 34 local members met in the early morning at Casa de Campo, a park outside the city of Madrid, where Elder Romney offered the dedicatory prayer. He returned to Salt Lake City the following day and recommended to the First Presidency that missionaries be sent to Spain. On 26 May 1969, Elder Richard G. Scott, who was then serving as president of the North Argentine Mission, was asked to select four experienced missionaries and send them to Spain to begin formal missionary work. Spain was part of the French Mission; President Smith Benjamin Griffin of the French Mission in Paris would supervise the work in what would be known at the Spain Zone.

The four missionaries, Clark B. Hinckley, Craig L. Ward, Robert J. Hernandez (now Haws), and Jose Luis Barco, arrived in Madrid on Saturday, 7 June 1969. They attended the Madrid Spanish Branch the following day, taught their first investigator on Sunday afternoon, and held the first baptismal service on 28 June 1969, three weeks after their arrival. Missionary work had begun in Spain!

THE WORK BEGINS IN BARCELONA

The initial work in Madrid expanded rapidly as more missionaries arrived throughout the summer of 1969. Four missionaries were sent to Sevilla in August to begin the work there. The lived in the home of Elder Robert D. Hales, who was then the President of Gillette Spain, until they were able to find housing and rent a meeting place for a branch.

On 1 October 1969, under assignment from President Griffin, 8 missionaries arrived in Barcelona to begin the work of preaching the gospel in that city. The eight missionaries were: Elders Michael Duffin, assigned as zone leader and branch president; Glenn Richards; Robert Johnson, an older brother who was living in Spain at the time of his call; Jorge Michalek, from Argentina; Robert Bollard; Michael Spackman; David Hall; and Gary Glosser.  Elder Angel Herrero went to Barcelona, Elder Johnson was called at a later date.  They arrived at Estació Franca on Saturday at 8:30 in the morning, allowing them the entire day to find places to live. Sunday morning they held the first Church services on the beach, having no other place to meet. There were no members in Barcelona to assist in the work, so they began by knocking on doors and contacting people on the street. Each companionship would typically contact 1,000 per week. After a few weeks, Elders Duffin and Herrero knocked on the door of Sra. Valls, a woman who had a son with cerebral palsy who required constant care. Her loving care of her son for many years had softened her heart. She and her brother, Juan Valls, were baptized on 7 December 1969 in the Mediterranean Sea at Castelldefels. These were the first convert baptisms in Catalunya.

With the approval of President Griffin, the elders located and rented a space at Castillejo 288, primera planta, for a chapel. The building was new and the space was unfinished; the missionaries sketched out some plans to divide. As the build out was being completed, the elders requested additional funds from President Griffin to purchase chairs. When asked how many chairs they needed, they replied that they needed 40 chairs. President Griffin felt the request was somewhat extravagant – they had 8 missionaries, 3 members, and an occasional investigator attending Church! But the elders promised President Griffin that if they could purchase 40 chairs they would work to fill them. Elder Boyd K. Packer visited Sevilla in soon afterwards and attended sacrament meeting in the little chapel. In a speech at BYU in 1996, he recounted his visit to the tiny Barcelona Branch and noted that all 40 chairs were filled that Sunday morning in the Barcelona chapel.



[1] B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.4, Ch.96, p.71.
[2] Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, January 23, 1854 (Monday)
[3] Sarah Trejo Telford.  Thread; Mormon Colonies in Mexico. February 8, 2009.
[4] Swiss Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports. See http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/58654/Country-information-Spain.html.

[5] Historical Report of the West Mediterranean District for the year ending December 31, 1967.  George M. Hall, president; Earl F. Tayor, clerk.  Church Archives
[6] Most of the subsequent information is taken from the personal files and journals of Clark B. Hinckley, as well us information provided by David Hall and Michael Duffin.

2 comments :

  1. Perhaps we need to provide additional historical information, those of use who 40 years ago, May of 1976, climbed the top of Mt. Tibadabo, under stewardship of Presidente Smith B. Griffin (mentioned above as President of the Paris France Mission), as he returned to serve as the first presidente of a newly formed mission, upon the split into the three missions in Spain that year, rededicating this corner of the country under this newly devised organization as the Spain Barcelona Mission.

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  2. Melitón Trejo was actually from Garganta la Olla, a small town in Cáceres: https://history.lds.org/article/meliton-trejo-translator-missionary-colonist?lang=eng https://goo.gl/maps/9BhBwH2au2A2

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