LDS Church organizes Utah’s first Spanish-speaking stake

Church leaders want the Beehive State to have additional Spanish-speaking stakes in the near future.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) This West Jordan meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pictured Thursday, May 23, 2024, is home to Utah’s first Spanish-speaking stake.

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Juan Daniel Hernandez, his wife, Lizeth Hernandez, and their five kids arrived an hour before the conference announcing the creation of the new, Spanish-language West Jordan Wasatch Meadows Stake was due to start May 19.

Even though they got there early, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ meetinghouse at 1899 W. 7600 South in West Jordan was already full of people. Eventually, there wasn’t any more capacity in the main space, and video of the event had to be streamed to other, smaller rooms in the building.

The stake, or cluster of regional congregations, is Utah’s first dedicated solely to Spanish speakers.

“For us to be a part of a Spanish-speaking stake, it means that more people are going to feel attracted to the church,” said Juan Daniel Hernandez, who is a special education teacher in Granite School District. “More Hispanics are going to feel like this is really home, right? It’s a refuge. It’s a place where we can find comfort, a place where we can increase our faith.”

The new stake has an estimated 1,600 members from eight Spanish-speaking wards, or smaller congregations, in the area.

Stakes are generally a grouping of five to 12 wards united under administrative leadership. The stake presidency leads stake business, including large meetings called conferences and stakewide activities like youth events and service work.

Stakes are established once there are enough active members in a region, so they are organized geographically, like a Catholic diocese.

The new, three-man stake presidency in West Jordan will be led by Gil Isaac Osuna Hernández.

Carlos A. Godoy, a general authority Seventy in the church, established the stake and said the new entity is an indication of the growth of Latino membership in Utah.

That growth, the Brazilian native said, comes from members of the faith who moved from Central and South America, as well as nonmembers who moved to Utah for work or safety and then joined the church once they got here.

The stake and its leadership are internationally diverse. The Hernandez family and stake President Hernández (no relation) have Mexican roots, but the two other members of the top leadership are from Ecuador and Venezuela.

Church leaders hope the stake will bring new opportunities for Spanish-speaking members to engage more deeply with their faith. The creation of a stake means more members will get the opportunity to develop as leaders in the church.

“I’m personally excited for leadership opportunities. I think it’s going to allow a lot of people to serve, people that were limited in serving because of the language,” said Lizeth Hernandez, who works as a mental health counselor for the church. “They have the skill sets. They have everything that they need, except the language was a barrier.”

Lizeth Hernandez said she’s excited for more activities that embrace Latino culture and reach more Spanish-speakers inside and outside the faith. She specifically mentioned wanting to host dances through the stake.

Godoy, the general authority Seventy, said more youth-centered activities come with a new stake, too.

“Under a bigger structure, then, they will have, especially the youth, more, larger activities combined as eight units,” Godoy said, “opportunities to get together and be with their peers.”

While this is the first Spanish-language stake in the state, the church does have other stakes in Utah, and, of course, abroad, that worship in a language other than English. There are already five Tongan stakes in the Beehive State.

Church leaders believe they’ll create two more Spanish-language stakes and two more Tongan ones in Utah in the near future.

The announcement of the new West Jordan stake comes as the suburb prepares for a Latter-day Saint temple to be constructed on the far west side of town. Church President Russell M. Nelson announced plans for the edifice at April’s General Conference.