The following is excerpted from the Church Newsroom. To read the full article, CLICK HERE

More than 500 people gathered in Salt Lake City to mark the 100-year anniversary of the first Hispanic Latter-day Saint congregation in Utah on Friday, August 18, 2023.

A devotional and cultural event were held at the Institute of Religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adjacent to the University of Utah campus. Elder Hugo E. Martinez of the Utah Area Presidency was the keynote speaker. He shared a brief history of the Salt Lake Mexican Branch.

“I’ve loved studying the history of this ward as it grew from a small group,” said Elder Martinez. “The Lord wants everybody to receive the gospel in their own language. … Anytime we can gather and have a cultural and dance festival, along with a historic celebration, [it] just brings everyone together. And we delight in listening to the music of all the countries that are being represented by song and dance here.”

The celebration included exhibits paying tribute to the history and contributions of early Mexican Latter-day Saints who helped establish that first Hispanic congregation. Musical numbers reflected the growth of the Church in Utah, with performances from several countries including Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela and Colombia.

Today there are more than 180 Spanish-speaking congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Salt Lake Valley. Each can trace its roots to the Salt Lake Mexican Branch established in May 1923. The branch, which later grew to become the Lucero Ward, initially served Mexican American Latter-day Saints who desired to worship in their native language. Meetings were held at a restaurant owned by Church member Juan Ramon Martinez.

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