Houston Texas, January 11, 2015 – Members of the Friendswood, Houston (Spanish), Houston South and Richmond Stakes met for a joint stake conference broadcast on Sunday January 11, 2015. This multi-stake conference was convened to sustain significant realignments within the four stakes. Elder Daniel W. Jones, Area Seventy, acting on assignment from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, conducted the live-broadcast session explaining the changes and presenting them for sustaining vote.
The purpose of the conference was to transition the Houston Stake from its current status as an overlay Spanish language stake whose boundaries were nearly the same as the other three geographic stakes, into a traditional geographic stake with its own boundaries separate from the other three stakes. Basically the four stakes no longer overlap, and fit into the area that the three once occupied.
The new organization of stakes is as follows: The Friendswood Stake now consists of the Alvin Ward, Baybrook Ward, Friendswood 1st Ward, Friendswood 2nd Ward, Manvel Ward (Spanish), Pearland Ward, Silverlake Ward, South Houston Branch (Spanish) and the Sunnyside Branch.
The Houston Stake, now contains the Hermann Park Ward, Houston 1st Ward (Spanish), Houston 2nd Ward (Spanish), Houston 9th Ward (Spanish), Maplewood 2nd Ward, Memorial Park 1st Ward and Memorial Park 2nd Ward.
Making up the Houston South Stake are the Braes Bayou YSA Ward, Brazos Branch (Spanish), Maplewood 3rd Branch (Chinese), Missouri City Ward (Spanish), Rosenberg Ward, Shadow Creek Ward, Sienna Plantation Ward, Sugar Land 1st Ward, Sugar Land 2nd Ward.
The Richmond Stake is now comprised of the Alief Ward, Braeburn 2nd Branch (Vietnamese), Houston 4th Ward (Spanish), Houston 8th Ward (Spanish), Memorial Ward, Mission Bend Ward, Richmond 1st Ward, Richmond 2nd Ward.
During his remarks Elder Jones shared that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized the Houston Texas (Spanish) Stake exactly 21 years ago, and that since 1994, the number of Spanish saints in the Houston area has nearly quadrupled. He also noted that Elder Nelson told those attending the 1994 conference, that the Houston Texas (Spanish) Stake was an exception, since stakes are normally organized within separate geographic areas. Elder Nelson noted that he didn’t know how long it would last, but it was what the Lord wanted at that time.
During his time here as Area Seventy, Elder Gifford S. Nielsen had received impressions to reconsider the overlay stakes, but felt it was not quite the right time. In the summer of 2014, Elder Jones met with Houston Texas (Spanish) Stake President Erwin H. Portillo and discussed with him the proposal to redesignate the Houston Texas (Spanish) Stake as a geographic stake again. He then asked him to seek the Lord in prayer and discover the Lord’s will. Subsequently, each of the stake presidents, John Oldroyd of Richmond Stake, Daryl Scott of the Friendswood Stake, and David Hruska of the Houston South Stake, as well as President Portillo independently received confirmation that it was time to make the change and move the Spanish-speaking wards into their respectively geographic area stakes in accordance with standard church structure . Elder Jones said, “During their deliberation, these four great men all met in the spirit of love and unity and felt the spirit of peace as they proceeded”.
President Portillo said, “Every time we have a conference I can feel the spirit of the Lord. What is most important is to recognize the power of the keys of the Priesthood. If they (saints) follow the Priesthood leaders, they are in the right way and will be more happy and closer to God. It is not important where you are – but that you follow the prophets and your leaders. I emphasize families to live the gospel. Nothing can give more happiness than living the gospel as a family”. President Portillo added, “I know this was the right thing to do. I have great love for these people. Besides all the difficulties and problems they have I know they are loving the Savior. It is my privilege to help them to be happier”.
Elder Jones promised that the Spanish wards and branches would continue to grow and thrive, especially as there are no more “-ites” from 4 Nephi 1:17 and that we are “fellow citizens with the saints”, Ephesians 2:19, as we share our talents and gifts with one another.
Houston Texas Temple President Brad L. Crane and Houston Texas South Mission President Brian Ashton also bore testimony of the surety of this being the Lord’s will at this time. “I promise you these changes will bring growth of the church. God will bless you and your families for following the prophet,” President Ashton said.
Finally, Elder Jones bore testimony that this realignment would save the rising generation. “Last evening I was in the House of the Lord. The spirit whispered in my mind and in my heart that this change is not just for the children but their posterity and generations yet to come. We are the sons and daughters of God and it is His will that we return to Him,” he said.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Photos by Jennifer Martino