Salt Lake City Utah, USA
Though the Church’s substantial Latino membership is not a new phenomenon, it’s important for those who still think of Latter-day Saints as a mostly American church to know that large chunks of the faith’s 15.6 million members come from countries such as Mexico (nearly 1.4 million), Brazil (1.3 million), Chile (581,000), Peru (568,000), Argentina (438,000), Guatemala (261,000) and Ecuador (234,000).
Sujey Vega, an assistant professor at Arizona State University, notes that Latino cultural emphasis on strong family life melds well with the Latter-day Saint family ethic. "The idea of an involved, extended family, like a comadre (godmother) in Latin America, translates well to being a hermana (sister) here, as the Church refers to female members. The LDS Church offers an embedded social network,” she says. “This is good for everyone, but especially for immigrant women, because otherwise they might not have anyone else."
And Lara Johnson of Provo, Utah, who is of Venezuelan heritage, says The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has helped her find greater meaning in life. "Our Father sent us here on earth to become more like Him, and that is awesome. I remember feeling as a little girl, is that all there is? To get rich, get stuff, enjoy stuff and it's over? I remember thinking, what is the point of that? But the gospel, the Book of Mormon, is what helps me understand how these relationships go on eternally."