History of the Church in Jamaica

David R. Crockett

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It is south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola. The population is ninety percent black. The British colonized the island and it gained its independence in 1962. The Jamaican people speak Jamaican Creole (Patua) which is a hybrid of English.

Several early Mormon journals mention seeing Jamaica while sailing through the West Indies. Alexander Neibaur wrote in 1841: "Sunday [March] 21, [1841]. About 6 o'clock, fine morning, close to Jamaica, very fine view of some coffee plantations." On that morning a Church meeting was held on board that ship in Jamaican waters.

The first missionary was called to go to Jamaica on October 7, 1841. Elder Harrison Sagers preached there briefly. In a 1841 letter, Joseph Smith also mentioned that a Brother Potter had started on a mission to Jamaica (History of the Church, 4:28).

In 1853 missionaries were again sent to Jamaica. They were Elders Aaron F. Farr, Darwin Richardson, Jesse Turpin and Alfred B. Lambson. They arrived on January 10, 1853. The elders visited with the American counsul, Mr. Harrison, who encouraged them in their desires to hire a hall for public preaching. They did, but a mob of 150 people gathered around the building and threatened to tear it down if the "polygamists" were permitted to preach. The landlord of the building became concerned for his property and demanded that the Elders put down a security deposit. The Elders could not and so the meetings were not held. They were later chased and shot at, and soon were resigned to leave the island. (See Aaron F. Farr Diary in LDS Church Archives.)

In May, 1853 Brigham Young spoke about this mission: "I will say a word concerning the brethren who left here last fall. . . . The Governor said to the brethren who went to Jamaica, that they might minister among the people; and the minister from the States did all he could to have them stay there, but they had to leave on account of the prejudices of the community, and they are now preaching in the United States." (Journal of Discourses, 1:110, May 8, 1853.)

The Church did not return to Jamaica until the late 1960s when a number of American families working on the island came together to worship. In 1970, the families of John L. Whitfields and Jay P. Bills began holding meetings in Mandeville, Jamaica. A branch was created in Mandeville on March 22, 1970, by the Florida mission president.

In 1973 Brother Paul Schmeil introduced the gospel to Victor Nugent, a chemist working for the Alumina Partners of Jamaica Limited (also known as Alpart Alumina Company). [Victor Nugent is an LDS-Gems subscriber]. Brother Schmeil was in Jamaica working as a consultant for the company. He noticed that Victor Nugent read in the Bible during his lunch hour and they began to discuss religion each day. Victor Nugent started to become very interested in the gospel. Brother Schmeil was invited to the Nugent home where he taught the family gospel principles and showed the filmstrips, "Meet the Mormons" and "Man's Search for Happiness." He left tracts for them to read and encouraged them to pray about the things they were taught. Victor Nugent later wrote: "I shall never forget that evening. It was as if a messenger from God had come to visit. The message he brought was exactly what I had been looking for. I eagerly read the pamphlets and went out in my back yard to meditate and reflect on what had been said."

Victor Nugent, who is black, was also taught that night by Paul Schmeil that the priesthood could not be given at that time to those of his race. This was disturbing to him at first, yet he received a witness that the gospel was true. He resolved that he would not be able to enjoy all the blessings of the gospel is his lifetime, but he was willing to keep the commandments and wait upon the Lord. Brother Nugent would later frequently quote Psalms 84:10 and say "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."

Brother Schmiel continued to teach the Nugents. They attended family home evening with the Schmiels and soon attended Sunday School and Sacrament meeting with the few LDS families living and working in Mandeville. On January 20, 1974, Victor Nugent, his wife Verna, and oldest son Peter were baptized members of the Church. The Nugent family became singularly responsible for the progress of the Church throughout Jamaica. They were wonderful examples and shared the gospel with others. (This early history of Jamaica was provided by Richard L. Millett). See also Victor Nugent's home page at: http://www.ldschurch.net/f/nugentv/

One by one, the American families left Jamaica as their work with the Alpart Alumina Company concluded. The Nugents were left without a branch in Mandeville for two years. They met alone as a family in Mandeville, using handbooks and manuals left by the Schmeils. With these resources, the family held Sunday School and Primary with their children. Later, another LDS family arrived in Jamaica. Brother Paul Morris, a former mission president in Thailand was working in Jamaica for the U.S. government. Then the Nugents traveled to Kingston every week for church meetings.

In 1977 Richard L. Millett, president of the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission met Brother Nugent for the first time when he traveled to Florida to attend a stake conference in the West Palm Beach Stake. Elder M. Russell Ballard was the visiting General Authority. This was the first time that Brother Nugent had ever attended a stake conference. The conference theme was on temples. After the conference, on the way back to the mission home, President Millett asked Brother Nugent how he enjoyed the stake conference. Brother Nugent said that he thoroughly enjoyed every part of it, especially Elder Ballard's talk and the other talks about the temple.

In April 1978, President Richard L. Millett of the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission visited Jamaica for the first time. [Richard Millett is an LDS-Gems subscriber.] He was accompanied by his counselor, Frank Talley, and their wives. They visited with the Nugents and the other members living in Jamaica.

President Millett wrote about this first visit to Jamaica:

During this visit we had the opportunity of meeting the Errol Tucker family. Sister Tucker had met Brother Nugent at Alpart and had noticed that he set a great example for the other employees. She wondered what set him apart from others and as they began to visit over a period of time she found out that he was LDS. The Tuckers were invited by Brother Nugent to listen to the discussions, which Brother Nugent taught. They were making excellent progress in their study when we met them in Kingston on our first visit. Brother Morris had arranged for a fireside where we had the opportunity of sharing our testimonies with them. We were impressed with the Tuckers and the growth of their testimonies.

We had a beautiful service; the Spirit of the Lord was very strong. So much so that I didn't even remember what I had said. The Tuckers said that the things they heard were just what they needed to be baptized. It takes a great deal of faith to be baptized, knowing about the blessings of the priesthood and the temple, without being able to enjoy these benefits. (Millett, "Jamaica, a Tropical Paradise, and the Beginning of the Work.")

Brother Paul Morris baptized the Tucker family during May, 1978. During the following month, the glorious news arrived about the priesthood revelation. On July 3, 1978 President Millett returned to Jamaica to ordain Victor Nugent to the priesthood and give his family temple recommends. He also planned to interview Amos Chin, a young Jamaican man, to serve a mission. President Millet met with Brother Morris to discuss plans for opening Jamaica for full-time missionary work. They both felt that Mandeville and the northern coast cities would be the safest place to start the work. Bikes would need to be brought in for the missionaries.

President Millett and President Talley traveled to Mandeville and had a wonderful meal with the Nugents and Tuckers. President Millett wrote in his journal: "What very special people they are. I'm sure it is because of special people of faith and devotion like theirs that the Lord gave the revelation to the Prophet concerning the priesthood. They have an abiding faith and trust in the Lord."

After dinner a cottage meeting was held with five investigators. During this meeting Brother Nugent shared his testimony, how his life used to be without meaning until he met Brother Schmiel, who shared the gospel with him. He testified of the many blessings his family had received. The investigators stood and expressed their feelings, how impressed they were with the Nugents, and that they wanted to know more about the Church.

The following day, July 4, 1978, President Millett met with the Mayor of Mandeville. The brethren presented him with a copy of the Book of Mormon and then spent some time looking for an apartment for the missionaries. On the next day, Brother Nugent was ordained an Elder and was set apart as a district missionary.

Amos Chin was the first missionary to be called from Jamaica. He had joined the Church in Montreal, Canada, and later returned to his home country. In the fall of 1978, he received his call to serve in the Ft. Lauderdale Mission. He was trained in a "missionary training center" in Florida and learned the discussions in a week. President Millett soon received permission to open up Jamaica to missionaries. Elder Chin and a few other missionaries were sent to Mandeville, Jamaica. They arrived there in November, 1978. The Nugents and Tuckers assisted greatly in starting missionary work on the island.

In December, 1978, Elder M. Russell Ballard visited Jamaica. On December 5, 1978, at 6:45 a.m., he dedicated the country for the preaching of the gospel in Brooks Park, in Mandeville.

In his dedicatory prayer, he said:

We thy children kneel this morning in this park under this large banyan tree to seek a special blessing, oh Father, to be poured out upon this land of Jamaica, and we come before thee in humility this morning by the authority of the holy priesthood and at the direction of thy Prophet, Spencer W. Kimball. Oh Father, we call down from thy holy presence the special blessings to be upon this people and this land. . . .

Heavenly Father we dedicate this land unto thee and pray thy blessings to be poured down upon the people that live here in Jamaica that the honest in heart, that the pure in heart, that those who love thee and desire to know what they must do in order to qualify to come back into thy holy presence might be sought out by the efforts of these great saints who gather with us this morning, few number, but may they be magnified, oh Father, because of their faith and their love and their obedience unto thee that they might be the catalyst around which a mighty Church might be built here in this land. . . .

We pray, Heavenly Father, that the spirit of thy Beloved Son and the power of the Holy Ghost might be shed out upon these people that their hearts might be softened and their hearts might be touched, that this work might go forward and that nothing will get in its way to cause it to falter in anyway, but that from this very humble beginning that this great work might go forward and grow into a mighty work. . . .

By the authority of the holy priesthood vested in me as a member of the First Quorum of Seventy and by thy appointment, I turn the key, I unlock the doors and open and dedicate the land of Jamaica unto the preaching of the Gospel and seek, oh Father, that thou might pour down from thy holy place every blessing that this land will need to fulfill its destiny in the eternal plan of life.

Following the dedication, Brother Errol Tucker was ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood. Elder Ballard asked him who he would like to perform the ordination. Without hesitation, Brother Tucker asked for Brother Nugent. On a rock under the banyan tree, Victor Nugent humbly conferred the Mechizedek Priesthood upon Errol Tucker.

In January 1979, President Millett again went to Jamaica. He visited the government offices in Kingston, to see what could be done to speed up granting visas to missionaries. The next day, despite foggy weather, President Millett flew into Mandeville and visited with the missionaries in a zone conference. In the evening a cottage meeting was held at the Nugents where a powerful spirit bore witness to the investigators there, including a former mayor of Mandeville. During this visit to the island, Victor Nugent was set apart as the branch president and Errol Tucker as the Elders Quorum president.

During 1978 the Nugents were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple, and in 1979 the Tuckers were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple.

On June 12, 1979, Elder and Sister Rex D. Pinegar visited Jamaica. They participated in a cottage meeting held at the Nugent home, with forty-five people in attendance. On June 24, Mandeville Branch started holding their meetings in the missionaries' home at 10 Green Road, in Mandeville. At the end of June, the first missionary couple arrived, the McBrides. In July, approval was granted for the purchase of the first Church property in Jamaica. It was a spacious house at 3 New Green Road, which would be used as a chapel. Sacrament meeting attendance reached 76 during that month.

The first group of missionaries sent to Jamaica were soon released. The government would not allow others to be sent for a long period of time because they were worried about "religious sects." This was during a time after the tragic deaths in Jonestown, Guyana. So for a time there were only three missionaries in Jamaica. The gospel did go forward. The Nugents and the Tuckers would go out often with the missionaries.

On September 21, 1979, the new mission president, President Stringham, visited Jamaica for the first time. He conducted training for the missionaries and leadership training for the priesthood leaders. On September 26-27, 1979, Branch conferences were held in Mandeville and Kingston. Regional Representative, Elder J. Libbert, was in attendance. The Kingston Branch held their conference at Priory High School. (From Chronology provided by Victor Nugent.)

In October, because of continued difficulties getting government approvals for visas, it was decided to pull the remaining missionaries out of Jamaica. In November, the Saints in Jamaica were visited by Brother John Rappleye, a pioneer member of the Church in the Dominican Republic. On November 18, 1979, the first baptism was performed in a font that had been constructed at the missionaries' home. In December, Jamaica received for the first time, the Tabernacle Choir broadcast on a local radio station. Mission leaders and local members met with government officials to try to resolve the difficulty getting visas for the missionaries. The Church also hired a law firm to help them with a incorporation application. By the end of 1979, there were almost eighty members in Mandeville, Jamaica.

In January 1980, Church officials met with Howard Cooke, government minister, to further discuss granting work permits for missionaries. The government started conducting an investigation of the Church because of scurrilous allegations. In February, Mr. Cooke informed Church leaders that permits would be issued for two missionaries to work in Jamaica at all times. However, he warned them that if the allegations against the Church proved to be true, the permits would be withdrawn.

On February 27, 1980, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin visited Jamaica and met with the Mandeville Branch. There were 103 people in attendance at a special meeting held at the chapel at 10 New Green Road. In October 1980 General Conference, Elder Wirthlin said:

Sister Wirthlin and I recently had occasion to visit that beautiful tropical island and met with one of our very faithful leaders, President Victor Nugent of the Jamaica Branch. Our conversation went something like this: President Nugent, How are you doing with your home teaching?" "One hundred percent." "How about visiting teaching?" "One hundred percent." "Attendance at sacrament meeting?" "One hundred percent." "Tithe payers?" "One hundred percent."

For a group of some eighty-five members of the Church to perform so admirably and to set such a wonderful example, I think that we can assume that they know their duty and perform it faithfully. They truly understand the meaning of an impressive revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: "Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence." . . . The members of the Jamaica Branch know that they are living in harmony with our Father's commandments, and this brings them great happiness.

A group of missionaries, also in Jamaica, understood their duties to teach the gospel to everyone who would hear their message. As all missionaries are, they were very dependent on their monthly checks from home, but in Jamaica the banking rules dictated that after the checks were presented at the bank for cash, a two-month waiting period had to elapse before the cash could be provided. This was very inconvenient and frustrating to the missionaries, and they agreed that it would be impossible for them to continue to endure such an arrangement. They would have to do something about it--and do something they did! The bank manager was taught the gospel, was baptized, and as a result the check-cashing problem was magically solved. Those elders knew their duty and accomplished it with faith and diligence.

Also, it was a problem there for the missionaries to get the proper kinds and quantities of food in Jamaica. They could obtain some staples essential to good nutrition but only after prolonged and tedious trouble and waiting. Another problem, another solution: teach and baptize the grocer. This they did, and thereafter had no problem in obtaining the food they needed and wanted. [This grocer was Sister Patricia HoSang. Several years later her husband, Michael HoSang joined the Church and later became president of the Mandeville District.]

In Jamaica, as in many other parts of the world, missionaries ride bicycles to carry out the Lord's work. But bicycles often break down and parts wear out. And there are often delays in obtaining parts and having repairs made. Again, the solution was obvious -- teach and baptize the bicycle repairman. At last report, he was responding to the missionaries' friendship and testimonies.

On May 17, 1980, Patriarch Elder Clark, came to Jamaica to give patriarchal blessings to Jamaican Saints for the first time. During January, 1981, the government granted work permits for six additional missionaries.

On March 8-9, 1981, President Spencer W. Kimball visited the Dominican Republic, and spoke in a meeting that was held in the ballroom of a large hotel in Santo Domingo. A party of eleven Jamaican Saints, including the Nugents and Tuckers made the trip to the conference. Brother Victor Nugent was asked to bear his testimony at the conference meeting with about 1,500 people in attendance. He also had the thrilling experience in being able to visit with the prophet in President Kimball's private quarters.

On May 26, 1981, Bishop J. Richard Clarke, second counselor in the presiding bishopric, visited Jamaica. A fireside was held with 112 people in attendance. In June directors of the Church Education System visited Jamaica and it was decided to start an early morning seminary program in Mandeville. Also that month, the government gave approval for a used car to be imported to be used by the missionaries.

In July 1981, Brother Victor Nugent was released as the president of the Mandeville Branch and was called as a counselor in the mission presidency. Errol Tucker was called as the new branch president. His counselors were Brother Wilson and Brother Lambert Hyde. Missionary work started to spread into May Pen. In July, eighteen attended a sacrament meeting there. Requests were made to the government, to allow two missionaries to serve in May Pen. In September, permission was granted for two more missionaries, as long as they were sister missionaries. In November, 1981, Sisters Heaton and Brutsch arrived in Jamaica. By the end of the year there were six elders and two sisters serving in Jamaica. (Victor Nugent Chronology submitted to LDS-Gems)

LDS-Gems subscriber, Sister Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis , was baptized into the Kingston Branch on January 31, 1982. She later shared with the Ensign magazine her baptismal day experience:

When I decided to join the Church, I chose to be baptized very early one Sunday morning so that I could go to church afterwards and take the sacrament for the first time on the same day of my baptism. We had no proper chapels or baptismal fonts in Jamaica at that time. Converts had to be baptized at a beach some distance away. We had to leave Kingston before it was quite light. When we arrived at the beach, I was surprised to see the Relief Society president already there. In spite of the inconvenience of the hour and the long drive, she was there at my baptism to welcome me. I have never forgotten that. ("I Sister, Too," Ensign, January 1993).
In April 1982, a car arrived for the missionaries to use, which was a significant aid to them in their work. Church leaders continued to try to improve relations with the government. In May Church lawyers along with local leaders met with a Parliamentary Committee at the House of Representatives to explain the teachings and policies of the Church. At the conclusion, one of the government leaders said: "We are satisfied." Nevertheless, opposition continued. In June, an article against the Church appeared in the Jamaica newspaper, "Daily Gleaner." It was entitled: "Bogus Church."

In July 1982, the first seminary graduation was held in Mandeville. Also that month, President Zabriskie, the new mission president, visited the island. Brother Nugent was released as a counselor in the mission presidency and called as Mission Clerk.

On April 15, 1983 Elder Thomas S. Monson visited Jamaica. It was the first time a member of the Quorum of the Twelve had visited the island. He met spoke to 225 people at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. One reason for Elder Monson's visit was that he was preparing to divide the mission. The missionaries met with Elder Monson on the following day. The missionaries serving at that time were: Elder and Sister Soffes, Elder and Sister Simmons, Elder Driggs, Elder Jones, Elder Lopez, Elder Knowles, Elder Holdaway, Elder Rowley, Sister Kathleen Case and Sister Whitelock.

On June 22, 1983, it was announced that a new mission was to be created, the West Indies Mission. Jamaica would become part of the new mission. In July, Amos Chin (who was the first full-time Jamaican missionary) was called as Kingston Branch Mission Leader. District missionaries serving were David Cummings, Bobby Barrett and Peter Nugent. During July, President Zabriskie announced that the sister missionaries would be taken out of Jamaica and replaced with elders. In August Elders Kent Baxter and Miles Hunsaker replaced Sister Case and Sister Whitelock.

In September the government gave permission to bring in four additional missionaries. In October President Zabriskie announced that two missionary couples would arrive to assist the government with a bee project and with animal nutrition. In November the Spanish Town Branch held their first meeting. Their Church meetings were held in the YMCA. On November 11, 1983, property was purchased for a chapel in Kingston at Dunrobin Ave and Constant Spring Roads.

During December, Church News writers interviewed Jamaican Saints for a Church News feature that later was published on January 29, 1984. The long article included pictures of District President Victor Nugent, Carmen Weir of the May Pen Branch, and the chapel in Mandeville. The adorable Weir twins appeared on the cover. The article concluded with: "Today, Church members . . . are enjoying much personal development and growth. Literally hundreds of people are being introduced to the gospel each day, and as Sister Kathleen Case of San Leandro, Calif., explains, 'When you start to teach one person in Jamaica, before you know it, five or ten people have voluntarily joined in the discussion -- it's amazing!'"

By the end of 1983 there were 300 members in Jamaica in five branches, including Mandeville, Kingston, May Pen, Spanish Town, and Independence City. There were twenty full-time missionaries on the island. During 1984 additional areas were opened by the missionaries and branches established.

During May 1985, work started on the Kingston Chapel. Property was also purchased for a chapel in Portmore. President Zabriskie had warned President Nugent that opposition would likely increase as work began on the chapels. Just five days after clearing began on the Kingston Chapel site, an anti-Mormon demonstration was held at the chapel site. News soon arrived that the Jamaica Kingston Mission would be created. Preparations were made, including leasing a home for the mission president. In June, Elder David B. Haight visited Jamaica. He held a meeting with the missionaries, visited various branches, and attended the seminary graduation.

On June 29, 1985, President Richard Brough, the president of the newly created Jamaica Kingston mission, arrived with his wife and two children. At that time there was 520 members in the country.

In August, 1985, the first sister full-time missionary called from Jamaica left on her mission to the United States. She was Sister Vernica Tomlinson.

In September, property was purchased for a chapel at Linstead. As work went forward on various chapels in Jamaica, attention to the Church became more visible in the press. Opposition mounted. In October a "town meeting" was held in May Pen with a panel of ministers. Mission President Richard Brough attended along with many members and missionaries from the branches. Victor Nugent recalled:

Vituperous accusations were leveled at us by the hostile clergy and townspeople crowding around us, but after we bore testimony and President Brough who was evidently blessed with an outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, calmly, lovingly, without rancor, stated our position and shared his testimony, the crowd quieted down, and seemed to melt away. (From Victor Nugent's Chronology)
In November intense media attention arose which was kicked off with a newspaper headline "Mormons are coming." Concern about the Church was discussed in the Jamaica House of Representatives. Bruce Golding, Minister of Construction, said before the House: "I raise the matter because very recently the Mormons have started the establishment of a church in my own constituency . . . and I raise this because there has been concern for some long time as to whether or not the tenets and principles of the Mormon Church are in any way affected, influenced, or based on racial prejudices." Other members of the house also said that they had been receiving protests against the Mormons. ("Mormon concerns raided in House," from "Gleaner" November, 13, 1985).

Church leaders were interviewed on radio and TV programs. Negative comments about the Church were also aired. On November 15, 1985, three missionaries, Samuel Day, Darren Russell, and Christopher Jackson were arrested in Savanna-La-Mar on charges of "over-staying their time in Jamaica." The Elder were released on bail. Missionaries in May Pen were also harassed during this time. An anti-Mormon article appeared in the "Sunday Gleaner" written by a minister, stating that the Mormons practiced "blood atonement" and polygamy.

In late November, positive articles appeared in the newspaper. Morris Cargill wrote an editorial which included: "There seems to be some slight fuss going on about the fact that the Mormons . . . are establishing themselves in Jamaica. . . . Considering the assorted circuses and money-making enterprises which have set themselves up in Jamaica as churches, I cannot imagine why any body should object to the Mormons, unless, of course, it is out of jealousy and envy. They are God fearing people. . . ." See entire article at: http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/wws/cargill.jpg

A very long and positive article was published in the "Gleaner" by Senator Hector Wynter and Billy Hall, "The Mormon Story - The other side." It began with: "It grieves me as a Jamaican committed to principles of freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, freedom of religion to see and hear Jamaican clergymen -- similarly committed -- denouncing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (otherwise known as the Mormons) and suggesting that the believers in the doctrine of that church should not be allowed to practice their religion here." The article explained many of the beliefs of the Church and said: "Perhaps the most admirable principle of the Mormons is their absolute commitment to self-sufficiency or self-sustenance."

All this attention, both negative and positive, resulted in many people who came forward and expressed interest in learning more about the Church. On December 5, two elders witnessed the robbery of an elderly lady at the Linstead post office. They chased the robber until he dropped the money which was returned to the lady. A letter to the editor included: "We the citizens of Linstead say thanks to the two young men of the Mormon Church for their gallant effort in retrieving the money." ("Heroric Mormons", from "Gleaner" January 17, 1986). See http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/wws/heros.jpg

During December a survey was conducted by the "Daily Gleaner" asking one thousand Jamaicans about the Mormons. Only 31% of the respondents had heard about the Church. Twenty percent felt that the Mormons should not be allowed to set up the Church in Jamaica.

On December 22, 1985, the Kingston Chapel was completed. On February 2, 1986, the first meeting was held in the new chapel, a very spiritual fast and testimony meeting. On February 5, a picture and article appeared in the Star newspaper announcing that there would be an open house for the new chapel and that it would be dedicated the following day by Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve. See article at: See http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/wws/chapel.jpg

Elder David B. Haight arrived at Kingston on February 7. He held a press conference that evening at the Wyndam Hotel, in Kingston. The open house for the chapel was held the next day with displays, tours, and a video presentation. On February 9, 1986, the Kingston chapel was dedicated by Elder Haight. About 700 people attended the services, with 132 watching on closed circuit TV. JBC TV reporters were present and the event was the news feature of the day.

On March 13, 1986, Church leaders met with a select committee of the Jamaica House of Representatives which was considering the Church's application for incorporation. The government officials asked questions about racism and polygamy.

During April a District conference was held with two sessions, one at Mt. St. Joseph's Auditorium in Mandeville, with 203 people in attendance, and the other in the Kingston Chapel with 350 in attendance. In May, Elder Ronald E. Poelman, of the Seventy, visited Jamaica. Firesides were held in Mandeville and Kingston.

In June, heavy rain caused devastating floods. The Church made a donation of $10,000 to the local Red Cross fund to assist flood victims.

On August 24, 1986, ground was broken for the chapel in Mandeville. Three days later, bulldozing started on the Linstead chapel site. In October, an article appeared in the "Gleaner" raising objections to the chapel being built in Linstead. On October 26, despite opposition, ground was broken for the Linstead chapel. A picture and article appeared in the "Daily Gleaner." See: http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/wws/linstead.jpg

Victor Nugent recalled:

This was during the rainy season. Dark clouds gathered overhead as we assembled together at the site. Many silent prayers were uttered by individual members, who implored the Lord to hold back the rain so that the ceremony could take place as planned, undisturbed. The ceremony proceeded, and a slight drizzle began to fall. Faith wavered. Some talks were hurried. During the dedicatory prayer there was the sound of heavy rain around us. Members kept their place - and remained dry. When we finally looked around, all were astounded to see that heavy rain had indeed fallen all around, but the place where we stood was relatively dry. The Lord had indeed blessed us with a dramatic manifestation, in answer to our prayers.
As the year closed, a fireside was held in the Kingston Chapel with President Brough. Ian Boyne, the religion writer for the "Gleaner" was in attendance and he interviewed several members. He later published a long, positive article on February 1, 1987 entitled, "Do we need the Mormons?" The article began with: "In the emotional-charged debate which flared up over Mormonism here last year, very little emerged about Mormon beliefs or lifestyle. Jamaican Mormons believe that once people know about their religion, it will have very little difficulty catching on." The article included inspiring quotes from local members, explaining why the Church appealed to them.

In March, 1987, Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Twelve, and Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Seventy arrived in Jamaica for a short visit. On April 12, 1987, the Jamaica District was split. Victor Nugent became president of the Kingston District, and Elder Samuel Smith was set appart as the president of the Mandeville District.

In May, the Lamanite Generation, from BYU visited Jamaica and put on a gala performance at the Oceana Hotel in Kingston. Proceeds of the event went to the Bustamante Hospital for Children and May Pen Hospital. The group performed dances representing the American Indians, Latin American and Caribbean people. They concluded with Jamaican Farewell which had the audience respond with a rousing applause. They were led in this applause by Mike Henry, Minister of State for Culture. The event received positive reaction in local media. See picture of their visit and other photos on: http://www.ldschurch.net/f/nugentv/page11.html

In September, 1987, a long article appeared in the "Gleaner" entitled "A Mormon Speaks Out." The article presented an interesting interview with Jamaica's first member, Victor Nugent. President Nugent's conversion story was published along with many wonderful explanations of gospel principles.

On October 1987, the House of Representatives approved a bill for the Incorporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some house members were opposed, and still believed that the Church was racist and practiced polygamy.

In November, the Saints in Mandeville were meeting in their new chapel. A picture and article appeared in the "Gleaner." See article at: http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/wws/mchapel.jpg

On Feburary 7, 1988, the first Sacrament Meeting was held in the new Linstead Chapel with more than one hundred in attendance. An impressive open house was held in April attended by members and many investigators.

In March, Elder Hartman Rector Jr. visited Jamaica with Puerto Rico Regional Representative Frank Talley. A fireside was held with members and investigators at the Kingston Chapel. Elder Rector spoke about Satan and his wiles. He closed the meeting by singing "I Heard Him Come." The Jamaican Saints experienced a magnificent spiritual feast.

On September 12, 1988, Hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica, killing at least 239 people, leaving tens of thousands homeless, causing billions of dollars in damage. Mission President Richard L. Brough reported that it took several days to track down all of the missionaries and members. By September 19, everyone had been located. He said, "Power and telephone lines were down for several days. There is some damage to Church property but it focuses on landscaping, not on the structure. There is also damage to members' homes, but most of that is roofs that have been blown away." During the storm, meetinghouses in the country were opened up to area residents for shelter. Priesthood leaders and missionaries assisted with relief efforts. The Church makes generous donations of zinc sheets, plastic covering, food, blankets etc., to members and government agencies. ("Hurricane's devastation leaves LDS alive, thankful," Church News, September 24, 1988.)

On July 3, 1988, a long, generally positive news article appeared in the "Gleaner." It began: "Time heals all wounds. The Mormons in Jamaica certainly have no doubt about that. After a major storm of protest raged in late 1985 and into 1986, things have settled down. Pardon: Now a flood has hit them -- a rising tide in membership." Outgoing mission president Richard Brough reflected on the opposition during 1985-86: "It certainly made me nervous. I had personally never experienced that kind of hostility to my faith before." He reported that there were now 1,500 Church members in Jamaica and 46 full-time missionaries. Membership tripled in just three years. Later in the month, Richard L. Burt was became the new mission president, replacing Richard Brough.

In 1989 the Jamaican Mission launched a large media campaign to promote the Book of Mormon. The mission office quickly ran out of books. For a two-week period, the Church was a major topic of discussion on radio shows and in newspapers. Opposition grew and members felt the pressure. A local newspaper declared: "The Mormons have taken one bold step too many. For them to launch a slick television ad campaign promoting their sacred book, the Book of Mormon, is going too far in this fundamentalist country." Sister Megreta Johnson felt the pressure and prayed for a reconfirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. She experienced a dream in which she saw a woman walk past her gate toward a heavenly gathering of happy people. The woman asked Sister Johnson if he had her copy of the Book of Mormon, that it was required if she wanted to join that group. (Olive W. Nalder, "The Field Is Ripe in Jamaica's May Pen Branch," Ensign, May 1991).

On March 12, 1989 About 60 members from Salt Lake City, (technical personnel from the computer firm of Evans & Sutherland), with their wives, attend sacrament meeting in Linstead Branch. The group includes Relief Society and Primary General Board members.

As of 1989, there were 141 students enrolled in seminary. In 1990, there were 1,900 members in Jamaica.

At the beginning of 1991, there were thirty-four missionaries on the island. The government was still restricting the number of work permits that could be issued to missionaries. In 1991, Queed H. Weiler was called as the new mission president.

During 1991 the Ensign magazine featured the May Pen Branch from Jamaica. This branch had 150 members with a sacrament meeting attendance of about 100. The Ensign reported some of the challenges faced by branch members: "The May Pen Branch -- is just one of the thirteen LDS branches in Jamaica. Devaluation of money and the resulting inflation are great concerns. Unemployment and low wages affect nearly everyone and are challenges the government is trying to deal with. Transportation to church meetings is scarce and expensive, so many people walk long distances to attend church. And many members emigrate, seeking greener financial fields, which saps the branch's strength." (Ibid.)

In 1992, Victor Nugent was released as District President. By 1993 there were nearly 100 missionaries serving in the country, half of them Jamaicans. Amos Chin was the head of the CES, and was a driving force behind preparation efforts for native Jamaican missionaries. (From Joel Gurvine, )

In 1994 David R. Calvert was called as the new Jamaica Kingston mission president, replacing Queed H. Weiler. President Calvert was an attorney from Colorado.

On January 18, 1995, Errol Tucker, a pioneer member of the Church is Jamaica died.

In August, 1995, Jamaican Saints celebrated the tenth anniversary of the creation of their mission. President Calvert presented Governor General Howard Cooke with audio tapes of the Mormon Tabernacle choir. See article and photo at: http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/wws/calvert1.jpg

In 1995 there were 3,500 members in two districts (Kingston and Mandeville) in fifteen branches.

In 1996, Victor Nugent was called to be the president of the Kingston District. In 1997 Eugene J. Moore was called as the new mission president, replacing President Calvert.

On February 20-23, 43 members from Jamaica attended the Orlando Temple. Thirty-one came from the Kingston District and nine from the Mandeville District. Seventeen received their own endowments and five families were sealed. Twenty-three received their patriarchal blessings. (From Victor Nugent's home page.)

During early 1998, the Family Home Evening program was featured in the Jamaican new media. Victor Nugent and his family were interviewed by television, radio and the newspaper "Daily Gleaner." Victor and Verna Nugent live in St. Catherine, Jamaica with their children Mark (21), Camille (18), and Spencer (15). Their oldest son, Peter is married to Onika and living in Springville, Utah. Their daughter Cecile works for the Church Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. Victor Nugent is still the manager of a citrus processing plant. His family belongs to the Linstead Branch, consisting of about one hundred members.

On May 16-17, 1998, the Kingston District Conference was held at the Linstead chapel and Constant Spring chapel (in Kingston) presided over by President Nugent. Two separate general sessions were held on Sunday because the numbers attending would not fit into one building. "The District Choir under the direction of Sister Nugent was outstanding and helped to set the tone, and lift spirits." There 701 people at the two sessions.

On the west side of the island, Michael HoSang is the current president of the Mandeville Jamaica District. There are currently nineteen branches in Jamaica.