THE Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints has embarked on an expansion drive with new stakes created at a one-day conference held last week. A stake is similar to an assembly.

The church now has seven stakes after Harare East Stake broke away from Harare. Other stakes across the country include Bulawayo, Gweru, Marimba Park, Harare South and Nkulumane.

Presiding over the conference, member of the Third Quorum of the Seventy, elder Walter Chatora explained the functions of the stakes.

“The stake president is the presiding high priest in a stake and oversees the spiritual and temporal welfare of church members,” elder Chatora said.

He said those who were selected to lead were set apart by God, hence the church should support them.

Elder Chatora also explained, “Harare Stake will comprise congregations from Borrowdale Ward, Domboshava lst Branch, Domboshava 2nd Ward, Enterprise Ward, Harare Branch, Highlands Ward and Mabelreign Ward.

“Elder Sawman Machakaire will be the president while elders Robert Spencer and Onward Chivhunga will be the first and second counsellors respectively,” he said.

Addressing a press conference after the main meeting, Africa Southeast Area president, Kelvin Hamilton explained that a stake is an Old Testament term in reference to the metaphor of a tent in Isaiah 54.

“The prophet talks about the stakes of Zion and the church is a tent and at the edges of the tent we put stakes and they work as anchors of the tent.

“The congregations called wards are geographically outlined, led by a Bishop, and organised into stakes.

“Stakes are generally comprised of five to 10 wards overseen by a stake president,” said Hamilton.

He said the newly formed Harare East stake becomes the 50th stake in the church’s Africa Southeast area.

“Worldwide we have over 3300 stakes, 45 percent of those stakes are in America and the remainder are in Asia, Africa and Europe,” Hamilton said.

He attributed the growth of the church to the message they preach.

“The reason why the church is growing in Zimbabwe is because we offer the message of Jesus, we believe in salvation by Jesus Christ and we are very family focused.

“We believe that the family is the internal unit that God created for the salvation of his children. All are welcome, the old and new, single and married, the church is for everybody,” he said.

“We don’t preach the gospel of prosperity, we preach the gospel of personal righteousness and personal responsibility. If people find riches or material gain through that process then all the better. But Jesus Christ never preached prosperity, He preached humility and righteousness in His ministry,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton said the growth of the church in Zimbabwe necessitated the announcement of the first Latter Day Saints temple in Zimbabwe by the church world president Elder Thomas S. Monson.

“The president of the Latter Day Saints Thomas S. Monson announced the construction of the temple in Harare as a compliment of the church’s growth.

“We have not yet announced the exact location of the temple but we expect to do so early next year and shortly after that, construction will begin. These are places where we perform the most sacred and holy ordinances and rites of our faith.

“We have thousands of Sunday meeting houses scatted throughout the world, including dozens of meeting houses in Zimbabwe, but this would be a very special place,” he said.

Latter Day Saints has 150 existing temples worldwide. Some of them are in Johannesburg (South Africa), Accra (Ghana), Aba (Nigeria), one under construction in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and two more to be constructed in Durban and Abidjan ( Ivory Coast).