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When Miriam and Rolland Perry arrived in Los Alamos with their young family in the spring of 1943, the Perrys found no other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sixty years later, this has all changed.
They worked with people of other faiths to organize a community Sunday School, which later became the United Church, where they became active.
Eventually the Perrys located a few soldiers and families who shared their faith and began to meet weekly at their home on Sunday evenings. When the Perrys left Los Alamos in 1946, about 50 members attended LDS Sunday School.
In 1951, the group was officially organized into the Los Alamos Branch with a young physicist, Robert Clark, sustained as president. A more complete program was instituted with meetings during the week, Relief Society for the women and Primary for the children.
A dormitory was leased near the present-day Los Alamos Little Theater to provide a chapel and classrooms.
Finally, there were enough teens to organize the Mutual Improvement Association (M.I.A.) or Young Men and Young Women Organization, as it is now called.
By 1957, a ward (similar in size to a parish) was organized, with Robert Clark as Bishop and plans were made and funds raised to build the chapel located at 1967 18th St.
Members performed much of the basic labor, such as digging the foundation. It was completed in 1960, binding those who worked together into a close family.
Seventeen years after arriving in Los Alamos, the Clarks moved to Albuquerque in 1967. Ezra C. Budge replaced Robert as bishop, which involves five or six years of unpaid ministerial responsibility.
Also, additions were made to the building, but when the membership reached nearly 600, it was time to divide the ward or congregation.
In 1978, Los Alamos Ward was divided and the White Rock Ward was created. Bishop Richard Haglund became the new bishop of the Los Alamos Ward and Roger Gratz was called to be bishop of the newly created White Rock Ward.
Although the property at 366 Grand Canyon in White Rock had been purchased earlier, it was not until 1985 that the groundbreaking for the church was held. The building was constructed under the watchful eyes of architect Elwood Cardon and finished in 1986.
Recently, the grounds were changed at some expense to a xeriscape landscape.
Strengthening the family and nurturing the youth are emphasized in the Church. For example, members of the entire family set aside one night each week to spend time together, which is known as the Family Home Evening program.
During the program, a family may plan goals, join in work, play activities, perform music or study together for an hour or so.
Men and women of the LDS Church have worked outside the church as well. They have led Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, Varsity Teams and Venture Crews 222 and 422.
Silver Beaver recipients through the years include church members Elmo Morgan, George Jarvis, Howard Adams, Margaret Bailey, Aldred Schofield, Marion Pack, Roger Gartz, Wayne DeMill, Carol Neal and Sandy Jennings. More than 150 of the young men in the church have earned Eagle Scout Awards.
The young women of the church have earned recognition, too. Girls ages 12 -18 have progressed and achieved recognition through the Young Women’s program.
Church members’ services extend beyond Los Alamos. Young men in the military have served their country, some in Iraq and young men and women continue to serve as Church missionaries in such places as Taiwan, Japan, Ukraine, Romania, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil and the United States. Retired couples have served similar missions.
Two couples recently returned from serving in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. One couple also will serve for a short time in South Africa later this year, overseeing humanitarian work.
Having learned the language and culture of these people, the missionaries and their families develop a great love for those they have served.
The local LDS Church offers services to Los Alamos through its Family History Centers in the Los Alamos and White Rock Wards.
The centers are open to the public, equipped with computers, film readers and staff with experienced personnel ready to assist those who are new to finding their ancestors.
Additionally, the White Rock Children’s Parade and Carnival began in front of church members John and Jean Lyman’s home on July 4, 1981.
Children and pets walked or rode bicycles and tricycles around the block. Now it has grown to a large parade with a fire engine and police escort, a float, live music and many children, parents and pets from the community.
After the parade, those attending are invited to a free carnival held in the backyard of the White Rock Church with free prizes and refreshments.
Other community events include the annual Crèche Show at the Los Alamos Church during the first week in December, which began in 1994 at Alice Mann’s suggestion. Preparing for, or merely enjoying seeing the Crèche collections from around the world, begins the Christmas season on a spiritual note.
Furthermore, the “Easter Story: Christ Resurrection” written by Brent and Marcia Boyack of the Los Alamos Ward began in 1997 has become an annual Easter tradition.
More than 100 organizers, scene leads, guides and actors performed at the Los Alamos building this year. Looking forward, LDS members reflect on their 13th Article of Faith which reads in part: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
Through its services and programs, it seems clear the local LDS church has fulfilled this particular statement.
The same spirit that led the original members remains strong today.