News Release

Faithful and True: Pioneers in the Philippines (Luzon)

Special Feature on David Lagman

Full-time missionaries began working in the Philippines in 1961. When the Manila Philippines Temple was dedicated in 1984, 23 years later, the Church had grown from a handful of Filipino members to more than 75,000 Latter-day Saints, 15 stakes, and numerous districts, wards, and branches. Today the growth of the Church continues at a rapid pace, with the number of Filipino members exceeding 800,000. On 28 April 2021, the Church will celebrate 60 years in the Philippines.


Missionary Work Begins

American servicemen, their families, and others living in the Philippines loved the Filipinos and in 1960 pleaded with Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles assigned to supervise the Church in Asia, to open the Philippines to missionary work.

On his first visit to the Philippines in 1960, Elder Hinckley realized the potential the Philippines offered as a mission field. Legal challenges slowed official recognition for the Church, but Elder Hinckley and Robert S. Taylor, president of the Southern Far East Mission, believed permission for missionary visas would soon be granted. With authorization from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, they scheduled a meeting at the American War Memorial Cemetery on 28 April 1961 to initiate missionary work.

At 6:30 on a quiet, peaceful morning, around 100 members of the Church—mostly servicemen and their families, but including David Lagman, a Filipino member—met near the small memorial chapel. At the conclusion of a brief meeting, Elder Hinckley offered a prayer in which he invoked blessings “upon the people of this land, that they shall be friendly and hospitable, and kind and gracious to those who shall come here, and that many, yea Lord, we pray that there shall be many thousands who shall receive this message and be blessed thereby. … We pray that there shall be many men, faithful, good, virtuous, true men who shall join the Church.”

David Lagman

In the May and June 1940 issues of Reader's Digest was a two-part series article called “The Children of God.”  It was an article that explained how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came about.  It talked about the Prophet Joseph Smith and his first vision.  One of the series fell into the hands of young David Lagman, a sixteen-year-old boy in the Philippines.  He found a tattered copy of it in a garbage can.

He read the article with curiosity and felt something in his heart that made him ponder about the story of Joseph Smith. David thought "Is it possible that a prophet could exist in the world today?"  It was a story he could relate to because at some point in his life David had also wondered which church is the true church of God.

David wanted to know more about this church, but he did not know of anyone who might be able to provide him more information.  Eventually, he lost the article, but he kept these things in his heart, hoping perhaps someday he might stumble on someone who could tell him more about this church.

After the war, Clark Air Force Base of the United States was established in Angeles City, Philippines.  In 1957, seventeen years after David Lagman found the articles in the trash can, he found employment in this base as a telegraph operator.  He was working mostly in the swing shift.  Where he worked, there were a couple of guys of different sects who liked to argue and debate about religion, each claiming theirs was the true church.  

David was very much impressed with the knowledge of the scriptures of one particular guy.  It was during this time that Fred Brown, a serviceman from Arizona was assigned to Clark Air Force Base.  As a teletype operator, he was assigned to work at the same area where David was working.  His pleasant demeanor and good attitude prompted David one day to ask him why he seemed to be different from the others who worked there.

David found out that Fred was a Latter-day Saint, the very first one he met.  Upon learning this, David's memory of the Reader's Digest article seventeen years ago instantly rekindled.  He asked Fred for more information about the Church.  Fred gave David all the pamphlets and reading materials he could get.

David was like a desert wanderer who discovered an oasis.  He read everything that was given to him and in just a couple of weeks, he finished reading the Book of Mormon.  By January 1958 he had obtained a testimony of the gospel and the Church.  He knew right then that this was the church he should join.

Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then a member of the Council of the Twelve, first dedicated the Philippines for missionary work in August 1955.  During the time that David was investigating the Church, there was no mission in the Philippines.  The Clark Group was part of the Southern Far East Mission.  

David wanted to be baptized in the Church, but there was an understandable reluctance on the part of the local leadership.  If David got laid off for any reason, from his job on the base, there would be no other group outside the base where he could attend church. 

But David was undeterred.  He kept coming to church meetings and started living the gospel.  He stopped smoking and when he learned about the law of tithing after reading the book, “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder,” he started setting aside part of his income for tithing.  David's patience and obedience paid off.  On 6 September 1958, he was allowed to be baptized, much to the surprise of other members who thought he was already a member of the Church.  On 22 January 1961, he became the first native of the Philippines to be ordained an Elder.

In April 1961, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Council of the Twelve Apostles rededicated the Philippines for missionary work. David Lagman was invited to witness the dedication.

Two months later, in June 1961, the Philippines Manila Mission was established with Paul Rose as the President.  Four full-time missionaries, who were originally assigned to Hong Kong, were transferred to the Philippines.  One of these missionaries, Elder Raymond Goodson, would later come back to the Philippines to become the president of one of the missions.

Being one of the pioneers of the Church in the Philippines, David Lagman served in different leadership capacities.  He was called as a branch president, a district president, as well as a bishop. He eventually moved to the United States in the early 1980s. He now resides with his wife in San Jose, California. He eventually wrote to Reader's Digest and he was given copies of those 1940 editions. 

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