A history of Spanish-speaking language and ethnic based units in the Church is presented in this book by Jessie L. Embry, associate director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and supervisor of its oral history program. Few concerns in contemporary Mormonism elicit more emotion and feeling than the issue of ethnic and language branches and wards. In a Church in which unity and equality is emphasized, the concept of dividing into units based on something other than geography seems incongruent. Yet the reality of language and cultural differences among the members has resulted in the organization of various types of language-based meetings from the time non-English-speaking converts first immigrated to the United States. The issue is not solely a concern in the United States, since language-based units exist in many parts of the world and elicit mixed feelings from local leaders.
Embry has explored many of the issues that are essential to gaining an understanding of the Spanish-speaking congregations. To see the organization of these units as the result of only language differences is to fail to understand the significant social issues connected to them. These branches and wards often are as distinct ethnically and culturally as linguistically. Embry and those interviewed point out that “understanding the language [is] ‘just the tip of the iceberg.'”