Additional Resource

Mexican Mormons Reflect on Church Growth, Temples

The remodeled Mexico City temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens to the public next week, and longtime members of the Church remember earlier years when attending a temple wasn’t so easy.  In order to attend the nearest temple, members had to travel all the way to Mesa, Arizona, at considerable hardship.

Julia Elvira Garcia Martinez, 83, of Mexico Distrito Federal, recalls the early years of her membership, when a temple trip was a long-awaited, possibly once-in-a-lifetime journey. “It was a time of great poverty back then (1968); the members had to sacrifice a lot to go to Mesa. We traveled on buses with 40 or 50 people. The trip took two days up and two days back.”

That all changed in 1983 when the Mexico City temple was dedicated as the country’s first temple.

Florencio Hernandez Vigueras, 73, of Pachuca, Hidalgo, recalls: “When they told us about the construction of the Mexico City temple, it was miraculous news for us because back then government laws were very strict, making it difficult to have a temple here. It was a miracle!” Virgilio Aguilar Paez, 70, of Tlalnepantla, acknowledges, “The temple is a part of our history; we feel very blessed and very grateful to be close.”

Though Brigham Young sent missionaries to Mexico in 1875 and some locals joined the Church, turbulent times in the country’s government limited the activity of the Church for many years. Not until 1940, after several previous and short-lived attempts, were full-time missionaries able to return to work with the members in Mexico. In those intervening years, many members continued their involvement in the Church.

Julia Martinez remembers the construction of a Church meetinghouse in the town of Santiago de Hidalgo. “My brothers would carry water and rocks all the way up the hill to the chapel,” she recalls. “It was humbly made of only rocks. The missionaries and the members would come to the meetings riding on donkeys.”

Vigueras, 73, has witnessed the growth of the Church in his area. “When I was baptized in 1944, there were about 100 members in my congregation. My family and I were part of the first stake organized in Mexico, and now there are three stakes in that same geographic area, or nearly 10,000 members. It’s a wonderful thing to see how the Church has grown all these years.”

“There has been great progress in the Church in my lifetime. Many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have continued in the Church,” Martinez concluded.

There are now 12 temples located throughout Mexico. The notable increase in the number of temples in Mexico corresponds with the growth of Church membership there. In 1961, the first Spanish-speaking stake (similar to a diocese) was organized in the country.  Now there are 210 stakes and more than 1.1 million members in Mexico. Mexico was the first country other than the United States to have more than one million members of the Church.

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