Mexico formally registers Church

The government of Mexico, after adopting a new constitution, formally registered the LDS Church as a religious organization on June 29.

Formal registration means that the Church now has all rights that had been denied churches by the previous constitution, including the right to own property. Previously, the property of all churches in Mexico was held by the government.Although churches had been allowed to function under the previous constitution, none had legal recognition. The LDS Church has been established in Mexico for 114 years.

The recognition was granted at a rarely held ceremony presided over by Patrocinio Gonzalez Garrido, Secretary of Gobernacion. He presented the Church with a certificate of registration.

This formal ceremony was unique among the registration of the 210 religious organizations that have received legal status under the new constitution of 1992. Government leaders complimented the Church for its accomplishments and called for a plurality of religions in Mexico. Participating in the ceremony for the Church were the two area presidents in Mexico, Elder F. Burton Howard of the Mexico South Area and Elder Angel Abrea of the Mexico North Area. Also attending were Elder F. Melvin Hammond, incoming president of the Mexico South Area, and Elder Lino Alvarez V., a counselor in the Mexico South Area presidency. All are members of the Seventy.

The application for formal recognition was prepared under the direction of the First Presidency, which has taken a lead in the process and in improving relationships with officials of Mexico. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve worked under the direction of the First Presidency on the project.

They expressed deep gratitude that after this long period of being established in Mexico, and conforming with the laws, that the Church has received formal registration. The Church was established in Mexico in 1879, and now has a membership of more than 700,000.

"The government of Mexico sees the Church as a moral force that will help build the kind of people that will strengthen society," said Elder Howard.

The recognition was granted just six days after the Church filed its application on June 23. In filing its application, Church representatives presented more than 25 encyclopedia-sized volumes containing the history of the Church, particularly in Mexico. The volumes also contained minutes of the first branch meeting in Mexico in 1879 presided over by Apostle Moses Thatcher, a list of the accomplishments of the LDS colonists of 1885, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, copies of Church publications, lists of the stake presidents, property documents, missionary tracts including "Truth Restored," by President Gordon B. Hinckley, and many other Church materials.

In the formal ceremony, Agricol Lozano H., the Church's legal counsel and a modern-day pioneer leader of the Church in Mexico, spoke in behalf of the Church. He was assisted by Jorge Montoya Monroy. Brother Lozano bore his testimony to the room full of top government dignitaries and representatives of the national press.

In the ceremony, Mr. Gonzalez stated, "I am certain that today's event represents a highly significant change in the life and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Mormon community, whose presence in Mexico dates back to the late nineteenth century and whose contributions have enriched the activities of evangelization in Mexico.

"It is noteworthy that in the documentation presented by the Church you represent, there is a clear expression of the respect for and recognition of the fortitude of the public institutions and of the obedience to our Constitution and the laws issued from it as part of the doctrine you profess. This, no doubt, will make for an open, transparent and harmonious relationship between the Mexican state and the association which today acquires a legal personality under this framework of plurality which prevails in our country."

The meeting took place in the official reception room of the Ministry of Interior. In attendance were the ranking cabinet members, including Under Secretary Ricardo Garcia Villalobos, government affairs; Cesar Augusto Santiago Ramirez, political affairs; Fernando del Villar Moreno, population and immigration services; Eloy Cantu Segovia, chief of officials; Socorro Diaz Palacios, civil protection and social adjustment; Niceforo Guerrero Reynoso, Director General of religious affairs; Tristen Canales Najjar, Director General of government; Francisco Javier Centeno Barrios, Director General of legal affairs; and other officials.

As the meeting began, Mr. Guerrero introduced the Church representatives to the cabinet members and noted that the Church's application had been accepted. He complimented the Church for its many contributions to the country during its 114-year history in Mexico.

At that time a colorful certificate of registration was presented to the Church by the Secretary of Gobernacion. Brother Lozano, on behalf of the Church, received the certificate.

Brother Lozano praised the vision of the government leaders in continuing the separation between state and church, and permitting religious freedom. He also thanked the government for its cooperation and support in the past.

"During the past 60 years . . . the treatment this [MormonT community has received from the Mexican state, through this ministry, has invariably been one of recognition and respect for the absolute religious freedom to profess, believe in, worship and share religious beliefs.

"The community has also received the support of the state in those cases where it has been necessary to uphold its religious freedom. The response received from different ministries, including the ministries of the Gobernacion, Social Development, Public Education, Health, Agriculture, National Defense, and even the office of the Attorney General, which has always been outstanding, impartial, honest and according to law."

Brother Lozano also quoted verses of the Doctrine and Covenants, including Section 98 verse 5, which proclaims support for the constitutional law of the land. He took the opportunity to encourage other religions in Mexico to teach moral and spiritual principles. "If we live in accordance with the moral and spiritual principles espoused by all churches, then the Mexican society can move on the road of obedience to law, physical and societal health, and morality and honesty.

"If we do this the Mexican people will be clean and distant from drug trafficking and other calamities. This will help them find happiness in loving their neighbors and loving their work. They will shun idleness, the dole, and other things that cause so much damage and discord among men. And they will discover that the earth is full and there is sufficient for all who keep the commandments."

Brother Lozano said that he was born in the Church and had held offices in it since his youth. "I know the good that it does for its members, and I want you to know that it is true."

Following the ceremony, Church leaders were invited to Mr. Gonzalez' office where he was presented a green, leather-bound copy of the Book of Mormon by Elder Howard and Elder Abrea.

Mr. Gonzalez mentioned that he had been with the president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and the president said he was happy the Church had been registered. He asked to convey his affectionate greetings to the Mormon community.

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