Put arms around converts, prophet urges

Speaking to vast numbers of members in this, the second most populous country in Church membership, President Gordon B. Hinckley expressed his love for each individual, and placed particular emphasis on each new convert being welcomed "with arms of love" into the Church.

Within the first three meetings during a visit to Mexico Nov. 8-13, President Hinckley had addressed 54,000 members - 42,000 in Mexico City in two meetings and 12,000 in the city of Puebla.President Hinckley was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie, who also spoke in each meeting. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Barbara, also accompanied President Hinckley and spoke in each meeting.

Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy and president of the Mexico South Area and his wife, Karen Ann, and Elder Pratt's counselors, Elder Richard E. Turley Sr. of the Seventy and his wife, Jean, and Elder Octaviano Tenorio D., an Area Authority Seventy, and his wife, Rosa Elva, accompanied the Church president and spoke in various meetings.

President Hinckley's first meeting was held in Mexico City's Palacio de Deportes, a sports arena where 21,000 members attended Saturday evening and Sunday morning meetings Nov. 8-9. At both meetings, the building was filled to capacity.

On Sunday afternoon, he journeyed about 80 miles south of Mexico City to Peubla, a city of more than 1 million, where he addressed some 12,000 members. On Nov. 10, he spoke to members in the city of Oaxaca. Plans to visit members in Tuxtla-Gutierrez were cancelled because of a hurricane in the area. On Nov. 11, he addressed members in Villahermosa. He was to speak in Merida and Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula on Nov. 12-13, squeezing in time on the 13th to visit the tiny nation of Belize as well.

In each meeting, he emphasized the need to retain new converts within the warmth of the gospel.

"We are undertaking in this Church a great and a vital campaign to hold on to every one whom you baptize," he told members and missionaries gathered in Mexico City on Sunday, Nov. 9. "We have too many lost and unknown members of the Church in Mexico. . . . The whole Church in Mexico is determined to help you in your great work, not only to teach and baptize, but also to retain and strengthen.

"And to every member of the Church who is here today, I want to say this: You and I have a great responsibility to put our arms around those who are baptized into the Church, and be a friend to them - to help them in their getting acquainted and to assist them in becoming strong, able members of the Church, such as you are."

In addition to emphasizing the importance of welcoming converts, President Hinckley expressed his love to the members. In those tender moments, time seemed to stop, and poignant feelings distilled upon the congregation. Most in attendance were converts who made great sacrifices to join and remain active in this minority religion Church. Some were longtime members who had remained faithful over the years, working many hours to strengthen their branches and wards. Now, seated in a congregation where some had come from long distances and many had waited several hours, they experienced a highlight in their membership.

As President Hinckley shared his witness of the Savior and testified of the truthfulness of the work, a stillness enveloped each congregation. He expressed his love for each of them, and said he wished time and circumstances would permit him to give an "abrazo," or traditional hug, to each person present.

Eyes of men and women reddened as they felt his sincerity; white handkerchiefs were dabbed at wet eyes as much as they were waved. But waved they were, and in each gathering the fluttering of white spread across congregations wall to wall. Children, mothers, old men, teenagers - all returned his affection with feelings that rose above boundaries of age or nationality.

In Puebla, for example, he said, "I think perhaps I will never return again [to Puebla]. We are just two people who love the members of this Church. . . .

"I just want to say in conclusion that I love you. I love you Latter-day Saints. I don't care whether you live in Mexico City or Tokyo or Buenos Aires or Madrid or Salt Lake City. We are all one great family who have taken upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, pledging to build one another to strengthen one another, to assist one another. . . . Brothers and Sister, please accept my love and my blessing."

In the Saturday evening meeting in Mexico City, he said, "Let the love of Christ come into your lives. Be kind with one another. Live the gospel. Welcome every convert into the Church. Extend to others the great thing that you have as active Latter-day Saints. To you missionaries, I would like to say that you now have greater help than you have had in the past. We are out to turn this Church around in our attention to those whom you bring into the Church, that they will grow in faith and be worthy of the blessings you now have."

In remarks Sunday morning, President Hinckley praised the strength of the Church in Mexico.

"I have seen in my lifetime what I call the miracle of Mexico,' the development of this Church here until it has become strong and powerful for good, blessing the lives of so many thousands of people." Noting that it hasn't always been so, he commented, "Now I see the leadership that is here - these strong stake presidents, these strong women who preside over the Relief Society - the great and marvelous membership of men and women and boys and girls who can stand on their feet and say,I know that God lives, and that Jesus the Christ lives, and that this is their Church. . . . ' "

He promised the youth, "the great hope of the future," that if they remain faithful, the Lord would "increase your capacity. You will become great leaders in the gospel."

He asked them to remain clean from the ways of the world, to avoid pornography and drugs, and to pray when beset by temptations. "You cannot afford to touch these things," he said. "You have taken upon yourselves a covenant of the Lord to keep His commandments. Keep the faith. Keep your lives clean."

He particularly emphasized education for the youth.

"I hope you will get all the education you can," he said. "Education will unlock the doors of opportunity. The Lord has told us to seek learning, even by study and by faith. It is incumbent upon you to educate your minds and your hands, and your opportunities will grow as you do so."

He encouraged parents to have loving homes. "As I look into your faces, I see strength and capacity. . . . Thank you for your faith, you people who gather your children around you, who go to the temple, who pay your tithing, who live the Word of Wisdom, who are good fathers and good mothers and good husbands and good wives."

He had previously commented Saturday evening on the same subject: "I hope that every husband here has been to the House of the Lord, and there joined hands with his companion. . . . I hope that there is love and harmony and respect in the homes of our people. I want to say to you husbands, that no matter how much wealth you accumulate, you will never have an asset of such value as you have in the companionship of your wife."

President Hinckley expressed appreciation to the leaders of the Church in Mexico. He mentioned Agricol Lozano, who recently completed an extended term as president of the Mexico City Temple, a man who often assisted him in years past. "He is my friend," President Hinckley said. He also thanked Elders Horacio Tenorio and Lino Alvarez, formerly of the Seventy, "for the great service they gave."

In his address in Puebla, he also addressed parents. "The Lord said, in Isaiah, that all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.' Teach your children the things of God. Read the scriptures to them." He said that while children might not understand everything they hear, a spiritwill come into their hearts, a feeling that will bless their lives. God bless you parents to rear your children in light and peace."

To the missionaries in Puebla, he said, "What a wonderful thing it is to be a missionary in Mexico, to work among these great people who are descendants of Father Lehi, to teach them the living gospel, to bring the Book of Mormon to them, to feel their faith and take them into the waters of baptism, confirm them members of the Church. I hope you realize how very important you are and how necessary you are to this work."

In her remarks in Puebla, Sister Hinckley expressed appreciation for "the beautiful experience in Mexico. Meeting with groups of Saints like you has been a tremendous experience," she said. "You lift me to higher ground. You make me want to be a better person.

"The gospel is true. I know that because of what it does for the members. The members have a countenance not found in others."

She told of having a painting of the boy Jesus in her room when she was a child, and how she has tried to follow Him. "I have felt His influence every day of my life," she said. "He is my ideal. He is the one I want to be like. He is my Savior in every sense of the word.

"I know with every fiber of my being that this is the Church of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to have a husband who holds and honors the priesthood of God."

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