MONTERREY, Mexico — Monterrey's longtime Church members know something of patience.
For decades they had made annual trips aboard rented buses to distant temples in places such as Mesa, Ariz., and later to Mexico City. Those long trips were tolerated — the faithful members wanted desperately to claim their temple blessings and fulfill family history commitments. Yet few had the time or money to make more than that single temple trip a year.
Then they heard the happy news in 1995 that a temple was to built in their own mountain-fortified city. Yet once again they would have to exercise patience.
"The temple in Monterrey was the first to be announced in our country since the opening of the Mexico City Temple — and the 12th to be built and dedicated in Mexico," said Carlos Trevio, a longtime Church member and local historian.
Indeed, Brother Trevio and his fellow members from the Monterrey area have spent years watching temples being built and then dedicated in neighboring Mexican cities such as Tampico, Veracruz and Ciudad Juarez. Property for the temple in Monterrey was purchased in the city's Colonia del Valle sector. But there was aggressive opposition from the temple's would-be neighbors. After years of negotiations, the Colonia del Valle plans were scrapped and a new site purchased in an area of Monterrey surrounded by greenery and the city's dramatic mountain peaks.
"We've waited seven years for this temple, but what a blessing it is," said Leticia Villagrana de Becerra. "We will do anything the Lord asks of us. He will bless us for this."
Sister Medina and her daughters were among the thousands from Monterrey and surrounding communities who endured the region's stifling heat April 28 to receive counsel from President Gordon B. Hinckley and celebrate the long-awaited dedication of the Monterrey Mexico Temple.
Ironically, the attention that focused on the Church's struggles to build a holy edifice in Monterrey yielded some unexpected benefits. Local news agencies that documented the obstacles connected to the first site subsequently covered the construction and completion of the temple on its final site. Curious folks who knew nothing of the Church began asking questions. More than 40,000 people visited during the temple's open house to admire the building's marble exterior and impressive interior decor — then learned of eternal families and the restored gospel.
"Never before has the Church in Monterrey received so much attention," said Raul Salcedo, who directed the temple's public affairs duties. "The Lord has helped us proclaim the gospel. . . now people have had a chance to change their opinion about the Church."
Long lines of members from Monterrey and surrounding cities formed outside the temple to participate in one of the four dedicatory sessions. Many huddled under large umbrellas to find shelter from the sun. A team of young people, some with tanks of water strapped to their backs, dispensed water to the thirsty crowds. Still the members remained in good spirits. They had waited several years for this day — a little Monterrey heat apparently wouldn't undermine their happiness.
The faithful patience of the contemporary Monterrey members reflects the lives of their predecessors.
Douglas Hinckley recalls laboring in Monterrey while a young, full-time missionary in 1952. There were only two branches at the time, yet both were enriched "with very good people." Today there are 12 stakes in Monterrey. The growth over the past 50 years has surprised Brother Hinckley, who attended the April 28 dedication with his wife, Carol.
"It never entered my mind [while a missionary] that there would one day be a temple here," Brother Hinckley said.
The fellowshipping spirit of the Monterrey members has helped bring many into the Church, Brother Trevio added. He, himself, decided to study the gospel after wandering into a young adult dance at an LDS meetinghouse in the early 1950's. The strangers inside treated him like an old friend. Soon he was attending Sunday meetings and eventually accepted their challenge to be baptized.
Now Brother Trevio plans on immersing himself in temple work.
The new temple — which sits besides a new stake center that was dedicated on the same day — will bless more than the lives of local members, said Adriana Ibarra de Medina.
"Monterrey has changed because there is a temple here," Sister Medina said. "This is the most important day in the history of this city. People have changed the way they think about the Church."
Young Jose Ibarra was born in the Church. He appreciates its history in Monterrey and the diligence of his fellow members. He reveres the sacrifices of the past and anticipates a happy future for the Church amid the shadows of Monterrey's lush peaks.
"I'm especially thankful for the faith of the many Mexican people who have kept their covenants so we are able to have temples today."