During his first official visit to this populous land since becoming president of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley was warmly greeted by all he met - members, government officials and the media.
In a whirlwind trip to the southeastern coast of Mexico on the weekend of Jan. 27-28, President Hinckley spoke to nearly 9,000 Saints, instructed some 1,200 priesthood leaders and missionaries, and met with top government officials and media representatives in two cities.His participation at a multi-stake gathering in Veracruz, a seaport city located about 250 miles east of Mexico City, was particularly appreciated. Tears flowed freely from the members, and he was emotional as he expressed his love in return. Their appreciation for him was shown as they lined up early in the morning to enter the auditorium, as they listened reverently during the meeting, and as they bid him farewell.
Most poignant was when he waved farewell with both arms to those in the packed auditorium. The thousands waved joyfully back, experiencing what was for many a once-in a lifetime opportunity to see the president of the Church.
Accompanying President Hinckley were Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Gary J. Coleman of the Seventy, first counselor in the Mexico South Area presidency, and their wives, Kathleen Eyring and Judy Coleman.
During a brief stop in Mexico City Jan. 27, President Hinckley received a warm and cordial greeting by Genaro Jaimes O., director general of the office of religious affairs of Mexico. Mr. Jaimes expressed the regret of Mexico President Ernesto Zedillo for not being able to meet him personally. President Zedillo was out of the country at the time.
President Hinckley expressed gratitude for the welcome, and for the official recognition given to the Church by the Mexican government in 1993.
Representatives of the media in Mexico City spent 20 minutes asking President Hinckley about Church growth in Mexico and the role the Church plays in helping people be self sufficient. Later that evening, representatives of the media from the Veracruz area also met with President Hinckley. He assured them of the Church's role in strengthening the family, teaching values of integrity and emphasizing the importance of members being good citizens of the countries where they live, and their individual responsibility to "honor, obey and sustain the law."
He also spoke of Church growth, both in Mexico and worldwide. The prophet explained that the Church believes in a separation of Church and state, and that the Church does not generally get involved in legislative matters. However, he said, there are times when the Church will speak up on public matters of morality.
The visit to Veracruz was not the first for President Hinckley. He mentioned that he had spoken at the small Veracruz stake to "a few members" some 18 years ago. Today, there are seven stakes and a district in the Veracruz vicinity.
On Saturday, Jan. 27, President Hinckley addressed priesthood leaders, and 140 missionaries of the Mexico Veracruz Mission in separate meetings held at the Veracruz Mocambo Stake Center.
In his remarks at the multi-stake gathering, held in the World Trade Center Auditorium, President Hinckley emphasized the sense of family within the Church, and the importance of strong families in the Church.
"My heart reaches out to you in love," he said. "When I came into this hall this morning I had difficulty holding back my tears because you are my people and I am your brother. Each of us is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Men and women of different nations but united in the great cause of the Lord - this marvelous work of salvation which is designed to improve the lives of each of us, to make us a little better, to draw us a little closer to the Lord, to live together in love and appreciation and respect one for another.
"I bring the love of all of my brethren and my sisters. All of us are becoming one great family, a family of Latter-day Saints. We are spreading over the earth."
He welcomed the many children in the congregation and noted, "We are a Church which bears testimony of the importance of the family - the father, the mother, the children, and of the fact that we are all children of God our Eternal Father."
He emphasized that "parents who bring children into the world have a responsibility to love those children, to nurture them and care for them, to teach them those values which would bless their lives so that they will grow to become good citizens of Mexico. If there is less trouble in the homes there will be less trouble in the nations."
He quoted the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who said, "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." (Isa. 54:13.)
Of helping children have peace, he said, "Teach them the ways of righteousness and truth." He observed, however, that instead of peace, many young people throughout the world suffer from the misery of drugs and disease.
"I hope, my brothers and sisters, that you are having your family home evenings with your children," said President Hinckley. "You cannot afford to postpone this. The days, the months, and the years pass so quickly and before long it will be too late."
After sharing a poignant story about the power of the Book of Mormon as a conversion tool, President Hinckley, in an emotion-filled voice, said: "I think if father Lehi were looking down on this meeting today, he would weep . . . and those would be tears of gladness to see his children, so many of you who carry within your veins his blood, as he sees your faith and faithfulness." He then encouraged each one present to read again this year the Book of Mormon.
President Hinckley quoted a statement by President Brigham Young, who said: "Every principle God has revealed carries its own conviction of the truth." (See Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, Jan. 9, 1862.)
President Hinckley continued: "That is a very simple statement but what a marvelous statement it is. If you wonder whether the Book of Mormon is true there is a very simple way to find out and that is to read and ask the Lord as you read it and there will come into your heart a conviction of its truth."
He held up a a copy of the Book of Mormon and observed, "I notice that I finished reading this particular book on August 8, 1976. I finished reading it again on March 20, 1980. I finished reading it again on July 13, 1987. I finished reading it again on February 26, 1989."
President Hinckley noted that the Book of Mormon is the course of study in the Sunday School this year, and encouraged members to "join with me in reading again this year this great and sacred volume. Read it to your children. They will not understand all of the words, but they will get the spirit of this work."
"The test of the Book of Mormon is in its reading and I want to give you my witness that every time you read it you will find things that you have never noticed before that will touch your life for good. Marvelous is the effect of the Book of Mormon."
President Hinckley encouraged the members to go to the temple often, to pay their tithing and to live the Word of Wisdom.
"I know many of you are having a struggle to get along economically. These are difficult times in which to live. But this is a great nation of great and good people and you are as the leaven among them. Pray for your nation and the Lord will hear and answer your prayers, and we will add our prayers to your prayers. This is one of the great areas of the Church, this great nation where we have about 750,000 members of the Church, and the nation has favored us with official recognition because they have seen the goodness of your lives.
"Do not ever betray the trust which has been put in you. In each case these
mediaT reporters who interviewed me have said that this Church has a wonderful reputation in Mexico. That is because of you. Never violate that trust. Never forget who you are.
"I leave my blessing with you that God will open the windows of heaven and shower down blessings upon you, that there will be food upon your table and clothing on your backs and a roof over your heads and love and peace in your homes."