MERIDA, Mexico In the past, many members had to travel long distances and overcome other inconveniences in order to have the privilege of worshiping and learning more about the eternal covenants of the restored gospel. Now, President Gordon B. Hinckley has given the opportunity to the worldwide membership of the Church to be closer to the holy temples of the Lord.
Among the faithful attendees to the Merida Mexico Temple is Sixta Martinez, a 90-year-old member of Mayan ancestry. She tells us her pioneer story:
"I am the daughter of parents who were during their lifetime slaves here in the Yucatan Peninsula. I was born on January 18, 1912, in a small village in the state of Campeche called Lerma. My mother, Nazaria Us, was a very wise woman and very rigid in her character. My father, Marcelino Dzib Quej, was a very hard worker. Both were pure-blooded Mayans. As a slave, he worked the fields of the Chibik Hacienda cultivating henequen, a tropical plant used to produce rope and other products used at the beginning of the 20th century.
"I did not have a formal education but I am grateful to my mother for the education she gave me. I do not know how to say bad words. She taught me humility and how to work hard. I am 90 and do not like to sit around or lie in bed.
"When I was still very young I suffered from pains in my stomach, which grew more and more painful as time went by. One day I went to the back of my humble home and knelt down to pray to my God in the only way I knew how. I pleaded for His healing power to ease the pain from which I suffered. As I remained reverently waiting for a reply, I felt the need to ask for help in finding the true gospel, as years before I had become disillusioned with my ancestral pagan beliefs.
"The Lord answered my plea for healing, as after that experience I did not suffer again. Twelve years later as a widow I had the privilege of receiving the true gospel, an event I can never forget. I remember when two young sisters came to the door of my home and my daughter-in-law opened the door. They indicated they were district missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I can still remember the name of one of them, Gabriela. My son and his wife began receiving the missionary lessons but I would hide behind the cardboard wall from where I could fully listen to the discussion. At first I did not want to accept the missionaries. Several weeks later my son, Sabino, and his family were baptized. At that point he gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon and that same afternoon I began reading it.
"After reading the first three pages I felt a happiness I could not explain and became convinced I had found the true gospel. I immediately got dressed and went to the meetinghouse where I found two sister missionaries. I asked where I could be baptized. They were very courteous and asked me if I had received the missionary discussions. I told them that I had heard them from behind the wall in my house. Then they sent the missionaries again and after the lessons I had the great joy of being baptized on the 21st of April 1974."Among those baptized during that year were my daughter-in-law, Teresa, my son, Sabino, my oldest daughter, Canda, and her husband and my youngest daughter, Carmen. Now, as a family we attended Church and began to learn more about the gospel and the many blessings that awaited us.
"One of the fond memories that I have is when I used to gather my family to go to Church on Sunday. The missionaries used to call us the 'Mormon army.' With all my family we could fill the meetinghouse. We totaled 18, including the children. It was a beautiful time, as we would all go to Church very happily.
"Sabino was very faithful in his obligation to the Lord. He sincerely loved his Savior. He served in the Church with great devotion. He liked making his priesthood visits and attended his meetings faithfully. He loved his children. I remember him taking his oldest son with him on his Church assignments. He told me of a dream he had in which he was told that he needed to work for the salvation of his kindred dead. He became converted to this significant part of the Plan of Salvation.
"Not long after that he was diagnosed with cancer. This became a very difficult trial for me. I spent lots of time with him at the hospital and during the last few hours of his life I pleaded with the Lord to take me instead. He was still young, had a family of four and one on the way. I had already lived a good life and had found the true gospel. As he faded from this life I promised him I would look after his children and wife. He acknowledged his appreciation and left this earthly existence. It was very difficult for me, and for his wife and children.
"Later, I felt strongly impressed that he was preaching in the spirit world. I also remember having a dream in which a whirlwind picked me up and took me to this place where there was a granite building, with a very big door where I could not enter. I remained at the door but was able to see the inside. I also heard an angelic choir as they sang. It was a wonderful dream. When the choir finished their singing the whirlwind carried me back down. The events of that night remained in my mind.
"Life went back to normal. My daughter-in-law had her child and we found ourselves in need of selling candy, sandwiches and other items in order to meet life's needs. However, understanding that my son was preaching the gospel in the spirit world motivated us to make the sacrifice of finding a way to attend the temple and be sealed and become an eternal family with my husband, my son and my beloved parents. The closest temple at that time was the one in Mesa, Ariz. We found other meager ways to save money and with great patience and effort we managed to save 2,000 Mexican pesos. I would put twenty-centavo coins in this old milk can until it was full. We also borrowed some money in order to have funds to help feed our children during the long trip. The devaluation of the Mexican peso at that time worked against us but we had a firm desire to do all we could to make the trip.
"I would collect my centavos working from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for long periods of time. When we gathered enough money my daughter-in-law and her five children accompanied me, purchasing fare for two seats and we made the trip to Mesa, Ariz. Those traveling with us were very helpful. Despite the fact that we had to travel sitting three or four to a seat, we were very happy and fortunate. We felt blessed with the privilege of attending the temple and being sealed as an eternal family. The trip took six days; it was long but we were very happy.
"When we arrived we had the privilege of seeing a temple of the Lord for the first time but, more important, we were to be sealed. When I saw the little children, Victor, Rosario, Carmen, Celina and Eva, the youngest only eight months old, coming into the sealing room all dressed in white, it was an inexpressible sight.
"Upon our return we made the commitment that we would work and save enough money to attend the temple each year. We continued selling chocolate and candy to save the money for our next trip.
"The years passed but the long annual journeys to the temple became a way of life. The visit to the temple would heal my pain and loneliness. There I would find peace and answer to my prayers. Over the years I have had the privilege and blessing of participating in temple work in Mesa, Ariz.; Los Angeles, Calif., Mexico City, Mexico, and Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George, Utah.
"Upon arriving at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, the dream that I had had long ago became a reality. My mind went back to that large building I had seen. When I had the privilege of entering the Tabernacle, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was singing 'Come, Come, Ye Saints,' and to me that was the same angelic music I had heard in my dream. What a blessing.
"Now we have a temple in Merida. You cannot imagine how I felt when it was dedicated. I wanted to be there working all day but at my age I will be 91 in January and feel very tired it was not possible. Nevertheless with great desire and joy I go to the temple each Saturday. When I enter the temple my heart is filled with joy and tranquility.
"The time is close at hand and we must accelerate our effort. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for the joy of seeing my grandchildren grow within the gospel and all marry in the temple. I made a promise to my son when he passed away and I feel that my work has been fruitful, as they have remained faithful in the Church. The youngest one has finished her studies and graduated in anthropology and my grandson, Toni, is serving the Lord with great love in the Mexico Tampico Mission. Victor, the oldest is serving as branch president, and three of my granddaughters are faithful and teaching their children to live Christlike lives.
"I am ready to depart from this life and be reunited with my mother and father, my husband and son in the spirit world. Be faithful, teach your children, attend to your Church responsibilities and go frequently to the temple, the House of the Lord."
President Fernando R. Gomez presides over the Merida Mexico Temple in the Yucatan Peninsula, home of a pre-Hispanic culture. His wife, Enriqueta, is the temple matron. They have witnessed how Church members on the peninsula are embracing the temple culture in their daily lives. He is co-founder and president of the Museum of Mormon History in Mexico, which documents experiences of Mormon pioneers of the Republic of Mexico.