MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
Forgive Pamela Cordoba for needing a moment or two to organize her thoughts about dancing in the Church's Nov. 15 Mexican cultural event. For the 13-year-old Pamela and some 8,000 fellow Mexican youth, the evening was monumental and maybe even a bit overwhelming.
For starters, the program was staged in front of about 87,000 people inside Aztec Stadium, one of the world's most storied sports venues that has hosted Olympic competitions and a pair of World Cup soccer finals.
The night's audience was also unique. Pamela's role in a folk dance from the quintessentially Mexican state of Jalisco offered the young woman a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bear her testimony through the performing arts with parents, friends, local Church leaders and a prophet.
"It was wonderful to be able to share our talents and culture," said Pamela.
Indeed, all who participated in the cultural event likely returned to their homes enriched with the sort of memory that President Thomas S. Monson said blesses lives for a lifetime. Prior to the start of the 80-minute cultural event, the Church leader told the tens of thousands gathered in the stadium that he strongly advocates such gatherings.
"Write in your journal tonight or tomorrow what you saw this evening; how you felt this evening. . . . May you never forget this experience," he said.
The Mexican cultural event marked a historic moment. The 87,000 who listened to President Monson are believed to be the largest live audience to ever listen to a Church president in person. In his brief comments, President Monson said he was looking forward to the next day's rededication of the Mexico City Mexico Temple.
He pronounced a blessing on the youth and their leaders, "that you will always face the light and walk in truth."
The Church president delighted the audience by sharing boyhood memories of his friendships with Mexican families in his Salt Lake City neighborhood. He also performed an impromptu rendition of the Spanish folk song "El Rancho Grande." When he finished singing, the Aztec Stadium crowd roared as if he had just scored a game-winning goal.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of his own special connection to Mexico. Both President Eyring's father and grandfather were proud citizens of Mexico. His father, Henry Eyring, would often sing the Mexican National Anthem with a broad smile on his face.
"I will never forget the sound of affection and happiness in his voice," he said.
President Eyring paid tribute to the pioneers who established the Church in Mexico, adding that all who had gathered together that evening were pioneers because they are preparing a way for others to follow.
"I'm grateful to participate with you in celebrating the history of this great land."
He concluded by saying the Church in Mexico has a proud past and a promising future.
President Monson also invited his daughter and traveling companion, Ann M. Dibb, to share a few thoughts. Sister Dibb, who serves as second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, expressed her joy to be among the Mexican members during a sacred period of rededication.
"This cultural celebration is preparatory for what will transpire tomorrow," Sister Dibb said.
The cultural program told the story of Mexico's history, people and faith through a variety of folk music, regional dances and sacred hymns. A symphony and choir augmented the spirit of the evening.
Thousands of young people adorned in colorful, traditional costumes performed dances ranging from the ancient Aztec nation to the distinct Mexican regions of Chihuahua, Veracruz, Michoacan and Jalisco. Performers also re-enacted pivotal episodes from Mexican history, including the fight for national independence and the Mexican Revolution. Church history moments such as Joseph Smith's First Vision were also highlighted.
The evening concluded with a medley of hymns from students of the Church-owned Benemerito de las Americas Academy and a procession of missionaries from the six missions serving in the Mexico City area. Aztec Stadium was then transformed into a shifting sea of white as audience and cast members stood and waved handkerchiefs in the direction of President Monson and President Eyring.
The two Church leaders — each draped in a colorful Mexican serape to keep out the evening cold — stood together, returning the historic salute.
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