Greeted by enthusiastic missionaries preparing to serve in North, Central and South America, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the Mexico City Missionary Training Center on Feb. 9.
He was accompanied by his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy, Bishop Dean M. Davies of the Presiding Bishopric and by the Mexico Area Presidency, Elder Daniel L. Johnson and his counselors, Elder Benjamin De Hoyos and Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela.
While awaiting the arrival of Elder Oaks, Elder Elijah Darrel Blake, from St. George Utah, called to serve in the Georgia Atlanta (Spanish-speaking) Mission said, “Not only is a prophet of God coming to dedicate the MTC today, but it’s also a personal reminder that all of us as missionaries have dedicated ourselves and have been set apart to serve the Lord.”
Conducted by MTC President Carl. P. Pratt, and presided over by Elder Oaks, the dedicatory program commenced with mission presidents serving throughout Mexico with their wives, Area Seventies and their wives, the Mexico MTC Presidency and their wives, the Mexico Area Presidency and their wives along with branch presidencies and more than 400 missionaries, standing and singing together, a resounding “Called to Serve.” The opening prayer was offered by Elder Ashton Plummer of Orem, Utah, assigned to the New Jersey Morristown (Spanish-speaking) Mission.
Following a brief video recounting the 50-year history of the Church high school Benemerito de las Americas and its recent transition into the MTC, Elder Daniel Johnson of the Seventy and president of the Mexico Area, reflected on highlights of the school’s past. He praised the sacrifice and maturity of the Mexican Saints who built, studied, taught and worked there.
He referred to the occasion almost precisely a year ago when he, in company with Elder Russell M. Nelson and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, announced the transition from a school into a missionary training center. With great feeling, he said, “Although there were tears shed upon hearing this announcement, these were not tears of sadness or anger, but rather, tears of joy.” He explained that although this campus was now being dedicated as a missionary training center and would become more sacred as a result, “it was already a sacred place.” He then encouraged the missionaries to follow the example of their predecessors on that campus by studying hard, learning the doctrines and principles of the gospel, and dedicating themselves to the Lord.
Bishop Davies challenged the missionaries to “Open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing” (Doctrine and Covenants 28:16).
Elder Christensen said he was sure that there were more prayers being offered per square meter at this MTC than any other place in Mexico, and perhaps in the world. He reminded the missionaries of the foreknowledge of God and their important role in the hastening of the work. “You are living in a time when we are united as members of the Church and are focused on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with all of the children of our Heavenly Father.”
Elder Oaks testified of the “inspired decision to close Benemerito and devote this facility to a missionary training center.” He assured, “With this step Mexico takes its place as a nation among nations in the hastening of the work of salvation in the whole of North and South America.”
Directing his comments to all missionaries and leaders, both in the MTC and throughout all of Mexico, he admonished the use of Preach My Gospel, explaining that although it might be more difficult to teach after its prescribed manner, it was more effective because it “provides for teaching that is individualized for the needs of each investigator.” He acknowledged, “You are younger now and you are required to do more and you are equal to that task.”
Turning to a broader topic, Elder Oaks affirmed “the doctrine of Jesus Christ understood in its fullness, is the plan by which we can become what God designed His children to become. This spotless and perfected state will result from a succession of covenants, ordinances and actions, and from continuing repentance.” He continued, “All of this is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”
He then reminded the missionaries that it is their responsibility to carry this message to the world. “We take upon us the name of Jesus Christ and we go forth to do His work armed with the power of His priesthood, protected by the shield of faith, enriched by our solemn testimony of the truth of the gospel.”
He instructed, “To testify is to know and to say, to be converted is to do and become.” In conclusion he testified and voiced his “fervent hope that each of you under the sound of my voice, by your faithfulness, and by your righteous actions will qualify for the choicest blessings God has for His children: eternal life.”
Before offering the dedicatory prayer, Elder Oaks pointed out that two purposes of dedication are to consecrate something for a sacred purpose and to “invoke the blessings of heaven upon something.” In his dedicatory prayer he expressed gratitude for the gospel and its latter-day restoration and particularly “for the missionaries who brought the gospel to the country of Mexico,” and for “the vision, the faith and the sacrifice of the Saints of Mexico, including particularly those who envisioned and built this great Benemerito school.”
Sister Mariah Blake, from Los Angeles, California, called to serve in Honduras, appreciated the reinforcement of the importance of missionary work and the role of Preach My Gospel in teaching individuals. “I look forward to using material that has been revised, edited, looked over and inspired by prophets of God, to teach every person individually,” she said.
Elder Jorge Moya, a graduate of Benemerito less than a year ago who is now preparing to serve in the Mexico Ciudad Juarez Mission, shared how difficult it was for him when he heard the announcement of the closing of his beloved school, but recognized that “it was a necessary step to improve the work of the Lord. I have progressed in ways here that I could have never imagined. To be here for the dedication and to sit in the same chairs that I sat in before as a student and now as a missionary is an incredible blessing. We as a people are so blessed!”
Elder Doug Ferry from Brigham City, Utah, assigned to the Nebraska Omaha Mission, expressed, “I feel honored and blessed to be here at this MTC. All of the teachers and workers work so hard, and through them we have been able to have wonderful experiences.” He continued, “In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Oaks said that the Spirit of the Lord would dominate. I can feel that. I feel blessed to have been here during the dedication.”