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Storied temple rededicated in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO

By his own admission, Dario Gomez has had a rough year.

The 23-year-old Pachuca, Mexico, resident underwent a kidney transplant several months ago. His ongoing recovery requires him to travel to Mexico City every few weeks for medical tests and doctor consultations.

But Brother Gomez has found a silver lining encircling his challenges.

“I’ll be in Mexico City every month, which means I can go to the temple every month — that’s my goal,” he said with a wide smile just moments after the third and final Sept. 13 rededication session at the Mexico City Mexico Temple.

Brother Gomez’s circumstances seem an apt metaphor for this beloved edifice in the Spanish-speaking world’s largest city. Mexico City, as with all massive urban areas, faces many challenges and struggles. But Latter-day Saints here say “nuestro querido templo” — our beloved temple — is once again a place of sacred respite from the troubles of the world. Again, the legions of members here can visit a dedicated house of God in their own city and reconnect with the matters of eternity.

President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, rededicated the Mexico City Mexico Temple on Sept. 13. The veteran apostle’s ecclesiastical duties have taken him to all corners of the globe. He’s participated in countless Church gatherings of great import. But he will never forget the mild autumn Sabbath Day that he presided over the reopening of the most storied building of the Church in Mexico.

“This was one of the great days of my life,” he told the Church News following the event.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles accompanied President Eyring at the rededication. Other General Authorities participating included Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, and the Mexico Area Presidency — Elder Benjamin De Hoyos, Elder Paul B. Pieper and Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela.

The Mexico City Mexico Temple closed almost two years ago to allow for extensive renovation of the interior of the 32-year-old building. The changes have only enhanced the building’s distinctly Mexican aesthetic, seen prominently in its Mayan-influenced exterior architecture. Interior highlights include celestial room carpeting and decorative art glass crafted with a Mesoamerican design. Oak and cast bronze doors have been installed, along with elaborate millwork found most prominently in carved columns with waterfall designs. The closure of the 35,551-square-foot edifice also allowed for an exhaustive exterior cleaning.

The Sept. 13 event was not the first rededication of the Mexico City Mexico Temple. President Thomas S. Monson presided over a Nov. 16, 2008, rededication following a renovation that focused primarily on the building’s exterior.

The rededicated temple impacts a sizable number of Mexico’s Latter-day Saints. The Mexico City temple district includes more than 340,000 members living in the capital city, along with states of Mexico, Baja California South, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Michoacan, Morelos, Puebla, Querataro and San Luis Potosi.

Jorge A. Rojas and his wife, Marcela Rojas, reside in Monterrey — a city far north of the Mexico City temple boundaries. No matter. The Rojas simply would not miss the opportunity to witness Church history being made once again on the temple site located in city’s Colonia San Juan de Aragon. They traveled to Mexico City to be a part of the Sept. 13 temple rededication.

The Rojas’ have enjoyed a front row seat of this country’s rich Mormon history. Both grew up in northern Mexico near the Mormon colonies. They befriended the families with familiar “colony” names such as Pratt, Call and Wagner. They graduated from the Church-sponsored Juarez Academy in Colonia Juarez.

Later, Brother Rojas would teach at the LDS-owned Benemerito de las Americas Academy (now home to the Mexico City Missionary Training Center) and serve in a variety of Church leadership positions. He was a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1991 to 1996.

Elder and Sister Rojas remember well the joy they felt with their fellow Mexicans when they heard the general conference announcement that Mexico’s first temple would be built in the capital city. Three years later they watched as Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles picked up a shovel and broke ground on the temple construction site.

Then on Dec. 2, 1983, the Church in Mexico was forever changed. President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the Mexico City Mexico Temple.

A well-spoken man who shifts effortlessly from Spanish to English, Elder Rojas said he still can’t find words — in any language — to adequately describe the gratitude he felt when a temple opened in his homeland.

“This temple has provided us with all we really need in life,” he said.

For LDS Mexicans, the country’s first temple stands as a happy reminder “that there are sacred ordinances that allow us to be with our families forever,” added Sister Rojas.

Elder and Sister Rojas attended the first temple rededication in 2008. They returned again for the 2015 rededication. Yes, each event allowed them to catch up with old friends and enjoy memories of the original dedication.

“But each rededication of the temple has also offered each of us an opportunity to rededicate our own lives to the Lord,” said Elder Rojas.

Three Church presidents — President Spencer W. Kimball, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson — will be forever linked to the Mexico City Mexico Temple.

It was President Kimball — a Church leader beloved in Mexico to this day — who made the inspired decision to build the country’s first temple.

It was President Hinckley who, in his 1983 dedicatory prayer, uttered these prophetic words:

“Bless Thy saints in this great land ... who will use this temple. Most have in their veins the blood of Father Lehi. Thou hast kept Thine ancient promise. Many thousands ‘that walked in darkness have seen a great light.’

“May the harvest that we have witnessed here foreshadow greater things to come.”

“Greater things” have, indeed, come to this land. Twelve temples are now in operation across Mexico, including the rededicated Mexico City temple.

And it was President Monson who, just moments after rededicating that same temple in 2008, told the Church News that temple building would continue in Mexico.

“There will be more,” he said.

More indeed. In a few months Mexican Latter-day Saints will gather once again to participate in the dedication and opening of the country’s 13th temple — the Tijuana Mexico Temple.

As he stepped from the temple following the Sept. 13 rededication, President Eyring — who has ancestors who lived in Mexico thereby making him a byproduct of the Church’s history here — marveled at the days that await the Church in Mexico City and across this nation.

“The [Mexican members] don’t have to do anything different from what they are doing,” he said. “They have tremendous faith and they are going to do great work here.”

[email protected] @JNSwensen

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