As the Monterrey Mexico Temple was dedicated, the 12th and last of the announced temple construction projects in that nation, gratitude for new temples continued to be deeply felt by members in Mexico.
Membership in Mexico was 918,975 at year-end 2001 and is projected to reach a million by mid-2004. Eleven new temples, completed in an unprecedented three-year period, plus the existing temple in Mexico City, provide near access for 165 of Mexico's 193 stakes.
"Please express, on behalf of a fellow-servant and his wife, our feelings of profound appreciation for the temples in Mexico," said President Jose M. Lopez Ricardez of the Mexico Tuxtla Gutierrez Mission.
He is not alone in his appreciation, said Elder Richard H. Winkel of the Seventy, president of Mexico South Area. "They voice their appreciation in their prayers, and in their testimony meetings and in their talks." Often mentioned is President Gordon B. Hinckley, who dedicated in 1983 the country's first temple in Mexico City, and visited members across this nation in multi-stake conferences in 1997-98. He also announced the temples in an ambitious construction plan following introduction of the small temple concept, the inspiration for which he received while in Mexico.
The Mexico saints' appreciation is also expressed by their growing into habits of frequent temple attendance and of gaining spiritual benefits that emanate from the temple.
"We feel the smaller temples are tremendous blessings," said Elder Winkel. "It is wonderful to see these small temples that are such a blessing to them, and the activity rate as high as it is."
As an indicator of this in the Mexico South Area, members at smaller temples perform a higher proportion of temple work than their numbers would suggest, he said. And not to be outdone are members attending the large Mexico City temple. Even though the dedication of the new temples reduced the Mexico City temple district by some 100 stakes, attendance at Mexico's "temple square" has dropped only slightly.
"They do a tremendous work in the Mexico City temple," said Elder Winkel. "We as an area presidency feel very good about the temple work in our area."
Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen of the Seventy and president of the Mexico North Area, has also seen "a significant increase in temple attendance," he said. "With temples close, there is a greater focus on them. The saints tend to prepare more. They love the temple — and always have here in Mexico."
He said the members are developing a temple culture. "We have people coming almost on a daily basis, which would have been totally impossible before." Early morning sessions in the Monterrey temple help accommodate those who can do a session before work. "Those who at great sacrifice were going once or twice a year are now going monthly, and some even weekly."
There are still members who live several hours from the temple because "some strategic areas are not covered," but even for those members, now "it is hours and hours better."
"The temples have increased the faith of the saints," said Elder Mickelsen. "Tithe paying is up, attendance at Church is up, converts are up and that's true of a lot of other things. The temple has had a major impact on the improvement of living the gospel.
"The temples not only have established the presence of the Church in Mexico, but also have established the presence of the Church in the hearts of the members."
Secondary benefits also have come from the new temples, said Elder Mickelsen. "One of the best things the temple is doing, as we experienced in Monterrey, is bringing the Church out of obscurity. The temple is on a beautiful site here in Monterrey, and surely millions can tell you where it is."
Among those who benefit from the temple are local returned missionaries, who, before the small temples, were rarely able to attend the temple. "This has made a tremendous difference in the understanding of the temple and its purpose as people are able to go back," he said.
President Lopez of the Mexico Tuxtla Gutierrez Mission said missionaries attend the temple and are gaining a testimony of the spiritual blessings found there and are gaining "the culture of the temple. When they have the culture of love for the temple, they grow spiritually, they grow in strength, and in teaching they transmit their testimony with greater strength and power. They are able to teach what a special place the temple is. Many of them attend the temple on their preparation day instead of following some recreational pursuits.
"The missionaries are setting a good example of temple attendance."
Returning local missionaries write back that they have become temple workers and are taking part in temple excursions. He said the Tuxtla Gutierrez Mexico Temple, which stands on a prominence that can be seen for many miles, "has made a great impact on the community as well. The view of the temple opens doors for missionaries to teach people about eternal families."
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