Spread across a vast valley in the high plateaus of central Mexico, the greater Mexico City area sustains more than 21 million people. The Latin American municipality is often associated with tree-shaded plazas, stone churches, bold-colored murals, chili-infused cuisine, traffic-clogged highways and a culture that supports tight-knit families.
The importance of eternal families and creating close family relationships was a theme in many of the messages shared by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as he recently ventured to the sprawling capital city to meet with local Church leaders, counsel with members and missionaries and to testify of Christ con mi todo corazon — “with my whole heart.”
Elder Holland was accompanied on his visit to the heart of Mexico May 24 through June 3 by the three General Authority Seventies comprising the Mexico Area presidency — Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, Elder Rafael E. Pino and Elder John C. Pingree Jr. — and their wives, Sister Silvia Valenzuela, Sister Patricia Pino and Sister Anne Pingree.
The Church in Mexico
In 1875, President Brigham Young called a party of six missionaries to take Spanish-language materials about the Church from Utah to Mexico. Upon arrival, the missionaries divided into two groups. Helaman Pratt and Meliton Trejo, a Spanish convert, traveled to Hermosillo, Sonora, where they baptized the first five members in Mexico in 1876.
Since then, the country has marked many historic firsts for the Church. The Mexico Stake was created on Dec. 3, 1961 — the first Spanish-speaking stake in the Church. Mexico was also the first country outside of the United States to hold 100 Latter-day Saint stakes. And in December 1994, President Howard W. Hunter visited Mexico to create the Mexico City Contreras Stake — the Church’s 2,000th.
Today, there are more than 1.4 million members in the Latin American country, with over 38,000 Saints participating in Sunday worship in Mexico City alone. Multigenerational families provide a “backbone of strength” to the Church, explained Elder Pingree, the second counselor in the area presidency. “Members do not feel as though they are alone in living the gospel.”
Members throughout the Mexican capital have strong testimonies in the Lord and in His work, said Elder Valenzuela, Mexico Area president.
They are also humble, charitable and sensitive to the Spirit, said Elder Pingree. “They naturally believe in Jesus Christ and are committed to following Him.”
Creating strong families
Limited employment and education opportunities pose a challenge for many, and like many members throughout the world, Mexican Saints desire to know how to prioritize. In his message to local Church leaders in Mexico City, which was broadcast nationally, Elder Holland acknowledged the struggle to balance all the responsibilities placed upon them, including family, work, Church and civic duties. The answer, he said, is to focus on covenants, specifically covenants made in marriage and to families.
He testified again of the doctrine of the family during a young married couple devotional, explaining with simplicity to members that God is their Father, Christ is their Brother, and the family is the basic unit of society. “We function in families. The attack on the family started long ago in the first family, Adam and Eve’s family. The first families in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible help us see the attack Satan has on the family from a very long time ago,” he said.
If individuals want a great marriage and a strong family, even though life is hard, “there is nothing with which God is more willing to help us with than our marriages.”
In a special stake conference at the Tula Mexico Stake Center, Elder Holland said one of the greatest reasons he would want to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is because of what it can do for children.
Referencing the Savior’s visit to the Americas, where He healed the sick and prayed and ministered to the Nephite children, Elder Holland asked, “What do we want for our children? We want them to be blessed with peace, direction, happiness. Heavenly Father can, He does and He will do this.”
‘The most important thing in the universe’
In his tour throughout the Valley of Mexico, Elder Holland greeted, interviewed, counseled and strengthened missionaries serving in the central Mexico missions.
During a meeting with missionaries in Queretaro, he emphasized the importance of the work they are doing. “You are engaged in the most important thing in the universe — the salvation of God’s children.”
He told the gathered elders and sisters that during the months of their missions, they are like apostles. They don’t have the same keys but they are doing the same thing he is doing around the world — “finding ways to save the human soul.”
His own mission to the British Mission has had an ongoing impact on his life, he said. “Every good thing for 55 years since my mission has come from me serving a mission.”
He also counseled them to be steadfast as they return home. “What you cannot do is to ever go home and walk away from this,” he said, adding that a mission is not for two years or 18 months but for a lifetime, for eternity.
Running the ‘right race’
The youth in Mexico face many of the same challenges faced by other youth in the world, said Elder Pingree. “They are striving to avoid the world’s temptations and to keep their covenants with the Lord.”
The youth and young single adult members are striving to stay faithful on the covenant path, said Elder Valenzuela. “Listening to an apostle gave them hope and they were lifted by his advice.”
In a devotional broadcast throughout all of Mexico, Elder Holland told young single adults there is a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. “President Nelson runs, we run and you run. … Promise me that you will run the right race, in the right direction, on the right road.”
The apostle counseled them to think about what they can do for the Church instead of what the Church can do for them. “Move from reliance to self-reliance. Move to adulthood,” Elder Holland said.
As they grow, they will face hard times. “Families are broken, dreams are broken, finances are broken. Challenges come and when that happens, you remember that I told you that God loves those broken things and He loves you,” he said.
Everyone will have broken things, Elder Holland told the Mexican Latter-day Saints. “It takes broken grain to grow wheat, and it takes broken bread to bless us. He can fix everything. He is the Master Repairman.”