A look at Mexico’s long, rich heritage of temple faithfulness

4 eras: 4 decades of traveling to Mesa, 25 years of 1 temple in Mexico City, 11 temples dedicated in 3 years, and 12 new houses of the Lord announced over past 31 months

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — When Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicates the Puebla Mexico Temple on Sunday, May 19, another key moment will be added to Mexico’s long and rich heritage of temple building and temple faithfulness.

That heritage can be broken into four eras — the first covering some four decades beginning in the mid-1940s, as faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico made great sacrifices in finances and time to travel for days to attend the Mesa Arizona Temple, where they made covenants and participated in sacred ordinances.

The second era followed with the 1983 dedication of a new house of the Lord in Mexico City, serving the Latter-day Saints as the country’s sole temple for a quarter-century.

Next, at the close of the 20th century, Mexico played a prominent role in a period of global expansion of temples, with 11 dedicated houses of the Lord in the country coming in a three-year stretch from 1999 to 2002.

And the fourth era — still ongoing — includes the past six years, as President Russell M. Nelson has announced a dozen new temple locations across the country, including six alone in and around the Mexico City metro area.

The Puebla Mexico Temple.
The Puebla Mexico Temple will be dedicated on Sunday, May 19, 2024. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A temple ‘lifts us and draws us to God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ’

“A temple is a beacon of light in a community,” said Elder Gong to the Church News, “and it lifts us and draws us to God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”

Temples bless the lives of more than longtime pioneer members or the young adults, youth and children. Temples also bless returning members, new members and part-member families.

The Christus statue appears through the window in the adjacent visitors' center as members and missionaries enjoy the cool evening breeze on the grounds of the Mexico City Mexico Temple in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, May 17, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret

Elder Gong noted Mexico has the 10th largest population and the 11th largest economy and is an important country in the Church and the world.

“Mexico is blessed multiple generations of covenant-keepers,” he said. “There is so much goodness and faith among the people of Mexico.

“It is wonderful that a Prophet is bringing temples across the country.”

A map of Latter-day Saint temples in Mexico.
A map showing the 25 temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico and their statuses as of May 2024. | Church News graphic

Elder Hugo Montoya, a General Authority Seventy who is president of the Church’s Mexico Area, is mindful of the increase in temples over the four decades since the dedication of Mexico’s first house of the Lord in the capital city. “Now we have temples closer to more people than we had 40 years ago, and because of that, many families are blessed with temple covenants,” he said outside the Puebla Mexico Temple the day before its dedication.

He referenced the parable of the pearl and the box given by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which tells of getting caught up admiring the exterior of a box at the expense of appreciating the treasured pearl inside. “Temple covenants are the real payoff with this ‘box,’” Elder Montoya said, pointing at the Puebla temple.

‘A sacred space’ for connections

Elder Adrián Ochoa, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Mexico Area presidency, said the faith and devotion of the country’s Latter-day Saints reflect a deep love for their families and ancestors as well as a commitment to temple work. “The Mexican culture’s emphasis on family values and unity makes the temple experience particularly meaningful, as it provides a sacred space for them to connect with their heritage and perform sacred ordinances on behalf of their ancestors.”

As security workers lower the flag at the end of the day, the Mexico City Mexico Temple shines in the early evening light in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, May 17, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News

He added that Mexico’s temples serve as a testament to the growth and strength of the Church in the country as well as the profound spiritual experiences that members have while participating in temple work. “The Mexican Latter-day Saints’ commitment to researching their family history and submitting names to the temple demonstrates their understanding of the eternal nature of families and their desire to extend the blessings of the gospel to their ancestors.”

The collective effort to build and attend temples in Mexico not only strengthens the bonds within families but also contributes to the spiritual growth and unity of the entire community, Elder Ochoa said. “As more temples are built and the Saints continue to prepare and attend these sacred houses of the Lord, the impact of their faith and devotion will undoubtedly be felt for generations to come.”

From traveling to Mesa to a temple in Mexico City

For nearly four decades, Latter-day Saints in Mexico traveled to the Mesa Arizona Temple once Spanish-language temple instruction and ordinances were introduced there in 1945. It required great sacrifices of time and money to travel the long distance.

For example, the direct distance from Mexico City to Mesa is some 1,230 miles (1,980 kilometers), which even today — with modern cars traveling over paved highways — requires 26 hours of nonstop driving.

Mexico received its first house of the Lord with the Dec. 2, 1983, dedication of the Mexico City Mexico Temple by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency.

President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Sister Marjorie Hinckley, stand in front of the Mexico City Mexico Temple.
President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Sister Marjorie Hinckley, stand in front of the Mexico City Mexico Temple during its two-day dedication in December 1983. | Church News archives

It remained Mexico’s sole house of the Lord until late in the 1990s, when President Hinckley — then as President of the Church — jumpstarted a surge in global temple building with two announcements.

First, he announced an inspired plan to build smaller temples closer to members of the Church worldwide. Second, he called for the Church to have 100 dedicated temples by the end of the 20th century.

Bringing more temples closer to the members

The inspiration to construct smaller temples close to the members of the Church came to President Hinckley in northern Mexico during a 3½-hour automobile ride to the El Paso, Texas, airport in June 1997 after having attended the centennial observance of Juarez Academy in Colonia Juarez.

“As we were riding to El Paso, I reflected on what we could do to help these people in the Church colonies in Mexico,” President Hinckley said in a July 1998 Church News interview. “They’ve been so very faithful over the years. They’ve kept the faith. They’ve gone on missions in large numbers. These stakes have produced very many mission presidents who served faithfully and well. They’ve been the very epitome of faithfulness.

“And yet,” he added, “they’ve had to travel all the way to Mesa, Arizona, to go to a temple. ... I thought of these things and what could be done. The concept of these smaller temples came into my mind.”

President Hinckley explained that all the necessary features of a temple could be incorporated into a smaller structure, that could be constructed in a relatively short period of time. “The concept is beautiful,” he said. “It’s a very workable concept.”

The Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Temple.
The Colonia Juárez Chihuahua México Temple. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

11 temples in Mexico in 3 years

The Colonia Juárez Chihuahua Temple was announced at that October 1997 general conference, with groundbreaking following five months later on March 7, 1998, and the dedication by President Hinckley a day less than a year after that, on March 6, 1999. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Colonia Juárez temple.

It was the Church’s 55th dedicated house of the Lord worldwide on the push to hit the end-of-2000 benchmark of 100 temples. And it was the first of 11 new temples spread across Mexico to be dedicated in a three-year period.

The next houses of the Lord finished in 2000 seemed to come in pairs — temples in Ciudad Juárez and Hermosillo dedicated on Feb. 26 and 27, respectively; temples in Oaxaca and Tuxtla Gutiérrez dedicated on March 11 and 12; temples in Tampico and Villahermosa dedicated on May 20 and 21; and temples in Mérida and Veracruz dedicated on July 8 and 9.

Two more temples came in as many years — a house of the Lord dedicated in Guadalajara in April 2001 and another in Monterrey dedicated in April 2002. That completed the 11 temples in three years.

The Tijuana Mexico Temple became the country’s 13th operating house of the Lord, with its June 2015 dedication coming the same year as the second renovation of the Mexico City temple.

The future site of Mexico City Benemérito Mexico Temple.
The future site of Mexico City Benemérito Mexico Temple, on the grounds of the Mexico Missionary Training Center in Mexico City, Mexico, is pictured on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Temples across Mexico

In the Sunday afternoon session of the October 2022 general conference, President Nelson first announced 14 locations for new temples spread over five U.S. states and seven other countries.

But he didn’t end there.

“We are also planning to build multiple temples in selected large metropolitan areas where travel time to an existing temple is a major challenge,” he continued in his concluding remarks. “Therefore, I am pleased to announce four additional locations near Mexico City where new temples will be built.”

The four new temple locations — for Cuernavaca, Pachuca, Toluca and Tula — all are within a direct-distance radius of some 50 miles (78 kilometers) of the Mexico City Mexico Temple. And they join the Mexico City Benemérito Mexico Temple — announced six months earlier and planned for the grounds of the expansive Mexico Missionary Training Center — in making for six new temples total in extended Mexico City metro area, with the temple in Puebla just 61 miles (100 kilometers) southeast from the country’s first house of the Lord.

A map of Latter-day Saint temples in and around Mexico City, Mexico.
A graphic shows the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in and around the extended metropolitan area of Mexico City, Mexico. | Church News graphic

In his six-year tenure as President of the Church, President Nelson has announced 153 new temples across the world. In Mexico, that also include temples in Querétaro and Torreón, in Culiacán and Cancún, and in San Luis Potosí and Chihuahua.

A time of blessings for Mexico

Church leaders in Mexico feel this is a time of blessings for their country, said Elder Sean Douglas, a General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the Mexico Area presidency.

“Leaders in Mexico see this as a clarion call to action and feel a deep sense of responsibility and urgency to do more, and to ‘awaken and put on their strength,’ he said. “It is not lost on them that ‘where much is given, much is required.’ The leadership of Mexico is deeply grateful for the blessing of more temples closer to the membership and for living prophets and apostles who are guiding us in these blessed latter days, especially in Mexico.”

People dig with shovels at a temple groundbreaking ceremony in Mexico.
Individuals participate in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the San Luis Potosí Mexico Temple on Saturday, March 9, 2024. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Related Stories
October 2022: President Nelson announces 18 new temple locations, including 4 near Mexico City
August 1998: Inspiration came for smaller temples on trip to Mexico
April 2000: President Packer's parable of the pearl and the box
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