Mexico’s Best Days Belong to the Future, Says Elder Andersen
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
During his recent three-day trip to Mexico City, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spent a few hours at the Mexico City Missionary Training Center.
Located in a bustling section of one of the world’s largest cities, the beautifully landscaped MTC stands as a peaceful oasis, he said. It’s an apt symbol for the entire Church in Mexico—a nation of more than a million members and a dozen temples.
Elder Andersen is appreciative of Mexico’s rich Latter-day Saint history. But he’s quick to add that the country’s best days belong to the future. The Church in Mexico has not reached its peak.
“Mexico is going to be more and more an area of strength for the Church,” said Elder Andersen in a Church News interview. “Its importance in the Church will continue to grow.”
The Apostle’s recent trip to Mexico City was brief, but he was still able to witness the maturation taking place in all areas of Church leadership and growth.
A highlight of the trip was the October 18 visit to the Mexico MTC, which was dedicated a little over a year ago. Located on a sprawling campus that for decades was the Church-owned Benemerito de las Americas school, the MTC has become pivotal in the hastening of the Lord’s work across Latin America and the United States.
Many of the elders and sisters studying at the MTC in Mexico City will be serving in Spanish-speaking assignments in the United States.
Elder Andersen was pleased by what he witnessed at the Church’s newest missionary training center.
“Everything could not be better,” he said. “The Mexico MTC allows for a combination of cultures within a perfect facility for both living and studying.”
Elder Andersen presided over a gathering of the young missionaries. He taught them to be “centered on Christ” and to allow “the mantle of a disciple of Christ to come upon you.”
He also talked about the essential role of the Atonement for a missionary. The Book of Mormon, he taught, contains “great sermons” on the Atonement. The PowerPoint instruction at the missionary gathering was offered in both Spanish and English.
“Elder Andersen personally greeted and shook hands with 450 missionaries,” said MTC President Carl B. Pratt in an email. “It was a tremendous thrill for the missionaries to be able to meet an Apostle of the Lord. Many had never had the opportunity to shake hands with an Apostle, and many had tears in their eyes as they greeted Elder Andersen. That close contact of shaking hands gave the missionaries the chance to feel Elder Andersen’s love and concern for them in their calling.”
Elder Andersen also saluted the Mexican members for their support of the MTC. Many in Mexico City enjoyed a long history with the Benemerito school, but they understand the role the new MTC is having in the Church’s progress in Mexico and beyond.
On October 18, Elder Andersen visited the Mexico City Mexico Temple, which was dedicated in 1983. The nation’s oldest temple is undergoing a significant interior renovation and is expected to reopen sometime next year.
He said the members have adjusted well during the temporary closure.
While at the temple grounds, Elder Andersen also presided over a priesthood leadership meeting in a neighboring meetinghouse that included stake presidents and bishops from 18 stakes from eastern Mexico City and the stake of Pachuca.
Such priesthood gatherings offer Apostles such as Elder Andersen a valuable opportunity to have eye-to-eye contact with bishops and other local leaders and to learn their concerns.
The priesthood leaders in the Mexico City area, he said, are facing the same challenges as their counterparts across the globe.
“They are concerned about building faith in the rising generation, helping parents take their responsibility in leading their own children, watching over people who are alone, and meeting the challenges of a society that is becoming ever more secular and unbelieving.”
All three senior Apostles, he taught, “bore a strong testimony of Christ and His example, His Resurrection, and His Atonement.”
He also noted the blessing of having 15 living men who are sustained by the members as prophets, seers, and revelators.
Elder Paul B. Pieper, a Seventy and a member of the Mexico Area Presidency, said Elder Andersen also spoke of the need to help members have spiritual experiences in their homes and wards.
“We need to help members connect to heaven, not by telling them what to do but by helping them act for themselves,” he said.
Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy also participated in the priesthood leadership meeting. He spoke of the importance of reaching out to the less active and bringing them back to Church.
Elder Pieper spoke on teaching the law of the fast and welfare principles, including fast offerings. He also answered questions from many of the local Mexican leaders.
Elder Andersen was impressed by the seasoned capacity of his audience.
“The stake presidents and bishops are, for the most part, returned missionaries,” he said. “They are very perceptive in their questions and their comments.”
“It was a great privilege for me to accompany Elder Andersen on this recent trip to Mexico City,” said Elder Maynes. “The experience was eye opening in many ways. I served as a mission president in Monterrey, Mexico, 25 years ago, and it was miraculous to see the growth and maturity the Church has experienced in that short period of time.
“It was a thrill to see the exchange between the priesthood leaders and Elder Andersen during our priesthood leadership meeting.”
On Sunday, October 19, Elder Andersen presided over the Mexico City Xalostoc Stake conference. He was humbled by the spirit of the meeting that filled the gathering “with a feeling of love and spiritual power.”
At the conclusion of the stake meeting, he shook hands with all of the children. The members then gathered outside the stake center, bidding farewell to the visiting authorities “as if we were dear old friends,” he said.