Unconventional Convention


When the projector broke down it looked like the afternoon would be a disaster—all five hundred young adults at the convention had been planning to see Lost Horizons. And it was raining outside.

But the Latter-day Saints who had gathered that August afternoon in the Mexico City Industrial Stake center weren’t going to let anything spoil the occasion. Pulling out guitars and wooden flutes, they spent the afternoon singing and playing games. The impromptu talent show went on for a couple of hours, and I must admit I enjoyed it more than a movie.

Young Adult groups from ten stakes—Poza Rica, Veracruz, Tampico, Tula, two from Puebla, and four from Mexico City—had come together in Mexico City for a three-day convention. For three days they heard talks by Church leaders, listened to practical advice from local physicians, avidly absorbed information from a noted archaeologist, and then went to the ruins of Teotihuacan. They danced to the music of two bands on Saturday night, ate a dinner with chicken curry so hot that Anglos like me thought we’d burn up, and then gathered the next morning for a testimony meeting that, after five hours, still ended before all who wanted to could bear their testimonies.

In a lot of ways the convention wasn’t very different from other youth conferences in other areas, but I couldn’t help but notice a greater intensity here. They are a fun-loving group—I don’t remember seeing anyone look bored, and they filled every available moment with games and music and public speaking and dancing and lively conversation. But to them the Church is not something they will wait to take seriously when they get older, when they start their families. The Church is their responsibility now.

Part of that’s because Church responsibilities aren’t in the distant future for them. Most of the members of the Church in Mexico have been baptized in the last fifteen years. The majority of the stake presidents in the area joined the Church only ten or fifteen years ago—as teenagers or young adults. And the mantle of Church service can fall on Mexican Saints very early. Among the “convencionistas” were Gilberto Pons and Salvador Aguirre, counselors in bishoprics, Jorge Pavon, a stake high councilor, and others who hold major positions.

They also had the example of twenty-eight-year-old President Filiberto Ledezma of the Moctezuma Stake, who was called to his office when he was twenty-five. He was in a good position to tell these young Latter-day Saints that the Church was their responsibility.

Not in five or ten years. Now.

And yet the weight of responsibility doesn’t press them down, it buoys them up. In the Church they have found their faith, their hope for the future, their friends, their community. To be a Mormon means to be a better Mexican, a better student, a better friend, a better human being.

Between sessions of the convention a group gathered in the chapel where one young sister played an impromptu recital of classical music. Then, as they conversed among themselves, Agricol Lozano, the Regional Representative who had spearheaded the convention, came in and spoke to them.

He told them that it was time for Mexican Saints like them to create their own culture. Like the woman who had just played the piano, they all had a responsibility to bring the gospel into every part of their lives. There must be Mexican Saints who write plays and stories with the gospel at their heart. There must be actors, singers, dancers among the Mexican Saints. Being Mormons makes them different from other Mexicans. Being Mexican makes them different from Saints in other lands. They have something unique and valuable to create and share with all Saints and with all Mexicans.

His message fell on eagerly listening ears. These young people are conscious of who they are. The Spirit dwells in them, and they share it freely with each other.

I saw it in the testimony meeting from 8:00 Sunday morning until 1:00 P.M. They were asked to line up to bear their testimonies, and the line stretched from the stand almost to the street.

I saw it in the question-and-answer period after the archaeologist spoke to them—he could barely keep up with their excited queries. These people know their roots reach into the past. The Book of Mormon is their book. The archaeologist was telling them about their family history, and they were eager to learn.

I saw it in the love they shared. Most of them had never met each other before, but the gospel made them friends without delay. The young women who stayed with local member families, the priesthood holders in a tumble of sleeping bags on a classroom floor—they are indeed “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19.)

I heard it in their voices as they sang, in their poems as they exuberantly declaimed them to an audience, in their quiet conversations, and in their shouts as they climbed a pyramid or played a game.

As one Mexican Saint said, “The Spirit also speaks Spanish.”

[photo] At a ten-stake Young Adult convention the Veracruz contingent was especially lively. Music, poetry, and dancing were the order of the day during informal moments.

Gordon Irving, a research historian, is assistant stake clerk in the Bountiful Utah South Stake. He lives in the Bountiful Thirty-sixth Ward.