More than 2,500 Mexican Latter-day Saints gathered for the creation of the Tecalco Mexico Stake, about thirty miles south of Mexico City, on 25 June 1989. It was the one hundredth stake organized in their country. Among the members of that new stake was Fidencia Garcia de Rojas—at age 106 the oldest member in Mexico. The Church in Mexico had passed yet another historic milestone during her 88-year membership.
Sister Fidencia joined the Church in 1901, the year the Mexican Mission was reopened by its former president, Ammon M. Tenney, who baptized her. She also knew Elder Rey L. Pratt, president of the Mexican Mission from 1907 to 1931. And when President George Albert Smith came to Mexico in the mid-1940s, her house was the first one he visited.
The reunification conference, the Mexico City Area Conference, and the dedication of the Mexico City Temple—all landmarks in Mexican Church history—played important parts in Sister Fidencia’s life. When she died on 13 August 1989, one month and nineteen days after seeing her dear Tecalco become a stake, Tecalco stake president Felipe Hernandez Luis commented that those attending the funeral were also part of a historic moment—the death of the last of the Mexican pioneers.
Sister Fidencia began attending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the Church closed the Mexican Mission in order to concentrate its resources on colonization. As a consequence, between 1889 and 1901, Mexican leaders had little direction from Church headquarters, and many units deviated from standard doctrines and practices. During this time, Sister Fidencia and her family attended the Tecalco Branch, a congregation in which they were the only nonmembers.
When Ammon Tenney came to Tecalco to reestablish the branch after the mission reopened, its leader, Julian Rojas, was initially unwilling to relinquish control. Julian finally relented, and he and seventy-five of his followers were rebaptized by President Tenney on 18 August 1901. One month later, on September 15, President Tenney baptized Sister Fidencia, her parents, and her grandparents. From that day on, Sister Fidencia dedicated her life to serving the Lord.
She recalled that after members of the Tecalco Branch embraced the Church again, people in neighboring towns began joining the Church. The first full-time missionaries soon arrived in Tecalco, where they roomed in the home of Sister Fidencia’s parents. As membership grew, Sister Fidencia was among the group of missionaries and members who worked hard to buy a building lot for an LDS chapel. She also helped missionaries in nearby Ozumba with their room, clothes, and food, and worked at the Mexican mission home.
During her time at the mission home, the American missionaries taught Sister Fidencia to sing hymns in Spanish and English. She later joined the legendary Tecalco Choir—possibly the first choir in Mexico—formed to teach members living close to Tecalco to sing. Sister Fidencia sang with the choir up to a few years before her death.
In 1910, Mexico entered a civil war that lasted, off and on, through the 1930s. In August 1913, the U.S. State Department requested that all Americans leave Mexico immediately. Missionaries left the country, and Mexican leaders were once again left to themselves. But the Church was well established by then, and the civil war did not seriously impede Mexican Saints from administering the Church. They did so for more than four years.
Sister Fidencia witnessed an even greater disruption of the Church in Mexico in 1936, when a large body of members known as the Third Convention broke away from the Mexican district. Upset that a Mexican leader had not been called as president of the Mexican Mission in 1936, the group divided from the main body of Mexican Saints for more than ten years.
By 1942, however, Arwell L. Pierce, newly called president of the Mexican Mission, had begun working to resolve misunderstandings. And in 1946, President George Albert Smith presided over a reunification conference in Mexico City that saw more than twelve hundred Third Conventionists return to the Church. Sister Fidencia attended and visited with President Smith in her home.
Other milestones for the Church in Mexico began to occur more rapidly as Sister Fidencia grew older. In 1972 she attended the Mexico City area conference, and in 1983 she attended the dedication of the Mexico City Temple. During these years, she remained dedicated to missionary work, and especially to her callings, two of which were particularly important to her.
As a Primary teacher, Sister Fidencia loved to teach children the gospel through stories, especially those found in the Old Testament. She taught many of her grandchildren in that calling—one of them Felipe Agustin Rojas, currently a bishop in the Iztapalapa stake in Mexico City. She passed on to her students a love of the scriptures, which she read daily, and often recited from memory facts and stories from the lives of all the prophets since the restoration of the gospel.
As a visiting teacher, Sister Fidencia completed forty consecutive years of 100-percent visiting teaching. She received recognition for this accomplishment in February 1978, adding to commendation she had received from Relief Society and mission leaders, all expressing thanks for her service and compassion.
Sister Fidencia’s posterity remember her for an even greater accomplishment: having brought five generations of a Mexican family into the Church. She and her first husband, Aniceto Rojas, the son of Julian Rojas of the early Tecalco Branch, had six children, two of whom survived to have children and grandchildren of their own. She and her second husband, Manuel Rosas, had three children.
Sister Fidencia survived both of her husbands and lived to see many grandchildren and great-grandchildren serve missions. Other descendants, like Amado Rojas Gress, first counselor in the Anahuac stake presidency and assistant recorder at the Mexico City Temple, have gone on to become leaders for the Mexican Saints. Soon, six great-grandchildren, most of them women, will be leaving on missions.
To her family, the most precious gift Grandmother Fidencia left was the gospel of Jesus Christ. For her fellow Saints, Sister Fidencia’s many years of humble service left a legacy that almost spanned the century—a century that saw the members in Mexico struggle, overcome, and finally flourish.