Resting on the stone steps of the ancient ruins of Dzibilchaltún in Mexico, Sandra Hernández and Meily Tolosa quietly consider the scattered ruins of a city nearly 1,500 years old. The silence around them is almost as heavy as the humid tropical air. But the peaceful moment doesn’t last long.
The silence shatters as Samuel Hernández comes hooting and hollering out of the thick jungle, which grows right up to the edge of the small pyramid. His friends Jorge Tolosa and Wilbert Agosta follow right behind him.
“Oh, I thought I was going to die,” he laughs as he throws himself down onto the steps and tries to catch his breath. Picking their way through the jungle, Samuel and his friends had been making their way toward a partially overgrown structure when they startled a flock of hidden birds. The birds weren’t the only ones startled. “Oh, my heart,” Samuel says, laughing.
Samuel, Meily, and other youth from the Canek Ward, Mérida México Centro Stake, are spending the day exploring some of Mexico’s ancient ruins. Dzibilchaltún is just one of the thousands of crumbling settlements left throughout the Americas by ancient inhabitants.
The land from central Mexico to Honduras (also called Mesoamerica) has been home to many thriving civilizations. On this trip to Dzibilchaltún, the youth are grateful that ruins of some of their ancestors’ cities have been preserved so they can explore where their ancestors lived. “It’s interesting to learn what my ancestors did and what happened to them,” says Jorge, a deacon.
In the same way, these youth are thankful that the record of the family of Lehi has been preserved so they can learn from its teachings and experiences. “I’m grateful the Lord preserved the Book of Mormon for us to learn from,” Jorge says.
As He promised, the Lord preserved their records and brought them to light again through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Now the Book of Mormon is bringing the descendants of Book of Mormon peoples—and other people from all around the world—to Jesus Christ.
“I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon,” says Carmen Hernández, a Mia Maid who hopes to thank the Book of Mormon prophets someday. “When I meet them,” she says, “I will say, ‘Thank you for helping so many people find answers and come to Christ.’” (See 2 Ne. 33:11; Jacob 6:13; Ether 12:38.)
While the testimonies of Christ recorded in the Book of Mormon were preserved by the hand of the Lord against the ravages of time, the ancient cities of Mesoamerica haven’t fared as well. Time, the elements, and other factors have reduced some of the once-great civilizations to rubble.
Still, the youth—such as the group from the Canek Ward—enjoy visiting the ruins and imagining them bustling with people and wondering what it was like back then.
“It’s awesome to see structures like those the people of the Book of Mormon may have built and lived in,” Carmen says.
Through their studies in seminary and Sunday School, the youth of the Canek Ward are trying to build testimonies of Christ that won’t crumble and decay like the ruins around them.
“As we’ve studied the Book of Mormon, my love for the book and my testimony of the Savior have grown,” says Carmen.
According to these youth, another major factor in strengthening their testimonies of Christ is going to the temple.
Many tourists come to southern Mexico—dubbed “the land of temples”—to explore the ancient ruins called “temples” because of their apparent religious uses. But for all the ancient temples surrounding them, the youth of Mexico are most excited about having their own Latter-day Saint temples—where they will make covenants with God and be married for all eternity.
One of these is the Mérida México Temple, completed in July 2000. It is only a 10- or 15-minute drive from where the youth in the Canek Ward live.
“Everyone was so excited to find out we were going to get a temple,” says Ismael Herrera, a priest. “Before, we had to travel to Mexico City.”
The youth had made the trip to the Mexico City temple to perform baptisms for the dead, but that temple is located more than 16 hours away.
“Our temple is so close,” says Jorge. “There are so many more opportunities to go.”
“In all the times we’ve been able to go to the Mérida temple, we could have gone to the Mexico City temple only once or twice,” agrees Carmen. “Having a temple here allows us to help a lot more people.”
Whenever the Lord has had a people, He has commanded them to build temples (see D&C 124:39). In the Book of Mormon, Nephi and his followers built a temple soon after leaving the families of Laman and Lemuel (see 2 Ne. 5:16). King Benjamin taught his people at a temple (see Mosiah 1:18). Alma and Amulek taught in temples (see Alma 16:13). And Christ appeared to the people gathered at the temple in Bountiful (see 3 Ne. 11:1).
These Mexican youth have read about the temples of the Nephites. They’ve visited the ruins of ancient temples. Now they have a dedicated temple in their own area. They love going to their modern temple. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet.
Like the ruins of ancient temples, it seems untouched by the outside world. But in this temple, they can feel something they don’t feel anywhere else.
“This is the house of the Lord,” says Jorge.
239 chapters in the Book of Mormon
77 verses in the longest chapter, Jacob 5
3,925 references to the Savior in the Book of Mormon, or one reference every 1.7 verses
5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon made in the first printing (March 1830)
108,936,922 copies printed from 1830 to 2002
103 languages in which all or part of the Book of Mormon is available
1,353 times the phrase “it came to pass” appears in the Book of Mormon
As members of the Church all over the world study the Book of Mormon this year in Sunday School, each of us can gain, or renew, our testimony of the book’s truthfulness through prayer (see Moro. 10:3–4).
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “Without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (“The Power of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, June 1988, 6).