IIMEXICO MEXICAN MISSION HISTORY
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History of the Mexico Mexican Mission
As the winter of 187273 began, Brigham Young invited long-time friend of the Saints Thomas L. Kane and his wife, Elizabeth, to accompany him to St. George. During this trip President Young laid plans for a gathering place for the Saints in Sonora Valley, Mexico. Proposed settlements in Arizona were to form a connecting link between Utah and Mexico.
Establishing colonies in Arizona continued to be exceedingly difficult. In the early spring of 1873, President Young dispatched another set of explorers, the Arizona Exploring Company, which consisted of fourteen men, to visit the Little Colorado River area, the Rio Verde country, and the San Francisco mountain region, all south of the Colorado River. These explorers also became discouraged because the arid, broken countryside was difficult to traverse. Nevertheless, the determination of Brigham Young to colonize Arizona was not to be denied, and in 187475 he sent additional scouting parties to study the area.
Early in 1876 the First Presidency called two hundred “missionaries” to be part of four companies under Lot Smith, Jessie O. Ballenger, George Lake, and William C. Allen. By year’s end four struggling colonies were established in the lower valley of the Little Colorado. For many years these citizens in Arizona struggled to harness the water of the river through dams. By 1880 other colonizing parties settled along Silver Creek, a major tributary of the Little Colorado, further upstream, and near Mesa, in central Arizona. One successful village was Snowflake, named after Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who encouraged the colony, and their leader, William J. Flake.
Because Arizona settlements were struggling to survive, there was not an immediate push further south into Mexico. Brigham Young, however, desired that missionaries be sent to Mexico. In 1875 the prophet called Daniel Webster Jones, who had served in Mexico during the Mexican-American War, to head a mission and translate the Book of Mormon into Spanish. Elder Jones was soon unexpectedly joined in this project by Meliton G. Trejo, a native of Spain, who had recently joined the Church, stating that he had been inspired to seek out the Lord’s people in the Rocky Mountains. By the end of the year Elders Jones and Trejo and four others departed for Mexico. They crossed the border in January 1876. Although they encountered much opposition from the various clergy, the missionaries held some public meetings and also mailed out five hundred copies of “Selected Passages of the Book of Mormon” to leaders of more than one hundred communities throughout Mexico.
The missionaries also located an area in the state of Chihuahua that they felt would be suitable for a future Church colonization. In the fall of 1876, Elder Trejo and Elder Helaman Pratt proselyted in the state of Sonora. In 1879, Elder Moses Thatcher of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles headed a delegation of missionaries into Mexico City and succeeded in laying a solid foundation for the Church in that land.]
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By Rey Lucero Pratt
Sometime between 1875 and 1878 an instructor of Greek in Mexico City named Plotino C. Rhodocanaty received the booklet in the mail. It was entitled "Selected Portions from the Book of Mormon." This little work had been translated into Spanish by Daniel W. Jones and Meliton G. Trejo at the request of Brigham Young in 1874.
In 1879 Daniel Jones, again at the request of President Young, led a small party of missionaries 200 miles into Mexico to the city of Chihuahua. There, with the governor's permission, they held meetings and mailed copies of their booklet to government officials throughout the country.
How a copy got into the hands of Plotino Rhodocanaty is not known. But we do know that Plotino organized a group that met in his home every Sunday to study the booklet, and in 1878 he requested additional literature from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A year later, on the 5th day of November, 1879 Elder Moses Thatcher, of the quorum of Twelve Apostles, in company with Elders James Zebulon Stewart and Meliton G. Trejo, and others, arrived in the City of Mexico having come for the purpose of establishing a mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, among the Lamanites of that land. Immediately they set to work, and their labors very soon bore fruit, for, on November 20. 1879 Plotino C. Rhodakanaty and Silviano Arteaga were baptized and confirmed members of the Church, by Elder Moses Thatcher. Other baptisms soon followed, there being six baptized by Elder Meliton G. Trejo, on November 23, within a week nine members of Plotino's group had been baptized and confirmed members of the Church, four brethren were ordained elders, and the Mexico City branch was organized the same day. The principles of the gospel were taught to those assembled, over which Elder Plotino C. Rhodakanaty was called to preside. The action was unanimously sustained by the vote of those present, and he was set apart to that position. Arrangements were made at this meettings in the branch, three times a week. Thus the missionary work in Mexico was put on a working basis.
Two weeks later, a small group of disaffected Catholics, who had been meeting for Bible study at the house of Julian Rojas in rural Ozumba-Tecalco, invited the Mormon missionaries to speak. All but one of this Bible class were baptized, and the second branch was organized.
MOSES THATCHER Presided over the Mexican mission from November 5, 1879, till August 11, 1881.
The work of proselyting continued without interruption, and quite a number more were added to the fold , by February 4, 1880, when Elder Thatcher, now having gotten the mission in good working order left for Utah leaving Elders Stewart and Trejo temporarily in charge.
On May 17, 1880, Elder Meliton G. Trejo left Mexico City, in company with a native brother, for his home in Arizona. It was necessary to make the trip overland by way of Chihuahua, as there were, at that time no railroads running the full length of the Mexican Republic and into the United States, as there are today. This left Elder Stewart as sole missionary from Zion in this far off mission; but not for long, however, as on December 5 of the same year, Elder Thatcher again returned accompanied by Elder Feramorz L.. Young.
On April 4, 1881 Apostle Moses Thatcher, in company with Elders Feramorz L.Young, J. Z. Stewart, and brothers Silviano Arteaga, Fernando. A. Lara, and Ventura Paez, left Mexico City to make the ascent of the great volcano of Popocatepetl, which lies about fifty miles southeast of the city, there to hold a conference on April 6. At Ozumba they were joined by brother Lino Zarate and two other native brethren. All day of the 5th was employed in making the ascent, and night found them still some distance from the summit; in fact, just a little below timber line. It was extremely cold, which made it necessary for then to keep great bonfires burning all night. This also served to keep away animals, panthers, etc., with which the woods were infested.
Next morning they continued their ascent until they reached the "Pico del Fraile," at which point they celebrated their conference, it being April 6, 1881, just fifty-one years after the Church was organized.. Fervent prayers were raised to God, imploring his blessings on this Mission, and Elder Moses Thatcher dedicated Mexico for the preaching of the gospel and the country was blessed and dedicated to the Lord.
On May 1, 1881, one more was added to the small force laboring in the Mission, with file coming of August Heinrich Friedrich Wilcken. Elder Wilcken came overland by way of Chihuahua and as he was already learned in the Spanish language, his presence was a great help to the cause. The first few weeks after his arrival were spent in translating into Spanish a tract written by Elder Thatcher. He was then sent to Ozumba, and in company with a native elder, Fernando A. Lara, carried on the work proselyting in that and surrounding towns.
On June 1, 1881 Elder J. Z. Stewart was released, and left for his home in Utah just a month later, going on horseback to Acapulco, and from there by steamer to San Francisco, and thence home by rail. Elder Stewart's translations have been of at service to the missionary work among the Spanish speaking people He helped translate the Book of Mormon, and the Warning,into the Spanish language. He labored in the Mission twenty-one months.
On August 1, 1881, Elder Moses Thatcher was released, and Elder August Heinrich Friedrich Wilcken was selected to preside over Mexican Mission, being set apart to that office September 11, 1881, by Elder Thatcher.
On September 15, Elders Thatcher, Ferarnorz L. Young, and Ferando A. Lara, left Mexico City, over the Mexican railroad, for Vera Cruz, to take passage on the Knickerbocker for New York, thence home to Utah by rail. The work had extended greatly during Elder Thather's stay in the mission, considering the limited number of elders laboring in the field.
AUGUST H. F. WILCKEN Presided ever the Mexi can mission, from September 11 1881, till April 15, 1883.
A total of sixty-one souls had been baptized up to the time that Elder Thatcher took his departure.
On October 19, President Wilcken received a letter from Brother Thatcher, telling of the sad death of Elder Feramorz I. Young, of typhoid fever, on board the Knickerbocker, on September 17, 1881, while in passage across the Gulf of Mexico.
'I here was not sufficient ice aboard to preserve the body till they could reach New York, which made it necessary to bury the body in the gulf. This last sad rite took place September 29, 1881, Elder Moses Thatcher officiating.
Elder Wilcken carried on the missionary work manfully, alone, being now the only elder from Zion in the field. He was, however, greatly assisted in his labors by native elders.
Under these circumstances, the arrival of Elders Anthony W. Ivins and Milson Ross Pratt, May 21, 1882, was greatly appreciated by President Wilcken. Elder A. W. Ivins was one of the company of missionaries who, under Daniel W. Jones, passed the Mexican border, January 7, 1876, at El Paso, and came as far South as the City of Chihuahua, capital of the state of that name. 'The first Latter-Day-Saint meeting ever held in the interior of Mexico was held by this party in the City of Chihuahua, April 8, 1876, about five hundred people attended the meeting. Elders James Zebulon Stewart and Helaman Pratt, both of whom took active part in missionary labors in and around Mexico City, were also members ot this party.
For nearly a year after his arrival in the Mission, Elder Ivins labored as traveling elder, but on the release of President Wilcken, was called to fill his place as president of the Mission, to which office he was set apart by Elder Wilcken, April 15, 1883. Elder Wilcken left for home, April 22, via Vera Cruz and New Orleans, having labored two years in the Mission, nineteen months as president. During the time he presided over the Mission, fifty-one souls were added to the fold by baptism.
ANTHONY WOODWARD IVINS Presided over the Mexican mission from April 15, 1883 till March 27, 1884
For the work there was to do, the laborers were indeed few, Elders Ivins and Pratt constituting the whole force of elders from Zion laboring in the field. Quite a number of native elders were pressed into service, and the work of preaching the gospel and spreading the truth was vigorously pushed.
On August 3, 1883, Elder Milson R. Pratt let his zeal get the better of his judgement, and he and a native elder, Lino Zarate, were arrested for preaching in the "Plaza" or open market place in Ozumba, knowing that all open air meetings in Mexico are prohibited by law. They were taken to Chalco, the county seat, and placed in jail. Word was taken to Elder Ivins, who was at that time in Mexico City, by Brother Julian Rojas, of what had happened, and on August 4, Elder Ivins and Elder Candanosa went to Chalco to see what could be done. They went direct to the Jefatura, and after talking with the Jefe Politico, Senor Hipolito Reyes, Elder Pratt was released, after paying a cash fine of fifteen dollars. The native elder was not, at that time released.
Elders Helaman Pratt and Franklin Richards Snow arrived in Mexico City, November 10, 1883, having come via New Orleans and Vera Cruz. They were met at the Buena Vista station of the Mexican railway, by Elders A. W. "Tony" Ivins and Milson Ross Pratt, and taken to the elders' room in 2a Calle de San Francisco, No. 7. Elder Helaman Pratt was called to succeed Elder Ivins as president of the Mexico Mission, and was set apart, March 27, 1884, by A.W. Ivins. Elders Ivins and Milson Ross Pratt left next day, over the Mexican Central railway, being the first missionaries from this Mission to return by this route. They had labored in the Mission twenty-two months. Elder Ivins as Mission president for eleven months. During his administration as president, thirty-six persons were admitted into the Church by baptism.
The work, by this time, had extended greatly, and branches had been established in Toluca, Ixtacalco, Tecaloe and Chimal, in the State of Mexico; Cuautla and San Andres de la Cal, in the State of Morelos, and Nopola, in the Stale of Hidalgo. So it can readily he seen that two elders, left in the. field, had no time for anything but work, and we can greatly sympathize with them in their joy when Elders Isaac J. Stewart and Alvin V. Robinson arrived in Mexico City, November 17, 1884, to labor with them in spreading the gospel and caring for the converted. However, Elder Robinson was not permitted to remain long, but on account of ill health was released and returned home April 22, 1885.
On May 9, 1885, Elders Moses Thatcher and Brigham Young arrived in Mexico City as representatives of the Church, to treat with the Mexican Government for the purchase of lands and the granting of colonization concessions, with a view to establishing colonies of our people in the State of Chihuahua. On May 22, they were received by President Porfirio Diaz, explained to him, their mission, amt opened negotiations with him for the above named purposes. They left for Salt Lake City the same night.
On June 29, 1885, Elders Erastus Snow, Brigham Yoting. John W. Taylor, and also Victoria Pratt, wife of President Helaman Pratt, and their little son, Carl L. Pratt, arrived in Mexico City, the apostles having come to continue negotiations with the government for colonization concessions and lands on which to colonize. Sister Pratt hd come to assist in missionary labor being; the first woman. missionary of the Church in Mexico.
The brethren were received by President Diaz and other government officials, and on February 27, of the following year, twenty thousand hectaras of land were purchased by Elder Erastus Snow and for colonization purposes.
The contract entered into with the government specified that a certain percent of the colonists should be native born Mexicans, and it. was thought a good plan to gather the native Saints with those who were coming from Utah and other places to the Colonies. Hence, on December 1, 1886 President Helaman Pratt left Mexico City with a company of Saints for Colonia Juarez, for the purpose of establishing them there. All went well till they arrived there, but conditions there, climatic and every other way, were so different from what the native Mexican Saints had been used to, that the greater part of them became dissatisfied, and they started back home on foot. Many of them made the entire journey on foot, back to their native homes, the journey taking them three months. A few families remained in the Colonies for four or five years, but finally all but two or three persons found their way back to the "sunny South." It may appear to some that they were not very well converted to so soon turn their backs on Zion, and their faces homeward but when acquainted with all the conditions, it does not seem so strange. They were people taken from a tropical clime, some of them, and others from the unequaled spring-like clime of the Valley of Mexico. In their native homes they were poor, true it is, but for a few cents they could buy in the market each day what they needed for that day. Then they had their homes in which to live, in some cases, it being only a cane or cornstalk house with a grass roof, but it was the home in which they were born, and in which their fathers had lived before them, and they had no conception of how to start out to make another. Such a thing as laying up anything for the winter had never occurred to them. Just imagine such a people being planted down in such a place as Colonia Juarez was in an early day, and that in mid-winter,-where there were no houses, no ditches, no fences, and above all, no "plaza," nor even a store at which to buy, and see if you cannot imagine how they became discouraged.
Elder Pratt returned from the Colonies to his missionary labors in Mexico, sometime before April, 1887, but only to labor for a short time in the Mission field, and he again returned to Colonia Juarez, May 2, 1887. He was not released from his missionary labors, but simply transferred from one field to another. He spent the reminder of his life in helping to build up and establish the Saints in the Colonies. When the Juarez Stake was organized, December 9, 1889, with Anthony Woodward Ivins as president, Pratt was chosen as counselor, in which capacity he acted till March, 1908, when the stake was reorganized. Pratt died in Colonia Dublan, November 26, 1909. During the time Elder Pratt presided over the Mission, eighty-four souls were added to the Church by baptism. He labored in the Mission for three years and six months; three years and two months as president.
HORACE H. CUMMINGS Presided over the Mexican mission from May 2, 1887, till October 6, 1887.
Elder Horace Hall Cummings was called to preside over the Mission on the departure of Elder Pratt, and continued in that capacity till October 6, 1887, when Henry Eyring was called, and sustained to preside over the Mission. Elder Eyring later became a counselor to President A. W. Ivins, when the Juarez Stake was organized. Elder Cummings was released and returned to his home in Utah, October 18, 1887, having labored in the mission for two years and four months.
HENRY EYRING Presided over the Mexican mission from October 6, 1887, till December 21, 1888.
Missionary labors were continued under the direction of Elder Eyring till December 21, 1888, when he was released to return home. Two elders remained in the mission for several months longer. They were Elders Selvestre D. Collett, who died in the Mission of typhoid fever, May 5, 1889. During Presidents Cummings' and Eyring's administrations and up to the time all the elders were withdrawn, there were nine baptisms, making a total of two hundred forty-one baptised from the time the Mission was opened, November 5, 1879 to June 3, 1889.
The first missionary efforts had lasted approximately ten years, from November 5, 1879 to June 3, 1889. In those ten years, eighteen missionaries had served in Mexico, 241 converts had been baptized, and ten branches had been organized. When the missionary work ceased in central Mexico, the Mormon colonies of the north became know as the Mexican Mission until the organizationof the Juarez Stake in 1895.
The withdrawal of the missionaries left the native Saints to take care of themselves as best they could. With no one to teach them the gospel and Church discipline, they were, as it were, like sheep without a shepherd, and soon drifed into error. SOme of the branches became disorganized and their members were scattered; others formed themselves into what they termed, "Independent Religious Societies", and tried to live in conformity with the teacings of the Bible, and were so found when the mission was reopened, and most of the members werw won back to their faith in and allegiance to the gospel, through the arden labors of Elder Ammon Meshach Tenney, who was the first missionary in the field after the Mission was reopened. There was one branch which remained loyal to the Church, under the presidency of Francisco Barco, during the long absence of the elders from Zion, a period of thirteen years, and be it said, to the credit of all those who were left without a shepherd for so long a time, that very few went back to their old faiths, or lost entire faith in the gospel of truth.
THE MISSION REOPENED
On June 1, 1901, Elder John Henry Smith, Presidents Anthony Woodward Ivins, and Henry Eyring of the Juarez Stake, and Elder Ammon Meshach Tenney and Sister Josephine Smith, arrived in Mexico City, for the purpose of reopening the Mexican Mission in and around Mexico City. On the 8th, they went to Cuernavaca, the capital of the State of Morelos, where they were met by Elder H.L. Hall, who had, for several years, beenengaged in the hotel business in that city and in the City of Mexico. Brother Hall had beendoing some missionary labor with the native people in his employ, and through his labors some had accepted the gospel. The day was spent in visiting these Saints, and at night a meeting was held, in which Elder Ammon M. Tenney was set apart as president of the Mexican mission, by Elder John Henry Smith.
After a short stay in Cuernavaca the party returned to Mexico City and on Tuesday June 17, an interview was had by the brethren with President Porfirio Diaz. Elder Smith expressed his gratitude to President Diaz and his people for their kindness and consideration in receiving our people into their land and explained to him what we expected to do by way of proselyting the country. President Diaz expressed great satisfaction and wished the brethren every success. He sent by the brethren, warm greetngs to President Lorenzo Snow.
AMMON Meshach TENNEY Presided as the first president of the Mexican Mission after re-opening of the mission on June 1, 1901. Presided over the mission till February 8, 1903.
The same evening, at 7:30 pm, Elder John Henry Smith, and Presidents A.W. Ivins and Henry Eyring, and Sister Josephine Smith, left Mexico City for their homes, leaving Elder Ammon M. Tenney alone to pursue his missionary labors. Elder Tenney immediately set about visiting the old branches that had been organized in the former mission: Iatacalco, Tecalco, Atlautla, Chimal, Cuautla, and San Andres de la Cal, and whatever members of whose whereabout he could learn. Great success attended his labors, and many branches were won over, reorganized, and put in a flourishing condition. Church discipline was taught and maintained among the people, and many friends and converts were made, and many baptisms performed. In December, 1901, a place suitable for Mission headquarters in Mexico City was rented in Calle de Humbolt, No. 5. The work of spreading the gospel went rapidly on. Conferences were held, branches set in order, old members visited and reconverted, and many new converts were made. Elder Tenney pressed into service many of the native brethren, who rendered effectual and faithful assistance.
On June 22, 1902, Elders Alonzo Leander Taylor, James Jacobson, and Samuel George Lake arrived in Mexico City to labor as missionaries. This help was gratefully received by Elder Tenney, as for a little more than a year, he had been laboring alone so far as any elders from Zion were concerned, his only help being received from the native elders. However, he had had the company of his wife Eliza Scheyer Tenney, since March 6, 1902, and had been favored most of the time with the company of Elder H. Stuart Harris and family, who were living in Mexico City, Elder Harris in obedience to a call for the purpose of studying Mexican law.
The three missionaries, although without missionary experience, and with very little knowledge of the Spanish language, were assigned different fields of labor, and straightway set out to labor as follows: Elder Taylor in Cuernavaca and vicinity; Elder Lake to Trigales; and Elder Jacobson to Ozumba and surrounding towns. Success attended their efforts, and they were successful in making friends and making clear to them the gospel's truths, in the Spanish language.
On August 10, 1902, Elder Tenney left Mexico City for the Colonies, on business, leaving Elder H.S. Harris in charge of the Mission during his absence. Up till this time there had been one hundred seventy baptisms performed in the Mission, since the time of its re-opening, a period of fourteen months.
H.S. HARRIS Served two terms as president of the Mexican mission; from February 8, 1903 till May 14, 1904 and from September 29, 1905 till September 29, 1907..
Elder Tenney returned to the Mission in October 1902 and continued his faithful labors till February 8, 1903 when he was released to return home. Elder H. S. Harris was set apart by Elder Tenney as president of the Mission. Elder Tenney spent some time visiting the Saints and turning over Mission affairs to Preseident Harris and left for his home in the Colonies o March 2, 1903, having labored in the Mission twenty-one months.
The force of elders had now been increased to six, and three more were added before the end of the year.
Elder Elmer Hooks of Provo, who arrived in the Mission June 24, 1903, was taken sick with typhoid fever, and died at the American Hospital in Mexico City on August 17, 1903. He was buried in the American cemetery.
TALMA EMERSON POMEROY Presided over the Mexican mission from 1904 to 1905.
Elder Harris was released to return home on May 14, 1904, and Elder Talma Emerson Pomeroy was selected to take his place and was set apart by Elder A. Owen Woodruff on May 23, 1904.
It now becomes our painful duty to narrate the saddest incident that has ever taken place in the Mexican mission. Son of the late Church President Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898), Elder A. O. (Owen or Ozem?) Woodruff and wife, Helen Woodruff, in company with President A. W. Ivins of the Juarez Stake, and some othres, arrived in Mexico City on May 9, 1904, for the purpose of attending conference with the elders and Saints of the Mission. An enjoyable conference was had in the Atlautla branch but on May 24, after returning to Mexico City, Sister Woodruff was taken seriously ill with severe headache and fever. On Monday, the 26th hr case was pronounced to be smallpox, by Dr. E. H. Norton. Elders Woodruff, Talma E. Pomeroy, Paul E. Henning, and Alonzo L. Taylor remained in the Mission House to care for and nurse Sister Woodruff, while the rest of the party took rooms in a hotel to escape contagion. Sister Woodruff's five month old baby was taken in charge by Sister Kate Spilsbury who was one of the visiting party. All that kind hands and loving hearts could do was done for Sister Woodruff but she gradually grew worse til June 7 when she passed peacefully away, surrounded by her husband and those who had attended her during her fatal illness. She was buried the same day in the American cemetery in Mexico City. Owing to the fact that Elder Alonzo L. Taylor had been exposed to the smallpox, in company with Sister Kate Spilsbury and the infant baby of Sister Woodruff, left Mexico City for El Paso, Texas on June 8. Elder Woodruff took sick the day they left Mexico City, and on reaching Ciudad Juarez was so sick he could hardly walk to the home of Brother Pierce, only a distance of about one hundred yards. Elder Taylor also took sick on reaching Ciudad Juarez, and through the kindness of the United States health officers of El Paso, he and Elder Woodruff were taken and placed in a hospital in El Paso, where they could receive proper nuring and treatment. Elder Woodruff had a severe case of smallpox but it was not considered a fatal one, and great hopes were entertained for his recovery, but on June 20, 1904 he took suddenly worse and passed away at 5:26 p.m. He was buried the next day. Elder Taylor's case was a light one and he soon recovered and returned to his home in Colonia Juarez. These sad occurrenced cast a deep gloom over the whole Mission, and many were led to ask, "why were two spirits, so young, so full of life and usefulness, called to leave this life?" And the only answer that came was, "God knoweth best."
Great progress was made in missionary work during President Pomeroy's administration. New fields were opened up and new branches were organized. He was released and returned home on August 25, 1905.
H. STUART HARRIS was called to preside again from 1905 to 1907.
Elder H. S. Harris was again called to preside over the Mission and arrived in Mexico September 29, 1905. By this time the force of missionaries had been increased to eleven, and three more arrived before the end of the year. With this efficient corps of workers the missionary work was carried on with great success. President Harris left Mexico city, August 23, 1906, and made an extended trip through South America, to look for a new country for colonization purposes. He returned to the Mission on December 14, and continued his labors until September 29, 1907 when he was released to return home, having presided over the Mission just twenty-four months, during which time eighty-six souls were added to the Mission by baptism.
REY L. PRATT Presided as president of the Mexican Mission, was set apart September 29, 1907 and served as president until his death twenty-three years later, April 14, 1931.
Elder Rey Lucero Pratt was called to succeed President Harris and was set apart as president of the Mission on September 29, 1907 by Elder H. S. Harris. Elder Pratt had lavored in the Mission as traveling elder, eleven months prior to his call to preside over the Mission. There were at the time he took charge, ten elders laboring in the Mission, and the number has now been increased to a standing force of twenty eficient workers. Great progress had been and continued to be made. New conferences and branches were organized, also more Sunday schools and Relief Societies. Up to the date of President Pratt's presidency there had been an increase by baptisms of three hundred thirty-eight souls and many children have been blessed. Our statistical records now show a membership in the Mission of one thousand forty-five.
REVOLUTION AND WITHDRAWAL
Much prejudice in the country was being overcome, and many new towns and people are opening their doors to the elders, where only three or four years ago it was impossible to get a hearing. However, much political unrest stormed throughout Mexico. Mexican Porfirio Diaz, dictator for several decades, was forced out of power. A long period of revolutionary activity pitted the masses of common people against each other. In February 1913 the missionaries were recalled to the mission home for safety.
About this time Rafael Monroy, a new convert from San Marcos, Hidalgo, received a strong impression to see President Pratt. When he arrived at the mission home he found the leaders and missionaries read to depart. President Joseph F. Smith had instructied President Pratt to evacuate his family and the seven remaining missionaries.
Monroy had only one thought in the absence of these leaders, who would guide the little group of seven members in San Marcos? President Pratt replied, "Sit down. We will ordain you an elder and set you apart as the leader of the group." Rafael Monroy magnified his calling and the branch membership soon increased ten-fold.
The little town of San Marcos was in the path of two revolutionary forces, and when the Carranzistas were driven out of the town by the Zapatistas, the Zapatistas were falsely informed that Monroy had collaborated with their enemy, the Carranzistas. Monroy and Vicente Morales, another member of the branch, were placed under arrest. When asked to give up their arms Monroy drew the standard works from his pocket and said, "Gentlemen, these are the only arms I carry."
Incensed at the response, the Zapatistas threw the two men in jail. At dusk they were taken to the outskirts of town to stand before a firing squad. The officer said he would free them if they would forsake their religion, but the brethren refused. Monroy was granted a final request to pray, and he asked the Lord to bless and protect his loved ones and to care for the little struggling branch. A few moments later the rifles fired and the voices of Elder Monroy and Brother Morales were stilled.
When the political climate moderated, twelve elders returned to Mexico City in 1921. President Rey Pratt recorded in his journal: "Only those who have experienced it know the joy of meeting these dear people after a long absence. Their faithfulness through eight long years...during which time they passed through a veritible hell of war, is wonderful. I feel to thank the Lord that he has permitted me to return here and find so many of the people strong in the faith."
But more difficulties were hovering on the horizon. In 1926 the Mexican government decided to enforce a constitutional amendment that barred foreigners from active ministerial work. And so, for the third time in the fifty-year history of the Mexican Mission, the missionaries were withdrawn. Complete reliance was laid upon the local leaders to carry out the branch and district activities until their return in 1940.
All of the Elders in the Mission are in the best of health and spirits and are full of zeal for the work of the Lord. Prospects were never brighter and prosperous future for the Mexican Mission.
ANTOINE RIDGEWAY IVINS Presided, from El Paso, Texas from 1931 to 1934 as Mexico Mission president.
After the death of President Pratt in 1931, President Antoine Ridgeway Ivins of the First Council of the Seventy was called as Mexican Mission president. Ivins maintained an absent and silent arrangement with Mexican Mormon leadership and members. It was not until 1940 that U.S. citizens could enter Mexico as missionaries. Up to that time only those young men and women who could claim Mexican citizenship were permitted to serve as missionaries.
HAROLD WILCKEN PRATT Presided as Mexico mission president from 1934 to 1938.
During the period around 1936 when there was no Church representative in Mexico City, a group of members became known as the . This group organized to solicit the First Presidency to name a mission president of their own nationality. When the First Presidency in Salt Lake City, Utah reiterated that Church leaders are called by the inspiration of God, many of the group separated themselves from the Church. They carried on their own extensive missionary activities in central Mexico.
AMI LORENZO ANDERSON Presided as Mexico mission president from 1938-1942.
Harold Pratt was released in 1938 because of health problems. He was succeeded by Ami Lorenzo Anderson. Anderson and his wife Vera Juanita Pierce Anderson (Arwell Pierce's younger sister), were not well received. Dissidents spread rumors about Anderson's alleged militant leadership style and about how his wife and some members of his family were said to view Mexicans as racially inferior. These rumors ruined Anderson's credibility. In May of 1942 he was replaced by his brother-in-law, Arwell Lee Pierce and wife, Mary Brentnall Done Pierce.
ARWELL LEE PIERCE Presided as Mexico mission president from 1941-1950.
Thanks to the close association and interest shown by David Oman McKay and the skillfull leadership of Arwell Lee Pierce, Harold Brown, and others, most of the Third Convention group eventually recognized the authority of church leaders.. President George Albert Smith spent ten days in Mexico in 1946 holding conferences in various districts of the mission. He accepted back into full fellowship 1,200 individuals who had returned to the fold of the Church.
UNITY AND EXPANSION
Increased unity was followed by a period of remarkable growth. The geographical area of the mission was enlarged in 1947 to include Central America, and missionaries were sent simultaneously to Guatemala and Costa Rica. Success in these areas resulted in the organization of the Central America Mission in 1952.
In the ensuing years the Mexico Mission has had a large impact on the lives of the people and upon the future lives of so many persons in generations to come.
PAF - Archer files
"History of the Mexican Mission" by Rey L. Pratt, Improvement Era Apr 1912, pages 486-498.
"Mormons in Mexico: The First 96 Years", by Gerry R. Flake, The Ensign September 1972, Pages 20-21.
"A Diplomat's Diplomat: Arwell Pierce and the Church in Mexico," Pioneers in Every Land: Inspirational Stories of International Pioneers Past and Present. Bookcraft, 1997. Pages 113-124.
Ozem Thompson Woodruff and Azem Wooodruff were brothers of Wilford Woodruff. http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyoswego/obits/obits10woodruff.html
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