IITHE THIRD CONVENTION - 1936-1946
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Orson Pratt Brown's Religion's Episode
Abel Páez' s The Third Convention
From "Mormons in Mexico: Leadership, Nationalism, and the Case of the Third Convention"
[From approximately 1875 to 1936, the Mexican Mission territory included southwestern United States as well as all of Mexico. The Mission headquarters had been located in El Paso, Texas since the Mexican government had expelled all foreign clerymen in 1925 through the end of 1933. Harold Wilcken Pratt [son of Helaman Pratt and Bertha Wilcken Pratt] was called to preside over the new Mexican mission on January 1934 as clergy had recently been re-admitted into Mexico by the Mexican government. He presided for two and a half years from El Paso while he simultaneously continued to serve as counselor in the Juarez Stake Presidency.] In April of 1936, during the bi-annual Conference of the Mormon church the leadership divided the Mexican mission into the Mexican and Spanish-American/Southwest U.S. missions, with the Rio Grande forming their common border. When the mission was divided Harold aranged for a new mission headquarters in Mexico City. Mexican citizen Harold W. Pratt had served a Mexican mission from 23 May 1921 to 26 June 1923 under the Mexico mission presidency of his older [by 21 years] half-brother Rey L. Pratt [son of Helaman Pratt and Emaline Billingsley Pratt].
Rey L. Pratt was a much loved mission president. When Pratt was assigned in 1924 to help open the Church's mission in Argentina, he appointed Isaias Juarez to preside over the central Mexican District, with Abel Paez and Bernabe Parra as his counselors. These three men maintained stability and confidence in the small branches in Mexico. The branches survived their isolation from Salt Lake City and some even flourished. Neverthe less, Church members and leaders alike depended emotionally and otherwise on Rey Pratt's arm's length guidance, which he provided at every opportunity.
Disaster struck on April 14, 1931 following an operation for an intestinal rupture (appendicitis) and Rey L. Pratt died in Salt Lake City. Subsequent leaders in the United States were unaware of how the Cristero rebellion, the revolution, its aftermath, and Rey Pratt's sojourn in Argentina had affected Mexican members. After Antoine Ridgeway Ivins was appointed to replace Rey Pratt. Ivins showed no interest in his new appointment. For nearly a year he never paid a visit to Mexico nor did he communicate with the leaders or members there. The fact that they received no support nor a response to their petition for a native born mission leader increased the chasm. Finally in the spring of 1932, nearly a year after his appointment as Mexican mission president, Antoine R. Ivins traveled with Elder Melvin J. Ballard to Mexico to meet with the petitioning Mexican Mormons.
Ivins approached the situation aggressively. He reprimanded the members for their assertiveness in sending a petition to Salt Lake City. President Antoine Ivins returned to the United States and left them alone once again. A silent arrangement between President Ivins and President Isaias Juarez continued through the end of Ivins term in 1934.
Even before Harold W. Pratt's move to Mexico City, the Cristero rebellion of 1926 had disrupted the religious atmostphere in Mexico for nine years and forced all foreign clergy out of Mexico. The ensuing isolation of the Mexican Mormon leaders from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City resulted in an understandable independence among them. This independence, along with strong feelings of nationalism and ethnic pride persuaded several local leaders in and around Mexico City, to organize what became the Third Convention in 1936. Soon after news of Harold W. Pratt's appointment reached Mexico City, Abel Páez, first counselor in the Mexican district presidency, was at work. Spurred on by his uncle, Margarito Bautista (Valencia), he summoned the Saints to a crisis conference now called the Third Convention. Those attending this conference decided once more, for the third try, to petition the First Presidency of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, for a Mexican mission president (de pura raza y sangre). The petition and ensuing events occasioned a split in the Mexican district of the Mormon church that lasted ten years. The eventual reconciliation, which saw Mormon prophet George Albert Smith travel to Mexico City to preside over a reunification conference, is a testament to how boundaries of language, ancestral custom, ethnicity, and national identity can be crossed within a single faith when their needs are heard and understood, and they are treated with fairness and equality.
The Mormon church authorities had denied the Mexicans' request twice. Now, rebellious and angry, some of the Mexican Mormons became even more convinced that their mission leader should be able to understand them and their needs, and that they had had no such leader since Rey L. Pratt.
Sensing his people's mood, Isaias Juárez, president of the mission's Mexican district, was alarmed by their preparations for the Third Convention. He could see the implications perhaps better than anyone, having struggled through nine years and many storms to lead the mission. Juárez had learned to read the pulse of the Mexican Saints accurately. He knew this would be no simple petition; quite a few Mexican Mormons were determined to settle for nothing less than a Mexican leader, however unusual even odd, such a demand was for Mormons, whose authorities are always appointed from above, never "selected" by the congregation. Juárez also sensed accurately the mood of the authorities in Salt Lake City, he knew there would be no Mexican mission president forthcoming. The church, he reasoned, would not succumb to pressure politics, and he foresaw an unfortunate and inevitable clash.
Juárez remembered the first and second conventions and Antoine R. Ivins's teachings that such conventions and petitions were unacceptable in the Church of Jesus Christ. And, although he was as frustrated as many other Mexican Saints, he realized that another convention must ultimately part ways with the church. He refused to align himself with it.
Customarily among the Mormons, leaders at the top try to sense the needs both of a people and their organization, making fitting appointments according to their best judgment as influenced by their conscious effort to seek the will of the Lord. Local leaders are not "elected" as such; rather, once leaders are appointed, local members are asked to "sustain" them. Juárez clearly understood, therefore; the inevitable conflict. He probably also understood the church's traditional position of sending in "outsiders" where the faith is young, gradually entrusting new members, as they become "seasoned," to assume the most significant leadership responsibilities.
Juárez was no passive fence-sitter. Having taken a position against the Third Convention, he then tried to soothe and persuade the Mexican Saints. Finally he issued a circular letter explaining that the meeting was unauthorized and out of order and that those who participated in it would be considered rebellious and therefore run the risk of excommunication. He contacted Harold Pratt posthaste and tried to sensitize him to the impending trouble and its roots. He met repeatedly with Abel Paez, trying to dissuade him.
Isaias Juárez bewildered and angered Páez. Twice before, Juárez had subscribed to meetings like the Third Convention, even helping to draft an earlier petition. But now he wanted to avoid a break with the authorities in Salt Lake City. Páez, on the other hand, seemed confused, uncertain what to do, for he did not see the matter in the same light as did Juárez. Initially he wavered under pressure from Juárez, agreeing that the convention was not only out of order but futile, and promised to call it off. Later, however, Páez reversed himself, declaring that the effort was worth any risk.
Abel Páez had labored diligently and faithfully in the church for years. As he meditated on his own experiences, Margarito Bautista's arguments began to make a lot of sense to him. If the Mexican Saints did not stand up for themselves now, when would they? Tired of what he perceived as paternalism, unnerved by what he considered second-class treatment in the kingdom of God, and convinced that the Conventionists' desires were just, Abel Páez finally supported and agreed to preside over the Third Convention. With Bautista's help, he set out to organize the proceedings.
Amidst considerable discussion among Mexican Mormons, given Juárez's circular letter against the convention, approximately one hundred and twenty members nevertheless convened on 26 April 1936.2 Guadalupe Zárraga came as an observer to take notes for Presidents Juárez and Pratt. The Conventionists quickly decided that the Salt Lake City leaders had misunderstood their previous requests. Even though Harold Pratt had come from the Mormon colonies and was a Mexican citizen, he was not one by blood and race and certainly not one culturally. The Saints' new petition was intended to convey their desire for a president who was Mexican by blood and spirit (de raza y sangre).
Reasoning that the church's General Authorities might not be aware of qualified Mexican members, the Third Convention decided to nominate a candidate. They considered several men, including Narciso Sandoval and Margarito Bautista.3 In the end, however, the convention settled on Abel Páez. They did not intend to demand Páez's appointment but rather to clearly inform the Salt Lake City authorities that qualified Mexicans were available. After making their main decision, the Conventionists strengthened their petition in two ways. First, wanting their leaders to recognize their intense seriousness, they agreed to gather
signatures for the petition. Second, the Conventionists authorized a commission composed of Abel Páez, Narciso Sandoval, and Enrique González to travel to Salt Lake City and personally present the petition and supporting documents to the Mormon church's General Authorities. Its business concluded, the Third Convention then adjourned.
Harold Pratt was stunned. Having rushed to Mexico City just two days before the convention, he had feared the worst but hoped for less; he had not believed Páez would go through with proceedings so out of character for Mormons as to be totally incomprehensible to the mainline church except in terms of apostasy. Páez had agreed at one point to cancel the convention. In light of this agreement, and in order to avoid more dissension, Juárez and Pratt had stayed home and out of sight. Then Guadalupe Zárraga brought the shocking news. Isaias Juárez wept when he heard that his counselor of many years had betrayed him.4
Harold Pratt realized that the Mexican brethren would soon implement their decisions. Seeking to prevent that, Pratt immediately contacted Abel Páez. They set a meeting for 30 April, the Thursday following the convention.5
On the appointed day Abel Páez met with Pratt, Juárez, and Bernabé Parra, the second counselor in the district presidency. After a long discussion, the men agreed on four points: first, Páez would terminate the Third Convention's activities, including the gathering of signatures for the petition. Moreover, Páez would thereafter take no unilateral action on any matter without the district presidency's consent, a hallowed leadership practice within the Mormon faith. Second, to show their unity and harmony, the four leaders- Páez, Juárez, Parra, and Pratt, would together visit all the local branches. Third, each would send a separate report of the Third Convention to the First Presidency of the Church. Fourth, all would prepare to visit Salt Lake City soon to discuss the Mexicans' feelings and desires with the General Authorities. The upcoming October general conference was set as a tentative date for the trip.6
Abel Páez left the meeting satisfied. The Third Convention had accomplished something after all: Harold Pratt now seemed to take Mexican desires quite seriously, and now the Mexican Mormons would be able to present their case in person to the General Authorities. Surely such a trip would prompt positive
action. Páez felt that the Third Convention's purposes would now be carried out within the church structure and that therefore his actions were appropriate.
But Páez was to be disappointed. As the district presidency visited the various branches, Pratt and Juárez seemed to equivocate on their position. Pratt said that he alone would take the petition to Salt Lake City at conference time. Then, instead of assuring church members that Third Convention desires would be enacted through regular church channels, Juárez and Pratt made it increasingly clear that both the convention's procedures and its goals were out of order. They suggested that Páez and his colleagues were wolves among the Lord's sheep and warned all members against listening to them.7 Mainline Mexican Mormons, approximately two-thirds of the membership, had made their anti-Third-Convention opinions known to Juárez and Parra, and no doubt Pratt had received communications on the issue from Salt Lake City. In any case, Conventionists were incensed. They wondered how Páez could believe that Pratt would do anything but present the Third Convention's case negatively.8
Abel Páez was in a delicate position with respect to his own followers. He had agreed to work with the district presidency and Harold Pratt, and he had announced this decision to all the Saints involved in the Third Convention. Now the Conventionists felt betrayed, themselves chastised and their goals scorned by the very men with whom their leader was supposedly working. They judged Páez a traitor to their cause, unworthy of his nomination for mission president. However, despite their dismay, the Third Conventionists abided by their earlier decisions.
Abel Páez, of course, felt no less betrayed. After working with Pratt and Juárez to determine their intentions regarding the Third Convention, he reached an irreversible position. With a note of finality he claimed all responsibility for the Third Convention and its activities, stating publicly his determination to implement its decisions. These, he felt, were too beneficial and necessary to the mission's well-being to now be ignored.9 If "proper channels" were closed, he would work outside those channels.
With equal finality the Salt Lake City authorities carried out their plan to divide the Mexican mission, investing Harold Pratt with complete stewardship over the church's activities in Mexico City. The new president re-entered Mexico with his wife, Anna Hendrickson Pratt, and five children to begin a long ordeal.
The Third Convention Breaks from the Church
And so the battle lines, however reluctantly and unintentionally drawn, were firm. Páez and more than eight hundred Mexican Saints aligned themselves with the Third Convention (by now an institution with its own organized structure) and adamantly demanded a Mexican mission president. President Pratt and more than two thousand Saints who opted to remain with the mainline Mormon church (despite the objections of even some of them to the missionary system and leadership arrangements) continued with the blessings of the church's General Authorities.
In November of 1936 the First Presidency replied formally to the Conventionists. J. Reuben Clark, Jr.,10 a member of the First Presidency and former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Undersecretary of State, prepared a carefully written letter to be read in all the congregations.11 In that letter Clark declared that the people who signed the convention's petition were entirely out of order; that the mission president was not the representative of the members to the president of the church but of the president to the people, and that this representative should therefore be acquainted with all the church procedures in order to prevent disorder and disruption; that none of the church's missions were presided over by any other than men from the bosom of the church; that if the president of the church ever felt so inspired he would appoint one of their number to preside over them; that Mexicans had an unusual number of their own people in responsible positions anyway; that the Mexicans were not exclusively (among Mormons) of the blood of Israel, and that both Mexicans and North American Mormons were from the same family (that of Joseph); that all of the Book of Mormon's promises applied as well to one people as to another, and so on for fourteen typescript pages.12 As Isaías Juárez had foreseen, there would be no Mexican mission president in the near future.
The church's presiding authorities had hoped that Clark's sensible response would put an end to the Third Convention. But generally, it did not.13 For most Third Conventionists, the letter
only confirmed what they had suspected all along, that Harold Pratt had presented their case negatively at the October general conference in Salt Lake City and that the leaders therefore did not yet understand the nature of the problem.
The First Presidency themselves learned quite soon that the letter had solved nothing. No doubt somewhat exasperated by this time, the authorities decided to send Antoine R. Ivins to Mexico one more time to attempt a reconciliation. Although Ivins was considered the church's frontline expert on Mexico, his previous trips there had been largely unsuccessful because, as he perceived, the Mexican Mormons did not respect his authority.14 So Apostle George E Richards, one of the senior members of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, was appointed to accompany Ivins.
When Elders Ivins and Richards reached Mexico City in February of 1937, it was clear that they misunderstood the Mexican position. The Americans interpreted the Third Conventionists' demand to be twofold: a Mexican mission president, and the right to name him themselves.15 The nomination of Abel Páez seems to have caused this confusion. The Third Convention had not in the beginning intended to demand the right to name a mission president. Páez's nomination was only intended to inform the Salt Lake City authorities that there were potential Mexican leaders and that the people did prefer them. But Conventionists meant to leave the appointment up to Salt Lake City, a prerogative they acknowledged as proper and necessary within the Mormon faith. What the dissidents did insist, however, was that their president, whoever he was, should be a Mexican by race and thereby able to fulfill both the spirit and letter of Mexican laws and also, in their opinion, better understand the needs of Mexican Mormons.
In this spirit Páez, as the convention's official representative, had written to the First Presidency just a month after the convention, asking the presiding brethren to grant Mexican Mormons a mission president of pure Mexican race.16 Yet Elders Ivins and Richards and also David O. McKay, a counselor to the church president, Heber J. Grant, seemed to assume that Páez was demanding his own appointment as president of the Mexican mission.17 In any event, to them all this flurry of activity over leadership appointments, smacked of pressure politics if not outright apostasy.
The Mormon church's First Presidency could not become, or even to appear to become, a rubber stamp for anyone, nor could it succumb to any group's pressures generated outside the church's established channels for dealing with such matters. Thus their misunderstanding of the Third Convention's effort to help the church's leaders reach a judicious decision put them on the defensive. In response they took the offensive, sending Ivins and Richards to Mexico to settle the issue once and for all.
Ivins and Richards went to present the First Presidency's position one more time, to point out vigorously that faithful church members sustain the word of the prophet in matters of dispute'' No one in Salt Lake City considered that Ivins and Richards should negotiate or compromise with the Conventionists in Mexico. When Third Convention leaders learned of the impending visit and its purpose, they refused to meet privately with the visitors, asking Ivins and Richards to address all the people in a general meeting. The visiting brethren agreed, even though it meant spending an extra week in Mexico.
As the meetings began on 14 February 1937, two government officials entered the hall and sat down. Third Conventionists later said these men were interested in becoming Mormons and were quite harmless, but Harold Pratt did not know that.19 In fact, before the meeting he had heard rumors that the Conventionists might provoke an arrest. Naturally he began to get a little nervous; as foreigners, by law neither Ivins nor Richards should have been officially addressing a Mexican religious congregation. And so, his apprehension growing by the minute, President Pratt called one of his missionaries aside and instructed him to put Elders Ivins and Richards on a train for the United States. The last thing he wanted was the arrest of two General Authorities.20
The leaders' swift exit without any speeches at all disappointed the Mexicans. Later, convention hardliners complained that if the visitors had been like the apostles of old they would not have feared government officials or anyone else, but would have stayed and presented their talks, having faith that everything would work out. After all, they reasoned, the Third Convention would not have been so foolish as to invite people who would antagonize the General Authorities of the church.21
Nevertheless, the authorities were antagonized. In due time Ivins and Richards made their report to the First Presidency.
The tactics they described understandably displeased the presiding brethren. David O: McKay, in particular, was greatly distressed. This perceived attempt to arrest the First Presidency's representatives was the last straw, and he urged that excommunication procedures against Third Convention leaders begin at once.22
Harold Pratt circulated the text of Apostle Richards's planned talk in which he stated unequivocally that the Mexican Saints were erring and fast falling into apostasy and demanded that they humble themselves and return to full church fellowship by supporting Harold Pratt and in every other way obeying presiding authorities' counsel. If they failed to do so, they would risk excommunication. Richards's talk also demanded that the Conventionists discontinue their unauthorized publications and stop their translating (which included portions of the Doctrine and Covenants not yet published in Spanish, as well as the Pearl of Great Price, `Joseph Smith's Teachings;' and two additional sacred Mormon writings).23 The text, however correct and proper, was counterproductive: thereafter Third Conventionists explicitly demanded the right to decide for themselves who their mission president should be.24 The earlier misunderstanding had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
By May of 1937 the breach was obviously absolute. The church began excommunication proceedings against all Third Convention leaders. On 6, 7, and 8 May 1937, courts were convened in San Pedro Mártir and the sentences handed down. wrote that eight Conventionist leaders were excommunicated for rebellion (having worked against the mission authorities), insubordination (having completely disobeyed the orders of mission authorities), and apostasy (having failed to recognize the Mormon church's authority).25
Shortly thereafter David O. McKay made an inquiry of Harold Pratt, asking whether it would be a good idea to invite the disaffected leaders to El Paso to meet with some of the brethren there. Perhaps a rehearing of their trials could be held (Harold Pratt, Journal, 18 May 1937). This seemed to suggest that if the men were to develop a contrite spirit, the "lower" court's decision might be reversed. It is not known whether this invitation was ever extended. As the leaders' excommunication rang to them with a note of authoritative finality, Mormons who sympathized with the Third Convention realized that now they must define their own positions. One could belong to the Third Convention or to the Mormon church, but not both. Each individual had a difficult decision to make. As a Conventionist, how could one participate in the Mormons' temple ordinances, an integral part of the religion and one available only to Mormons in good standing?26 Would God accept and recognize baptisms and other ordinances performed by Third Conventionists? Looking ahead, what would Third Convention members need to do if they ever decided to
reenter the mainline Mormon church? Most importantly, did God approve of the Third Convention? To participate in the activities that North American Mormon leaders did not authorize or approve of was one thing; it was quite another to associate with an apostate group and thereby relinquish one's church membership.27
Most Mexican Mormons felt that a complete loss of association with the church was a heavy price to pay for a Mexican mission president. The church was important to them; they did not want to lose it. They wanted to go along with the church in all respects, but not under Harold Pratt's leadership.28 Some members felt that God's will must decide the dilemma. For many it became a question of exercising their right, as the Mormon faith teaches, to personal revelation. If God felt their cause was just and approved of their position, they would opt for the Third Convention. Rebellion against the church was acceptable, they reasoned, as long as it did not entail rebellion against God. When the count was in, nearly a third of the Mexican Mormons, deciding that God was with them and the Third Convention, cast their lot with the rebellious group.
Yet, significantly, two-thirds of the Mexican Mormons disagreed. God could not, they argued, approve of the Third Convention or any other group that rebelled against his church. Feeling that the issue was largely racial or nationalistic, they chose to remain true to the mainline church. For some this required submission to leadership conditions which they personally found disagreeable.29 But that was necessary, in their eyes, to keep faith with the Lord.
Of course; there were other reasons for joining or not joining the Third Convention. Family members influenced each other, with spouses joining mates and children their parents.3° Expe diency reigned in other minds: they met with a Third Convention congregation because it was nearest to their homes, or, likewise, they met with a regular Mormon congregation.
But the Mexican Mormons did not emphasize these motives; adult members remained with or departed from the mainline church because they considered it the right thing to do. Feelings were intense and sometimes impassioned. Faithful mainline members condemned Third Conventionists as heretics and looked upon them almost as devils. If a Third Conventionist came into
a chapel held by a mainline congregation and sat down, the pew would empty. Third Conventionists, for their part, accused loyal church members of giving in and betraying the cause of Mexican leadership.31 Aside from shouting at each other from time to time, the two sides generally severed their relations.
[The young missionaries serving in Mexico met with unique experiences. was set apart on August 5, 1937 by his father, , the Juarez Stake President. That very afternoon he left home with Mission President Harold W. Pratt, and Isidro Bautista for a trip into the mountains of Chihuahua to find members of the church who had been abandoned since 1925 when all foreign clergy had been forced to withdraw from Mexico. "We visited San Gabriel Ometoxtla, where the members were all conventionistic... The members were left alone so long that they held a convention and decided to ask the Church to give them local leaders as mission president and other callings. They claimed to be the only people of the house of Israel, and all the North Americans were gentiles. They twisted the teachings of the Book of Mormon to fit their ideas of Church doctrine. When President Harold Pratt arrived in Mexico City on August 30, 1936, he started to work with these people to return them to full activity in the Church. There were such intense feelings and race hatred that he couldn't get through to them. The missionaries spent a large amount of time trying to get them back into activity in the authorized Church branches.
A little later, Margarito Bautista returned to Mexico from Salt Lake City and introduced the doctrine of plural wives to the group. He gathered quite a large following.
In San Gabriel, the members were getting tired of being out of the Church. I believe that we helped them understand the situation and the doctrines better, and the branch was soon organized within the Church.
I then went to Pachuca, Hidalgo to help Ricardo Flores get ready for conference there on November 28. Knowing that the missionaries were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the mission home. Elder Ricardo and I returned to Mexico City. Sister Pratt and Fanny Bluth Hatch prepared a wonderful dinner. Uncle was also invited since he was there alone. Aunt Emma Amelia "Millie" Robinson Brown, Dewey's wife, was planning on coming to Mexico after the first of the year."]
The Third Convention as a Countergroup
And so the break was complete. The Third Convention went its own way, taking with it a large number of people, some chapels, furniture, and records. But the going was not easy. Within weeks Margarito Bautista challenged the convention's leadership on a number of doctrinal points. Some people thought Bautista was using doctrinal issues simply to camouflage his own jockeying for leadership in the convention.32 The more likely truth is that Margarito was substantively serious. He advocated the reestablishment of polygamy and the United Order, Mormonism's own largely abandoned cooperative economy33 and discussed uniting with the LeBaron splinter group.
[Margarito Bautista was converted to the Mormon Church by Ammon Tenney in 1901. Margarito spent many years in the Mormon colonies in northern Mexico and in Utah. He returned to Mexico during the height of tensions between conventionistas and the Mormon leadership. Margarito took the side of the Conventionists. The minutes of the initial Third Convention meeting, state that Margarito Bautista turned down a proffered nomination for mission president (Informe general, pp. 18-19), a position which he later regretted and taxed the Third Convention leaders by trying to regain their support. Before and during this trouble, Harold Pratt helped place one of Margarito's sons in the Juarez Stake Academy, and often stopped to see the young man and check his progress.
[ was serving in the mission home during 1937 and remembers that Margarito wrote a book in Spanish explaining chapters of the Book of Mormon. He presented his book to the church authorities in Salt Lake City for approval. Not knowing the Spanish language, they sent it to Mexican mission president Harold W. Pratt for his opinion. Pratt read it, found much fault and incorrect doctrine within its pages. Pratt advised the brethren against approving or publishing the book. Margarito took this as a personal affront by president Pratt. Afterwards Margarito used this as a personal vendetta against Pratt and urged that Pratt be replaced as president of the mission by a Lamanite president arguing that the Book of Mormon promised this.
Margarito had quite a following, they would quote his book before they would quote the Book of Mormon, this was a cause of many members losing their testimony. He formed his own fundamentalist church and a colony in Ozumba, Mexico which he called the "Kingdom of God in Its Fullness." His group later began fighting among themselves and split into two factions when he began practicing and attempting to introduce to his followers the principle of polygamy. Margarito was excommunicated from the Mormon Church and expelled from the Third Convention. ]
The Third Conventionists' quarrel with Salt Lake City was not a doctrinal one, and they had no intention of letting such questionable issues as polygamy and the United Order separate them even more from the mainline church. The tensions soon became unmanageable, and the convention expelled Margarito.34 Bitter and scornful, Bautista left the Third Convention to its "darkness" and went to Ozumba,State of Mexico, Mexico, where he set up his own colony, the "New Jerusalem"."35 While Bautistas' group was not totally isolated (he kept in touch with other Mormon fundamentalist and apostate groups), they were largely rejected by Conventionists and non-Conventionists alike. In the beginning, Bautista had provided impetus for concerns most considered justifiable. Now the memory of his contribution was replaced with a troublemaker's image. Mainline Mormons said they had figured that out long ago.
Thus the Third Convention continued without Margarito Bautista, polygamy, a vision of an economic utopia, or any other doctrines radically different from those of the official Mormon church.36 It also soon developed an organizational structure parallel to that of the mainline church. After all, its doctrinal base was the same, and its leaders were experienced and dedicated former Mormon church officials. As if to underline their intention
to remain doctrinally pure, the Conventionists called themselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Third Convention). They organized Sunday Schools, conducted sacrament meetings, established "Mutual Improvement Associations" (MIA, the church's youth organization), and functioned very much like a normal Mormon congregation. Like the mainline church, they blessed infants, baptized children, and ordained men to the priesthood.37
Since missionary work was especially important to Third Conventionists, they trained their youth in public speaking, an art especially appreciated in Mexico.38 Young Conventionist men and women were thereafter sent out to "preach the word" to all who would listen. And perennial missionary Narciso Sandoval kept up his efforts, too.
Missionary work was far from being the Third Conventionists' only concern, however. In order even to survive, Conventionists knew they had to house a viable and living organization. Thus, in addition to emphasizing missionary activity and developing all the other Mormon church programs they knew about, convention members launched an ambitious building program.39 Donating land, labor, and capital, they constructed at least six new meetinghouses and, in accordance with Mormon custom, dedicated them to their Lord.40
The Third Convention also produced some religious literature, for example; a magazine entitled El Sendero Lamanita (The Lamanite Path), which contained articles such as "How the Gospel Came to Mexico" and "The Blessed Gentiles about which the Scriptures Speak," and reports of various convention conferences and activities.41 Apolonio B. Arzate, the publisher of Margarito Bautista's book, edited El Sendero Lamanita. The Third Convention also published a report of events leading to the group's establishment, a lengthy document prepared expressly for the General Authorities, which contained transcripts of letters, minutes of various official meetings, and other materials.42
Learning English was another Third Convention sponsored project. Offhand this seems strange; since Conventionists were openly nationalistic. However, anxious to learn more about the gospel, they were impatient with the slow pace of Salt Lake City's translation work. They wanted to be able to read more than the thirty (out of 136) sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that
had been translated under Antoine R Ivins, and they wanted to read and study Mormon Apostle James Talmage's The Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ, both noncanonical but fundamental Mormon works.43
Regardless of its ill-advised separatist strategy, it is evident that the Third Convention accomplished some remarkable things. Among these were the training of indigenous leaders, expanding a missionary program to include their own sons and daughters, development of educational opportunities for their children, and expanding doctrinal literature available in Spanish translation.44 Abel Páez excelled as its president, getting to know the names and concerns of almost every member. He worked diligently for his people and they reciprocated in kind, with convention members trusting him and accepting his judgments with uncommon confidence. In the early years, before internal leadership struggles began, Abel Páez and the Third Convention came to be synonymous. In fact, mainline church members called the dissidents the "Abel Páez Third Convention group.45
The convention continued to operate for ten years, from April of 1936 to May of 1946, growing and progressing alongside mainline church groups. While mainline members did not have an indigenous Mexican mission president, they nevertheless did receive considerable material and organizational help from Salt Lake City, Harold Pratt working as hard as he could on their behalf. Thus both Mormons and not-so-Mormons grew in stature and organization, parallel in sentiment and structure but passionately divided over who their mission president should be.
Harold Pratt labored long to establish permanent mission headquarters in Mexico City. He set up a program of action for his twenty-five missionaries and visited every mainline congregation as often as he could. But he was often ill with a kidney ailment, and his heavy work schedule weakened him further. Mainline Mexican Mormons could have helped Pratt more, but he thought that he should do as much as he could by himself. He was finally released in 1938 for health problems and was succeeded by Ami Lorenzo Anderson.46
Anderson, also a colonies Mormon, accepted the call very reluctantly. Among other things, he was worried about how his wife [Vera Juanita Pierce Anderson, Arwell Pierce's younger sister] would respond. Some people thought that she had always disliked Mexicans and did not think much good would come out of Mexican Mormons. Anderson rightly wondered if he would be well received in Mexico City.47
Rumor reaching Mexico City had it that in the Chihuahua colonies some American Mormons were delighted with Anderson's appointment because they thought Anderson would do what Harold Pratt had not: get those members back in line, show them who was boss, and put them in their place. Third Convention? What an outrage.48
Whether true, exaggerated, or false; as this unfortunate rumor flew, Third Conventionists dubbed President Anderson "El Domador de Salvajes Mexicanos" (The Tamer of Mexican Savages).49 Because of the resulting animosity and distrust, there was little contact between the Third Convention and the church during Ami Lorenzo Anderson's presidency. No matter what Anderson and his wife did, the situation was stacked against them. Anderson managed to lead the mission for four years, treading water and holding the line Finally, in May of 1942, he was replaced by .50
Diplomacy, Persuasion, and the Art of Reunification
Pierce was no Mexican, either by race or birth. Special arrangements had to be made for him to be president of the Mexican mission since he was not even a colonies Mormon.51 But he was an ecclesiastically experienced man, a citizen of El Paso, Texas, a diplomat, and a politically sensitive leader. He developed a greater sense of propriety with respect to the society of Mexican Mormons than anyone the church had sent to Mexico since Rey L. Pratt.
But Pierce's work in Mexico was not easy. After evaluating the missionaries he was appointed to lead, he concluded that they understood the gospel insufficiently and were not teaching very effectively what they did know. He immediately set up a strict regimen of work and study for them. Eventually winning their respect and admiration, Pierce worked enthusiastically and vigorously, changing procedures and establishing new policy guidelines.52
Arwell L. Pierce dealt with the Third Convention, in fact, the task was his particular calling. In appointing Pierce as mission president, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., had given him a special charge to work for the reunification of the church .53
The Third Convention genuinely puzzled Pierce The more he looked into it the more he realized that its members were vitally
and energetically carrying out Mormon church programs. The twelve hundred members had fifteen functioning branches, six constructed chapels, and a small corps of missionaries.54 They were teaching Mormon doctrine strongly and faithfully. Their reasons for apostasy, he concluded, were certainly not doctrinal, yet Conventionists were outside the community of the church. As he studied the situation, he wondered how brotherhood could have decayed so completely.
Over the years the issues had become clouded, memories diffused or altered, and passions changed. If Pierce could not initially see the issues involved, he had no difficulty in recognizing that the convention would bring great strength to the church in Mexico if its members could be brought back into the fold. And so, slowly and painstakingly, he put all his diplomatic skills to the task. Realizing that feelings had been hurt in the past, the new president set out first to heal the wounds and then to treat the scar tissue. Although initially he was abused, that response soon changed-first to respect, later to admiration!'
Pierce began by attending Third Convention meetings and conferences. Slowly, carefully, he introduced himself and built friendships with Third Convention members and leaders. He even tried to assist the convention in its own programs, inviting its members to the mission home to pass on information from Salt Lake City, giving advice when asked, and distributing recently translated church literature.56 And he talked with Abel Páez and his wife (Tarcila Morales), with Othón Espinoza, Apolonio Arzate, Julio García, and even Margarito Bautista. Always ready to listen and to see, he extended hospitality and acceptance unconditionally.
After weighing all he had heard, Pierce concluded that the Third Convention problem had been poorly handled. Given the circumstances, he even thought that some of the convention's complaints were justifie.57 While having a Mexican mission president was the Third Conventionists' primary concern, they also wanted a building program for chapels as the Americans had, the same kind of church literature that the Americans had, an educational system for their children (as the American Mormons had for theirs in northern Mexico), and an opportunity for their young people to go on missions, as the Americans also did. Was there anything wrong with that? Yes and no, Pierce realized; he did not object to the goals, although one could legitimately
wonder how programs to achieve them could possibly have been funded in the 1930s. On the other hand he saw how the Third Conventionists' methods had brought them trouble.
Pierce could not approve of the Third Convention's rebellion and withdrawal from the Mormon church, but he did not for the most part object to the convention's goals. He understood how its members could have reached their decision to leave the mainline church, and because of his understanding, for the first time in nearly a decade disagreeing men were discussing the issues rather than shouting about them.
That the issues were now somewhat understandable did not nullify or simplify them. But things had changed in ten years. The Mormon church was now able to be much more committed to Mexico. It had much more literature in translation and still more forthcoming. Now that World War II was over, it was developing a strong missionary program, and more missionaries would soon be called.
In the meantime the Conventionists had generally maintained doctrinal purity, had done vigorous proselyting, and had promoted much interest in the Book of Mormon. Given all of these factors, reunification seemed possible. Certainly it was desirable.
So Pierce listened, persuaded, argued, lectured, sympathized, and worked long hours, because he felt the convention should return to the church. Arwell Pierce loved the Mormon gospel and he loved Mexico. He was confident that Mormonism could now make giant strides in Mexico if only the Mormons would unite, and he dedicated his tenure as mission president to that end.58
In time, Pierce's efforts began to pay off. The convention recognized him as a friend, its leaders even asking him to speak in convention conferences. He did so, carefully honoring the confidence by avoiding sensitive issues, speaking instead on "neutral" subjects like prayer.59 He spoke of his own desire for reunification only when such talk was appropriate. In return, Third Conventionists began to visit mainline church meetings, and Pierce, graciously, asked them to sit near the front.
It was not just soothing actions that brought the convention around to Pierce's point of view, however. After they had accepted him, Pierce began engaging them in various ways. He usually took Harold Brown, his special assistant, on his speaking engagements
and often instructed Brown to give them the word.60 The "word" was hardheaded and tough. Then Pierce would follow with his "sweet, loving, come-unto-Zion talk." Thus Brown, as the "tough man;" absorbed the Third Convention's anger, and Pierce, as the "loving and understanding man;' received a positive response.
Circumstances within the convention itself aided Pierces wooing of its members. The condition of Abel Páez, who had long suffered from a severe case of diabetes, was perhaps most important. As he was responsible for the spiritual welfare of more than a thousand people, he worried about what would happen to them after he died. Pierce could see this thought weighing heavily upon Páez's mind and began to appeal to his sense of responsibility. Who was going to lead the people after Páez died? If the convention was a temporary way of bringing about Mexican leadership, how would the people get back into the church after Páez was gone? Would future generations be deprived of the church's blessings, and would Páez want to bear the responsibility for that? 62 Finally, Páez began to soften and to warm up to Pierce, and the reluctant warrior started to think with cautious enthusiasm about reunification.
Meanwhile, the mainline church in Salt Lake City was changing. President Heber J. Grant had died and was succeeded in 1945 by George Albert Smith. This leadership change was significant: President Smith began his ministry with a sensitive awareness of the Saints throughout the world. He preached love and forgiveness to members who had recently been on opposing sides in the World War. This same pervading influence of loving kindness had an effect in Mexico.63
George Albert Smith especially trusted David O. McKay, the senior ranking member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also a counselor to the former president, Heber J. Grant. President Smith asked David O: McKay to continue on as a counselor in the First Presidency. This augured well for the Mormons' Mexican mission, since Apostle McKay had toured the Mormon church in Mexico extensively and happily, his visits included using missionaries as guides and translators, one of these missionaries was the daughter of Orson Pratt Brown, namely Sister .who assisted McKay until the end of November 1944. Among other things, McKay wanted to begin a major building program in Mexico and so had spent time examining possible sites for chapels. He had also met, become friends with, and counseled individual Saints, and had listened to their hopes and aspirations
for the church in their native land. While listening he refrained from arguing. He accepted their proffered hospitality gracefully, even going to the home of Third Conventionist Othón Espinoza to bless his infant granddaughter.64 Mexican Mormons were impressed. Conventionists were overwhelmed. Salt Lake City, through the person of David O. McKay, now seemed more attentive.65 If others were extending the olive branch of peace, why not respond in like spirit? So reasoned many Third Conventionists.66
As the church became more attractive to all the Mexican Saints, the convention became correspondingly less so. And in spite of the greatness of Páez, by 1945 serious leadership quarrels had developed within the convention. Some members who had previously supported Páez had begun to shift their allegiance. Othón Espinoza, a staunch convention member and one of the excommunicated leaders, found himself confused and undecided about his future course, and Apolonio Arzate, owner of the printing press, had stated as early as 1943 that he was "pretty well disgusted with the whole situation and about ready to quit."67 While he did not, his sentiment expressed the shift of support from Páez to Pierce.
Well aware of this, Pierce kept up the initiative. He took church literature to Apolonio Arzate to be printed, and then used the occasions to have long talks with him. He chauffeured Third Convention leaders in his car, talking all the while. He reasoned, argued, and pleaded, all the time and anywhere.68
And Arwell Pierce was as self-effacing as he was vigorous in helping Third Conventionists to contain and to understand their own pride. This perhaps more than any other single characteristic enabled him to deal successfully with the Third Convention, for he never claimed credit for accomplishments, but always said, "Not I alone, but I with your help and with the help of the Third Conventionists, together we can bring to pass a great work"69 Never vindictive, punitive, or perceptibly worried about his own pride, he could take abuse without returning it.70 For that reason Conventionists remembered him as "a wise man, a very good man, very diplomatic; one who knew how to deal with people of all kinds in the world.71
As Third Conventionists began to trust Pierce, his arguments rang true. "I don't understand why you want a mission president of Mexican blood," he would say,
"A mission president is actually only a representative of the First Presidency of the Church. He is only in charge of the missionaries and the proselyting work. Mission presidents and missionaries only supervise branches until they are strong enought and numerous enough to be organized into a stake. What you really need here in Mexico is a stake organization, the same as the Hawaiians.72 A stake is an independent unit indirectly under the supervision of the First Presidency of the Church. But we cannot have a stake in Mexico until we are more united. Let's all unite under the leadership of the First Presidency of the Church, strengthen our branches and prepare to become a stake. We will never achieve this so long as we are divided and so few in number.73
Pierce would then drive his point home, advising his listeners that the church would never give the Third Conventionist's a Mexican Mission president while they persisted in rebellion. Their cause was hopeless. And, at any rate, their goal was undesireable. If they wanted Mexican leadership, they should seek a Mexican stake president. And to build a stake they should rejoing the mainline church and build the kingdom in Mexico. Pierce further stated that Mexico could rapidly qualify for a stake once the Third Convention members had returned to the church.73
Given the evolving circumstances, this argument made a lot of sense to convention members. Moreover, Pierce supported his words with action that would prepare a new generation of Mexican leaders. He got the priesthood manuals and other leadership materials translated, mimeographing some and hiring Apolonio Arzate to print others. He organized new districts under local leaderships. He held leadership seminars and told the Mexican Saints that they must begin taking care of matters on their own rather than coming to the mission president with every little problem. People began to notice that Pierce was achieving the Mexican's goals.75 And they felt that their Lord was with him.
Pierce was effectively diffusing the leadership question, which was now perceived as the only genuine Third Convention issue remaining. Arwell Pierce was an attractive leader implementing an equally attractive program. Moreover, the Salt Lake City authorities now seemed more open and favorable toward Mexico. On the other hand, there was internal leadership dissension among the Conventionists, and Abel Paez's health was deteriorating. Accordinly, for many Third Conventionists the central issue
began to shift from "Should we reunite ourselves with the church?" to "How can we reunite ourselves with the church without losing our personal dignity?"
Pierce understood this dilemma and the role that personal dignity (dignidad) plays in the Mexican culture. A severe loss of dignity would have been so irredeemably devastating that there after people would not have been able to function in the church. Should that have occurred, strong and faithful members who also happened to be Conventionists and their descendants would have been lost to the church forever. Pierce energetically sought to avoid that, "even if some extraordinary measures have to be taken ... as far as the Church is concerned.76
Pierce tried in several ways to help Third Convention leaders preserve their 'dignidad'. One of these ways involved face-saving rationalizations. After all, he argued, Third Conventionists were not "selling out" on the idea of Mexican leadership, they were taking steps toward it. They could reason that the Third Convention had made its point and that Salt Lake City was now listening. After the reunification, the church in Mexico would develop rapidly, and thereafter a stake would be organized with local leadership presiding.77
Perhaps Arwell Pierce's crowning achievement was his initiation of an ecclesiastical review of the excommunication of the Conventionist leaders. In April 1946, the First Presidency of the church changed the verdict to disfellowshipment, a much less onerous sanction which made reentry of the Conventionists into the church much easier.78 This decision was no doubt influenced by President George Albert Smith's view that the church's trouble in Mexico seemed more like a big family quarrel than apostasy.79 In any event, the change from excommunication to disfellowshipment meant a lot in terms of 'dignidad'. Most conspicuously, Third Convention leaders did not have to be rebaptized to come back into the church (although all ordinances performed by them while outside the brotherhood of the church were repeated). Less obviously, the change implied that the church recognized that it might have made some errors in dealing with the Third Convention episode. Mexican Saints recognized all these implications, and this change smoothed the path of reunification.80
The church made another face-saving move in dealing with convention members who had been baptized without Mormon
church-sanctioned authority. They were told not that they had to be rebaptized, which would ordinarily have been the case, but rather that a restitution or ratification of their former baptisms would have to be made. Rebaptism, restitution, ratification- the effect was the same: members were rebaptized by those holding the proper Mormon priesthood authority.81 But the terminology preserved 'dignidad', as did the fact that Pierce himself performed most of the rebaptisms.82
George Albert Smith's 1946 visit to Mexico was another important move. Mainliners and Conventionists alike were immensely proud and honored to receive the man all Mormons recognized as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator (the president's official title). For President Smith's visit to the Tecalco conference, the home of the Third Convention, they spread flowers along the lane leading into the chapel and stood on each side in long lines singing "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet" as the president walked along the flower-strewn path.83
Despite his illness while in Mexico, George Albert Smith was a striking success. People pressed in from all sides wanting to shake his hand or just to be near him, and they were thrilled that he would sit at their tables and share their food. Of course, many also wanted to receive him in their homes. He accepted the Mexicans' hospitality graciously, much as David O. McKay had three years earlier.84
The Mexico City conference under George Albert Smith's direction saw approximately twelve hundred Third Conventionists return to the fold. Tension was high as the conference began. No one was sure what President Smith might say. He might speak in a condemning tone, chastising Third Conventionists. He might point an accusing finger. But he did not; his love and kindness soon dispelled the tension. Harold Brown, who translated for him on this occasion, said the tension eased and people relaxed and began to smile and respond. Brown remembered the occasion as a most extraordinary one.85
The prophet spoke in both the morning and afternoon sessions, stressing the need for harmony and unity. The Third Convention choir, comprising more than eighty voices, provided the music.86 President Smith asked Abel Páez to speak to the congregation, and the Third Convention leader expressed his joy at being able to return to the church and his happiness about the
work that would now be accomplished.87 Pictures were taken, and an article of considerable length, with the pictures, was published in the Deseret News.88 Obviously, the Third Convention's return to the church was an important and happy event for nearly everyone.
There were a few malcontents. Some accused the church of giving Páez $25,000 to betray the Third Convention.89 Others, echoing Margarito Bautista, accused Páez of delivering the sheep of Israel to the Gentiles.90 And Margarito Bautista and his own group remained in Ozumba, appearing only occasionally to hurl epithets-"Gentiles! Sons of Egyptians! Fathers of obscurantism!"91 Some American Saints were also upset, feeling that Pierce had soft-pedaled the Third Convention group and brought its members back into the church on false pretenses.92
Be that as it may, the Conventionists, seeing the hand of the Lord in the matter, came back. Pierce, making good his declared intention of developing local leadership, put people to work right away. By special permission of the First Presidency, on 19 June 1946 he selected and organized a Comité de Consejo y Bienestar (Counsel and Welfare Committee). Guadalupe Zárraga, Abel Páez, Bernabé Parra, Apolonio Arzate; and Isaías Juárez--strong leaders with highly diverse backgrounds were called to serve on this committee..93
Zárraga, Harold Pratt's original messenger had remained faithful to the mainline church through the troublesome years. Parra had remained loyal to Mormon church authorities even though he had been excommunicated for moral infractions unrelated to the Third Convention.94 He had recently been returned to full membership. Páez and Arzate were, of course, former convention leaders. And Isaías Juárez, the former district president of Mexico had become inactive during Harold Pratt's presidency.95 First he had been exiled to Guatemala for political activities, but then, in keeping with his principles and leadership talents, he had returned to Mexico to help found his country's national peasant union (Confederación Nacional Campesina).96 That effort, and his work with the Mexican Federal government's Agrarian Department, had kept him traveling virtually every Sunday.97 Although frustrated with Anglo-Mormon leadership in Mexico, he sought other outlets for his talents and had kept in close touch with many church members.
As different as these men were, they now came together in a new spirit of brotherhood and worked harmoniously in the Mormon church. They counseled and advised the mission president, assisted in branch and district conferences, and worked in every way possible to prepare Mexico for a stake And so did Narciso Sandoval, who, while in his fifties and after the reunification, left to serve still another mission for the church.98 Many problems remained, of course; but all of them were overshadowed by two facts: the church was together again, and there was a buoyant spirit of peace and optimism about the future
Fifteen years would pass before the new vineyard would mature, however; the first stake for Mexican Mormons was not organized until 1961, sixty-six years after the organization of the first stake in Mexico at Colonia Juárez in 1895. And even then it was not presided over by Juárez, Parra, Hernández, or López, but by Harold Brown. Brown, a colonies Mormon like so many previous higher authorities in Mexico, was cast in the mold of Rey Pratt and Arwell Pierce He quickly opened up leadership opportunities for his Mexican brothers. His first counselor was none other than Julio Garcia Velázquez, a former Conventionist leader. Gonzalo Zaragoza served him as second counselor and Luís Rubalcava as clerk.
In 1986 Mexico had eight missions and eighty stakes functioning. Mexicans by birth and race preside in almost all the stakes and missions. Leadership in Mexico started to come of age in the 1930s; now it has matured.
But let us return to Mexico City in 1946, where there were a number of Americans and Mexicans, each deeply individual, conflicting less in their perceptions of self, others, duty, religion, and world than they had ten years earlier. Foremost on the American side was Arwell L. Pierce, experienced president of the sorely tried but newly united Mexican mission. Over forty-five North American missionaries filled the ranks. On the Mexican side, there was Isaías Juárez, an astute politician and gifted leader. There was Abel Páez working forthrightly in the mission. And there were others Julio Garcia, Bernabé Parra, Apolonio Arzate, Guadalupe Zárraga, Narciso Sandoval Jimenez, Othón Espinoza and several Mexican missionaries, all brought together by the reunification of the Third Convention and the church. Almost everyone was pleased.
1. Abel Páez had also served as a missionary in the Mexican mission when ít still included the southwestern part of the United States. His service was primarily in Texas, where he learned a great deal of English (Harold Brown, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving, p. 34).
2. Harold W Pratt, journal, 27 April 1936.
3. Julio Garda Velázquez, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving, p. 9. This informant also mentioned the name of Andrés Gonzalez as having been placed in nomination, although Andrés González, Jr., in a personal interview (1976), expressed doubts as to the accuracy of this. As he carried his father's name and was in Mexico as a missionary at the time of the Third Convention, he is certain that someone would have called the episode to his attention. Interestingly, the name of Andrés González had also been raised by Antoine R. Ivins as a likely candidate for mission president in the event Harold Pratt should be replaced (Antoine R. Ivins to the First Presidency, 2 September 1936). González had immigrated to the United States and spoke English, but he also had maintained close contact with Mexico.
Andrés González, Jr., mentioned ín a personal interview that his father had actually been approached by Apostle Melvin J. Ballard respecting a call to head the mission, but both agreed that it would not be possible because of substantial business debts that González was working to retire at the time.
4. Pratt, journal, 27 April 1936. Third Convention leaders viewed the tears of Juárez ín a different light. They accused him of being a sellout, better, a "cop-out" to the North Americans. (See Informe general, p. 41.)
5. Pratt, journal, 27 April 1936.
6. Mexican Mission Historical Record, 22 April 1936. (Entries for May placed on this date.)
7. Informe general, passim.
8. García Velázquez, Oral History, pp. 8-9, 13.
9. Mexican Mission Historical Record, 22 April 1936. (Entries for May placed on this date.)
10. J. Reuben Clark, Jr., a U.S. Mormon, had lived among the Mormons ín Mexico when he was the U.S. ambassador there from 3 October 1930 to 3 March 1933. Mexican Saints liked and respected Ambassador Clark. (See Martin B. Hickman, "The Ambassadorial Years: Some Insights;' ín Ray C. Hillam, ed., J. Reuben Clark, Jr.: Diplomat and Statesman, pp. 175-84, and Frank Fox, f. Reuben Clark, Jr.: The Public Years.)
11. Pratt, journal, 11 November 1936.
12. As summarized by Antoine R. Ivins ín a letter to Harold W Pratt, 27 October 1936. A copy of the First Presidency's letter was placed ín the LDS Church Archives, but at this writing archival personnel had not been able to locate ít. I therefore could not review it.
13. Conventionists had previously agreed to abide by any decisions the First Presidency might make. By implication, they would therefore support Harold Pratt íf their petition were denied. Now, however, they considered the previous agreement to be null and void because their own leaders had not been allowed to present the petition to the authorities in Salt Lake City. Conventionists figured that Pratt, who had presented it, had done so with prejudice. (See Santiago Mora González, Oral History)
14. Antoine R. Ivins had previously made two trips to deal with the problem of Mexican leadership. In 1932 he traveled with Apostle Melvin j. Ballard. Then, in the summer of 1936, he went to help Harold Pratt (Manuscript History, 30 June 1936). Mexican Saints did not welcome him on either occasion. In a letter to the First Presidency dated 11 December 1936, President Ivins confided that while in Mexico he sensed the Saints felt him to be hardly competent.
15. "Mensaje del Presidente George E Richards para ser leída en el culto en Tecalco el Domingo 14 de Febrero de 1937;" p. 4.
16. Letter is cited in the George E Richards, "Mensaje," p. 5. The Spanish reads as follows:
17. "Mensaje del Presidente George E Richards,: p 6.
18. Ibid., pp 13-14.
19. García Velázquez, Oral History, pp 24-25; Harold Brown, Oral History, p 32; and E. LeRoy Hatch, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving, p 12.
20. Hatch, Oral History. President Pratt's perceptions, justifying his precipitous actions, are found in the Mexican Mission Historical Record, 14 February 1937. See also Manuscript History, quarter ending 31 March 1937.
21. García Velázquez, Oral History, pp 24-25; Harold Brown, Oral History, p 32; episode described in Hatch, Oral History, p 12.
22. Ivins to Harold Pratt, 25 February 1937.
23. "Mensaje del Presidente George E Richards," p 16. The Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are, of course, two of the four canonical works of the church, the others being the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Only portions of the Doctrine and Covenants had been made available in Spanish and none of the Pearl of Great Price. `Joseph Smith's Teachings" (not to be confused with the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which appeared in English two years later) was a key doctrinal work that had received wide circulation among English-speaking members, but also had not been translated into Spanish Objections to freelance translations were grounded in previous bad experiences with literature circulated in Europe. (See Ivins to A. Lorenzo Anderson, 27 December 1938.)
24. Informe general, p 36.
25. The minutes of the proceedings are found in the Mexican Mission Historical Record for 6, 7, and 8 May 1937. See also notes 13 and 65 of this chapter.
26. Endowments, sealings, and baptisms for the dead held a hallowed spot in the hearts of many Mexican members even though most had never done any temple work. This sensitivity comes out in the Santiago Mora González inter. views, is alluded to in the Informe general, and is a topic that came up repeatedly during the later Pierce presidency.
27. In that sense the fears were quite unfounded Only eight excommunications were ever made. Most dissidents were simply considered "inactive" as far as official records were concerned.
28. Mora González, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving.
29. Ibid., and also González de la Cruz, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving-, also Cirilo Flores Flores, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving.
30. A. Lorenzo Anderson, Oral History, pp. 83, 90.
31. García Velázquez, Oral History; Harold Brown, Oral History, p. 35.
32. Harold Brown, Oral History, pp. 33-34. Harold Brown states that Margarito Bautista felt himself to be the logical choice for mission president before the convention split with the church. Bautista did not like being passed over by church authorities. (He was a high priest; Harold Pratt a seventy and thus, in his eyes, of "lower rank:") His continued jockeying for leadership after the schism may have proven to be an insupportable challenge to Third Convention leaders, who were, after all, just then in a difficult process of organization. This view, however, must be balanced by the minutes of the initial Third Convention meeting, which state that Margarito Bautista turned down a proffered nomination for mission president (Informe general, pp. 18-19).
33. The technically correct term, polygynous, is not used here because it is not ordinary usage. All references to polygamy or polygamous should be understood as referring to polygynous relationships.
34. Mora González, Oral History; Walser, Oral History, p. 27; Harold Brown, Oral History, pp. 27, 86; García Velázquez, Oral History, p. 14.
35. Eran A. Call, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving.
36. "Doctrinal Purity" was a goal from the very beginning. (See Mora González, Oral History, and García Velázquez, Oral History.)
37. The blessing certificate of Virgilio Aguilar Páez, dated 13 November 1938 and prepared by the Third Convention, reads as follows: "BENDICIÓN DE NIÑOS, Expedido por la Tercera Convención, Rama de Atlautla México. El presente certifica que el niño Virgilio Aguilar ha sido bendecido en la Iglesia de Jesu Cristo de los Santos de los últimos Días de la Misión Mexicana el día 13 del mes de Noviembre de 1938 por el Anciano Felipe Barragán." Signed by Abel Páez as president and Othon Espinoza as secretary. The logo is of Temple Square, Salt Lake City. Gordon Irving made available to the author a copy of the certificate.
38. García Velázquez, Oral History, p. 92.
39. Call, Oral History; Hatch, Oral History.
40. Call, Oral History.
41. Harold Brown, Oral History. A few copies of El Sendero Lamanita are available in the LDS Church Archives.
42. García Velázquez, Oral History. The report, entitled Informe general de la tercera convención, is in the LDS Church Archives.
43. García Velázquez, Oral History.
44. In light of contemporary trends in the church, one is forced to the conclusion that almost the only thing wrong with Third Convention goals, aside from the strategy used to achieve them, was their timing (and the misunderstand ing of the role of authority). Consider that the Third Conventionists sought (1) indigenous leadership, (2) expanded missionary programs that would include their own sons and daughters, (3) educational opportunities for their children, (4) a complete line of doctrinal literature, and (5) opportunity for temple work. In Mexico today virtually all ecclesiastical divisions (branches, wards, stakes, missions) are headed by native members; among the most productive missions of the church, now staffed by hundreds of native as well as North American youth, have been those in Mexico; the Church Education System in Mexico has been hailed from every quarter as a landmark accomplishment not only for the church but for the whole country; translation services producing volumes of literature for the Mexican members are functioning in Mexico, Salt Lake City, and at Brigham Young University; regular temple excursions were promoted by the church to its Mesa, Arizona, temple where thousands of Mexican visitors have been attended to by North American Mormons; the Mexican members now have their own temple in Mexico City. All of the programmatic goals of the Third Convention have been realized in Mexico.
45. Mexican Mission Manuscript History, quarter ending 30 November 1942.
46. Pratt, Journal, 6 August 1938. Harold Pratt had suffered from chronic appendicitis since April 1937, and in December 1937 he submitted to an appendectomy. Shortly after recovering from this operation, however, he began suffering from what he called "kidney colic" and eventually had to have a kidney removed. He was released when he returned to the United States for that operation.
47. Pratt, Journal, 6 August 1938; Andrés González, Jr., personal interview by E LaMond Tullis.
48. García Velázquez, Oral History, p. 26.
50. Mexican Mission Manuscript History, quarter ending 31 May 1942.
51. I do not know of the exact arrangements, only that Pierce took great care to work them out "properly." The Third Conventionists had previously hired a lawyer in Salt Lake City to look into Harold W Pratt's military training service at Utah State Agricultural College in Logan, Utah. They had attempted to use this information as a basis for getting Pratt expelled from Mexico, but Mexican authorities would not buy their argument because Pratt was a bona fide Mexican citizen-a condition they considered not to have been changed by obligatory military training at an American university. However, church authorities in Salt Lake City felt certain that if Conventionists discovered that Pierce had been born in the United States, they would work for his ouster too (A. Lorenzo Anderson to Arwell Pierce, 16 April 1942). There was some irreverent speculation about Pierces having paid mordidas (bribes) and J. Reuben Clark's subsequent disgust concerning any such activity (Anderson, Oral History P. 103).
52. Mexican Mission Manuscript History, quarter ending 31 March 1943.
53. Arwell Lee Pierce, "The Story of the Third Convention," p. 1.
54. See Garcia Velázquez, Oral History.
55. Brown, Oral History, pp. 34-35.
56. Pierce's predecessor, A. Lorenzo Anderson, had refused to give the Third Convention any literature. The perceived correctness of this hard-line approach in dealing with dissidents was confirmed by Antoine R. Ivins in his 3 July 1939 letter to Anderson.
57. Brown, Oral History, p. 34.
58. Some colony Mormons vigorously objected to Pierces efforts, even accusing him of deceiving David O. McKay into believing that the Conventionists had not apostatized from the church (Walser, Oral History, p. 28).
59. See, for example, Manuscript History, 30 November 1942.
60. In 1946 Brown had given a speech in a district conference in Cuautla that analyzed the ideological errors of the Third Convention, documented and based on scriptures the Conventionists themselves had been using. It was a major address that formed the basis for many of Brown's speeches as he accompanied Pierce, and it was later published in the Liahona under the title of "Ephraim esparcida entre los Gentiles:'
61. It appears that the men may have been doing something similar to the technique of "whipsawing." Paul H. Hahn, in The Juvenile Offender and the Law, p. 233, describes an interrogation technique in which "tough" and "soft" officers alternately question a suspect. In time the suspect tends to fear and reject the "tough" officer but respond to the "kind" one. Whether Pierce was consciously using a variant of this technique we do not know, but the effect was apparently the same. (See Brown, Oral History, p. 38.)
63. Mormons have long noted substantial differences in the operating styles and programmatic emphases of their leaders.
64. Manuscript History, quarter ending 31 December 1943.
65. In the early days of the difficulty, David Q McKay, then counselor to the church president, Heber J. Grant, had taken a hard-line, punitive approach to the Convention leaders. Following his return from Mexico, however, he apparently viewed things differently. He asked Antoine R. Ivins to research the Third Convention correspondence to see if there might be anything that would preclude the First Presidency's reconsidering, or reviewing, the cases of those who had been excommunicated. (See Ivins to David O. McKay, 9 March 1944.)
66. García Velázquez, Oral History.
67. Manuscript History, quarter ending 30 September 1943.
68. Harold Brown, Oral History, pp. 34-36; Call, Oral History; Mexican Mission Historical Record, passim, for this period; Manuscript History, passim, for this period, with specific illustrations in the entries for the quarter ending 31 March 1943.
69. González de la Cruz, Oral History.
70. Brown, Oral History, pp. 34-36.
71. Flores Flores, Oral History, with corroboration from the oral histories of Mora González and González de la Cruz.
72. Harold W Pratt had earlier spoken to the Third Conventionists about a stake, but when he reported as much to the First Presidency, those authorities responded by cautioning "about your promising them a stake organization or even the possibility of one of their number presiding over the mission. The privilege of their receiving the Gospel should merit their appreciation and support of those who have been sent down, appointed, and set apart to preside over that Mission. The Lord will dictate when reappointment or reorganization should be made. In the meantime it is the duty as well as the privilege of members to conform to the teachings and requirements and the ideals of the Church." (The letter was signed by Heber J. Grant and David O. McKay and entered in the Manuscript History for the quarter ending 30 June 1936.)
73. Reconstructed from the Manuscript History, quarter ending 31 March 1943 A "stake," presided over by a "stake president," is comprised usually of between three and five thousand members and up to a dozen or so "wards" (congregations), which are headed by "bishops." "Branches" are Mormon congregations in mission districts where stakes have not yet been formed.
74. Narciso Sandoval Jiménez, Oral History, interview by Gordon Irving.
75. Brown, Oral History, p. 36.
76. Ibid., p. 34.
77. By late 1975 there were twelve stakes in Mexico City alone (Aragón, Arbolillo, Camarones, Churubuscq Ermita, Zarahemla, Industrial, Villa de las Flores, Satélite, Tacubaya, Moctezuma, Netzahualcoyotl) and fourteen stakes else where in the country. Through 1983 six additional stakes were formed in Mexico City (Azteca, Chapúltepec, Iztapalapa, Linda Vista, Tlalnepantla and Tlalpan), along with forty additional stakes elsewhere in the country (total, seventy-two). Most were presided over by local nationals. This has been a trend that continued through August 1986, with the addition of Mexico City North and Mexico City South stakes, and an additional six elsewhere in Mexico, for a total of eighty. Interestingly and not surprisingly, names of two of the stakes in Mexico City derive from famous Aztec personalities and one from the name of a Book of Mormon city.
78. In February 1937, the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, David O. McKay, J. Reuben Clark, Jr.) instructed Harold W Pratt to convene an ecclesiastical trial for Third Convention leaders (Harold Pratt, Journal, 27 February 1937). However, the First Presidency's notification letter to the leaders of the convention was signed by Antoine R. Ivins and George F Richards, so that the position of the First Presidency would not be compromised in the event of an appeal (A. R. Ivins to the First Presidency, 27 February 1937; and Ivins to Harold W Pratt, 2 March 1937). Pratt convened his appointed court on 6, 7, and 8 May 1937, and it voted to excommunicate Margarito Bautista, Abel Páez, Narciso Sandoval, Pilar Páez, Othón Espinoza, Apolonio Arzate, Felipe Barragán, and Daniel Mejía (The minutes are recorded in the Mexican Mission Historical Record for 6, 7, and 8 May 1937.) A majority of those excommunicated were branch presidents, and Abel Páez was a member of the district presidency.
Shortly thereafter David O. McKay made an inquiry of Harold Pratt, asking whether it would be a good idea to invite the disaffected leaders to El Paso to meet with some of the brethren there. Perhaps a rehearing of their trials could be held (Harold Pratt, Journal, 18 May 1937). This seemed to suggest that if the men were just to develop a contrite spirit, the "lower" court's decision might be reversed. If the invitation was ever extended, the men did not accept it (none of them even went to the original trial) because they considered Pratt's court to have operated unrighteously. They therefore concluded that the verdict was null and void in the eyes of God (Manuscript History, quarter ending 30 June 1943; also quarter ending 31 December 1943).
79. Pierce "Story of the Third Convention;' p. 5. 80. Brown, Oral History, p. 36.
81. García Velázquez, Oral History.
82. Manuscript History, quarter ending 30 September 1946.
83. Hatch, Oral History; Garda Velázquez, Oral History.
84. Garcia Velázquez, Oral History.
85. Harold Brown, Oral History.
86. Deseret News, "Church News;' 15 June 1946.
87. González de la Cruz, Oral History.
88. Deseret News, "Church News," 15 June 1946.
89. García Velázquez, Oral History.
90. Daniel Mejía, as cited in González de la Cruz, Oral History. 91. Brown, Oral History.
92. Walser, Oral History.
93. Manuscript History, quarter ending 31 December 1946. Pierce made public announcement of the action in `Anuncio de Interés a la Misión Mexicana;' pp. 405, 433, and strongly urged the members to support these men in their callings.
94. Anderson, Oral History, p. 61.
95. Pratt, Journal, 15 September 1937; Manuscript History, 31 March 1943
96. Agrícol Lozano Herrera, interview; García Velázquez, Oral History. While the Revolution had been fought and reforms implemented, most workers and peasants never really benefited to the extent they desired. Union organiz ing activity among them continued long after the guns were quiet, and sometimes that activity earned its participants the enmity of the government they may have fought to help to install. Isaías Juárez was one such organizer. (For general background, see Ann L. Craig, The First Agraristas: An Oral History of a Mexican Agrarian Reform Movement and, for a regional emphasis, Heather Fowler Salamini, Agrarian Radicalism in Veracruz, 1920-38, and Romana Falcón, El agrarismo en Veracruz: La etapa radical [1928-1935].)
97. Manuscript History, 31 March 1943.
98. Lozano Herrera, interview by F LaMond Tullis.
PAF - Archer files
Abel Páez, son of Isabel Páez and Josepita Bautista, was born September 25, 1894 in San Miguel Atlautla, Mexico Estado, Mexico. Married: Tarcila Morales in 1928. Died October 10, 1970.
Isaías Juárez, son of Domingo Juárez and Paula Flores, was born November 6, 1885 in San Pedro Matir, Distrito Federal, Mexico. Married: Magdalena Flores. Died: January 4, 1967
Margarito Bautista (Valencia) 1886-1961 was a writer and founder of the industrial colony of Ozumba.
Mormons in Mexico. LaMond Tullis, 1987. Chapter 6 The Third Convention, pages 137-168.
Journal of Mormon History, Volumes 1-28. Reviews of F. LaMond Tullis, Mormons in Mexico: The Dynamics of Faith and Culture, Los Mormones en México: La Dinámica de la Fe y la Cultura. Translation by The Museum of Mormon History in Mexico. 2d Ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997. Fernando R. Gómez Páez. “The States of México and Morelos: Their Contribution During the Re-Opening Period of Missionary Work, 1901-1903,” “Margarito Bautista Valencia,” “Francisco Narciso Sandoval: Lamanite Missionary,” “The Third Convention,” Provo, UT: Museo de Historia del Mormonism en México, no date; Journal of Mormon History 28.1 (Spring, 2002): 280-289.
El mormonismo en México: el surgimiento de un fundamentalismo mormón: Margarito Bautista Valencia, 1903-1961. Por: Hugo Cruz Varela. Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa. (México) at http://www.humanas.unal.edu.co/eristica/archivo.html Translation:
The Mormons in Mexico: The sprouting of a Mormon Fundamentalism: Margarito Valencia Bautista, 1903-1961. By: Hugo Cross Varela. Independent University Metropolitana-Iztapalapa. (Mexico)
One Grand Adventure. Chapter Three: My Mission by Andres "Andy" C. Gonzalez, Jr.
Autobiography of Claudious Bowman II, Chapter 3 at www.dublan.net by Troy Bowman.
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