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Posted 05 Aug 2001   For week ended July 27, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 27Jul01

By Mark Wright

Arizona Republic Looks at Mormons in Mexico

GUADALAJARA, JALISCO, MEXICO -- A recent article in the Arizona Republic (reprinted Sunday in the Spokane Spokesman Review), tries to look at the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico and its fascinating history there. It also looks for cultural and political conflict between the Church hierarchy, members in Mexico and other Mexicans. However, the article is marred by factual errors and confusing presentation.

The Republic article observes that it seems odd to see a "peculiarly American institution" in Mexico. In recent years LDS Church growth in Mexico has been strong; the church has now 12 Temples announced or in operation and some 850,000 members, and, the article cites the Deseret News Church Almanac as saying that Mexico has the fastest growing church membership outside the United States. But the article also observes that the 2000 Mexico Census, which asks respondents their religion, counts just 205,229 members. While the article doesn't try to explain the difference, it is most likely due to inactive members and social pressure to be part of the majority Catholic religion in the country.

The LDS Church has been in Mexico to some extent since 1876, when the Church, trying to avoid prosecution for the practice of polygamy, established colonies in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua. Those colonies were largely abandoned in the political unrest in Mexico in the early decades of the 20th century. As the church started to get established, however, a 1926 Mexican law expelled foreign ministers and required that all heads of churches in the country be natives.

The article then attributes the "Third Convention" movement, which established a "shadow church" from 1936 to 1946, to similar feelings that local Mexican natives weren't leading the Church. The movement was reunited with the Church in 1946 by Church President George Albert Smith, according to the article. Oddly enough, the article then claims that the Church was established in Mexico in 1961 (apparently meaning the formation of the first stake in the country).

Today, Mexican members say they don't see the Church as American and don't see any conflict because of US policies toward Mexico, "One has nothing to do with the other," said Eliseo Escalante Hernandez, a member for about a year. "You can't link political things with religious things." Elder Carl B. Pratt, President of the Church's Mexico South Area told the Republic, "Our concepts are neither Mexican nor American; they are universal," Pratt said. "We respect the sovereignty of each country and uphold its laws. In that sense, the church is native to each place. The majority of the leadership here is Mexican, and its patriotic sentiment is very strong."

Pratt added that the Church hasn't faced some of the difficulties other religions face in Mexico. For example, in Chiapas evangelical Christians and Catholics have been expelled from each others communities, and in other areas religion has divided communities. And Elder Pratt acknowledges that the Church has had some difficulties in rural areas like Chiapas and Oaxaca, "We have had some problems in rural areas, where civil authority doesn't have very much influence."

But so far the Church has had only one Temple interrupted as a result. In Nuevo Leon, Catholic groups fought the Church's attempt to build the Monterrey Temple in a prominent place, next to the Colegio Labastida. While the Church eventually won in court, it decided to build the Temple elsewhere, "In the end, we did not want to build a sacred building that was offensive to others," Pratt said. "We decided not to build on that property, and we are still trying to make up our minds about what to do with it."


On a mission to Mexico
Spokane WA Spokesman-Review (Arizona Republic) 22Jul01 N1
By Tessie Borden: Arizona Republic
Mormon Church takes hold in strongly Catholic country

Mexico Mormon flock grows
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 10Jul01 N1
By Tessie Borden: Republic Mexico City Bureau
U.S. religion opens arms to residents


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