From Ron Weekes: In July of 1974 I was serving as a missionary in the San Juan de Aragon area of Mexico City. Aragon is located on the eastern side of the city very near the international airport. The church had purchased a large parcel of property in this area with hopes of some day constructing a chapel for the Saints of this part of Mexico City. On my first Sunday in my new area with my new companion, Elder Mike Brady, I noticed that the church had already constructed a cinder block retaining wall surround the plot of land. To the left side of the property stood a very simple cinder block chapel where the local branch met.
On my second Sunday in the area the branch clerk approached me and Elder Brady and asked if we would like to donate to the newly created temple building fund. Many saints were excited about the land where their simple chapel stood and that someday a temple might be constructed on this very site. Looking in my wallet, I noticed that I still had a one dollar bill from the beginning of my mission. I had hoped to carry that dollar with me throughout my mission, but felt better of donating it the temple construction fund. The clerk, glad to receive a donation to help those saints realize their dream of a temple in Mexico, gladly gave me a receipt showing my simple donation of twelve pesos and fifty centavos.
Years came and went and many faithful Mexican saints still had to travel to the Mesa Arizona temple to do their temple work of any sort. Still, their faith never wavered that a temple would someday be constructed on the plot of land in eastern Mexico City.
Many almost unsurmountable obstacles stood in the way of allowing the church to construct a temple in Mexico. Most dealt with the aspect of separation of church and state. For many years in Mexico foreign religious ministers were not formally recognized in the country. In fact, during my time as a Missionary, we were permitted into the country as volunteer teachers of the Mutual Improvement Association of the South. Mexican law then stated that every building was a public building. Thus, anyone could enter any building they pleased. Such a stipulation regarding entrance to buildings in Mexico made it difficult to construct a sacred edifice where only worthy members could enter.
The course of events allowing the church to construct a temple in Mexico occurred with the first ever visit in the late 1970s of the Pope. Mexico, roughly 95% Roman Catholic, could not formally recognize the Pope and allow him to celebrate mass on Mexican soil. Once Mexican government officials granted the Pope permission to celebrate mass, the door was opened to church officials to ask again to construct a temple in Mexico. Permission was granted and the long wait by faithful Mexican saints was finally over. In early December of 1983, numerous dedicatory services were held at the newly constructed Mexico City Temple on the same plot of land where that simple cinder block chapel of the Aragon Second Branch once stood.
Living in southern New Mexico at the time, I crossed the border at El Paso, Texas and flew from Ciudad Juarez to Mexico City to attend the cornerstone ceremony and the first dedicatory session. In that sacred dedicatory service, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, mentioned numerous facts about the growth of the Church in Mexico then. He made mention that the first stake in Mexico was organized on December 3, 1961. This first dedicatory service was taking place on that very same day some twenty-two years later.
Thirty-five to forty thousand members of the church were expected to attend the various dedicatory sessions. At the time of the dedication, ninety-three percent of the Missionary force in Mexico were native born. During my mission twenty years earlier, ninety-three percent of the missionaries were Anglos from the United States and Canada. One of the most astounding facts that President Hinckley mentioned was that since construction began on the Mexico City Temple, tithing donations in Mexico increased 300 percent. Furthermore, four times as many saints in Mexico held temple recommends as compared to before the temple in Mexico City was constructed.
Although these statistics on the growth of the Church in Mexico were interesting to a former missionary, who served in that great country, the spiritual feelings that came over me are what I really remember. As I sat reverently in a session room waiting for the dedicatory service to start, a strong feeling came over me. I felt as if my spiritual ears heard thousands of Mexican voices on the other side of the veil shout for joy because a temple was now available in the country of their birth. Among those voices were those of the ancestors of the faithful Mexican saints who were in attendance with me at that dedicatory service. Among those voices might have been my great-grandfather Juan Jose Garcia, whose family left Mexico in the late 1770s and became some of the first settlers to colonize what is now known as southern California. Voices no less that knew that it would now be easier for the faithful saints of Mexico to do their temple work. Not only had the hearts of the fathers been turned to their children, but the hearts of many government officials in Mexico had been softened so the faithful in Mexico now had their own temple.
Who would have imagined that a simple plot of land purchased years earlier would become a sacred site whereupon a House of the Lord would be built? I think that the branch clerk who asked me and my companion on July 14, 1973 if we would like to donate to the temple construction fund did have that faith and vision. I still have that simple receipt in my Missionary Journal. That one dollar I donated might not amount to much in monetary value, but the memories of attending the dedicatory service of the Mexico City Temple and having served as a missionary amongst the Mexican people are priceless.