Relics of a faithful people
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Relics of a faithful people are proudly displayed in the Museum of Mormon History in Mexico.
Located across the street from the Mexico City Temple, the museum attracted more than 60,000 people in 1997. Those who visit gain an appreciation for the faith and durability of early members who eagerly accepted the gospel and "held to the rod" during great trials.They also gain new insights into the spiritual history of the Church.
The museum was founded by cousins Fernando R. and Raymundo Gomez, successful engineers now retired, to honor their aunt, Consuelo Gomez. Aunt Consuelo, they say, was one of the influential members of the 1920s and 1930s who co-founded the first LDS school in southern Mexico. She met the missionaries in 1923 and was baptized in 1925. Because Church materials in Spanish were so limited, she learned speak English and spent much of her time teaching.
"She even taught the priesthood classes," said Raymundo Gomez.
During her lifetime, she gathered a treasury of material about the early members that became the core collection of the museum.
"The museum has by far the best collection of historical photographs dealing with the LDS people and happenings in Mexico," said Fernando Gomez, who was recently called as director of the missionary training Center in Santiago, Chile.
"The museum has more than 2,000 photographs," said Brother Gomez. It also has two of the ten known copies of Trozos Selectos, the partial translation of the Book of Mormon that opened the door of Mexico to missionary work.
The book was commissioned by Brigham Young in 1875, printed by the Deseret News Press, and copies were carried laboriously on pack horses to Mexico by the first missionaries. In Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Elder Daniel W. Jones and his son Wiley, and Elder Anthony W. Ivins mailed 500 copies of the Trozos to influential people in nearly 100 cities. Two of these elicited responses, and one of the responses came from Dr. Plotino Rhodakanaty. Dr. Rhodakanaty was an influential philosopher whose beliefs would later help shape the reform movement of Mexico. Although his interest in the gospel proved to be only temporary, it was enough to attract missionaries to southern Mexico where a permanent Church presence was established that lasted through revolution and persecution.
The museum also has copies of letters by early missionary James Z. Stewart, from whose writings descriptions of missionary work have been learned. Other items on display include original paintings by LDS artist Irene Becerril of Tabasco, Mexico. The first edition of the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants in Spanish, the first hymnals, and other printed materials are displayed at the museum. Early Church records and journals are shown.
Among the relics are the burial documents of Rafael Monroy and Vicente Moralez, Church leaders who were executed during the revolution because they had associated with Americans and because they would not renounce their new religion. Also on display is a book containing about 1,000 names for temple work compiled by the Monroy family.
More recent material is more abundant, documenting the re-unification of a group known as the Third Convention that temporarily broke off from the Church, and the advancement of the Church into various areas of Mexico. Also considered historic and preserved in the museum is such a recent piece as the podium used at area conferences in the 1970s by President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball.
A video co-produced by the museum and BYU explains that the first exposure to the Church of Mexico came in 1847 when the pioneers left the United States and came to three locations in Mexico: the pioneers in Salt Lake Valley, the Mormon Battalion in San Diego, and Saints on the Brooklyn in Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, in California. The boundaries of Mexico were later changed and this territory became part of the United States.
The video records spiritual experiences that accompanied the first missionary venture into Mexico. Cisco Vasquez, 103, of Guerrero, Chihuahua, is quoted as saying:
"I have been reading this book. I understand it, and know who you are. You are apostles of Jesus Christ, just the same as Peter, James and John. I know it. I also know this book is true. Have I not been telling our neighbors of two years past that apostles having the true gospel would come to this land? And I would live to see them?"
The preservation of such spiritual experiences is the mission of the museum.