Mormonism in Mexico, Part 13: A Mission Revived

The closure of the mission in Mexico in 1889 led to an 12-year gap in the presence of missionaries and official church leadership in central Mexico. Ammon Tenney worked to restart the mission, connecting with the Latter-day Saints who were effectively abandoned and beginning new efforts at proselytizing.

The program and the spirit of Relief Society opens the door to an extensive field in which the most noble attributes of womanhood are cultivated, and these bring us happiness. Earning happiness and contributing to the happiness of others should be the most important goal in our lives.[1]

~Lucrecia Suárez de Juárez


This is part 13 of a history series in connection with the Mexican Mission Hymns project.


When the decision was made to restart the mission in central Mexico in 1901, it was largely due to the efforts of some of the missionaries who had served there in the past. The closure of the  mission had happened in 1889 due to a few different factors, but the primary factors seems to have been that at that time, Church leadership and resources were very constrained by the anti-polygamy legislation and its enforcement in the United States and that the failure of an effort to create a colony of Mexican Latter-day Saints in Chihuahua resulted in bitter feelings and some nationalist reactions among converts in central Mexico. Over the course of the following decade, the Church had made efforts to reconcile with the United States, Utah became a state, and the Church had begun to stabilize again. Around that time, Anthony Ivins was called to serve as president of the Juárez Stake. He had previously served as a missionary in Mexico, traveling on the first expedition into the country in 1875 and returned in 1882 to serve as the mission president in Mexico. In the late 1890s, after he was called by Wilford Woodruff to serve as stake president among the colonies of Euro-American Latter-day Saints in Chihuahua, he engineered a plan to relaunch the mission in Mexico.[2]

Ivins traveled to Utah and made several presentations to leaders of the Church to convince them that the mission needed to be resumed. With some effort, he was able to convince them that it could be done and had Ammon M. Tenney–another of the original missionaries to travel into Mexico–called as the mission president. To get things started, Ivins traveled to Mexico City with Tenney and Apostle John Henry Smith to assess conditions there.

After they arrived, the trio began visiting some of their old contacts and members in the area. They also met with the dictator-president of Mexico, Porfirio Díaz, who expressed approval of the efforts of the colonists in Chihuahua and welcomed them back to Mexico City. Tenney then stayed in the area for over a year, reconnecting with members of the Church in central Mexico, organizing units of the Church, and preaching the gospel and baptizing.

As for the members of the Church in the area, they found that there were a variety of circumstances. Many of them felt that they had been abandoned by Church leadership when the mission was closed and they were left to fend for themselves. They were dubious as to whether the reopening of the mission would be a long-term commitment to them or not as a result. Still, they were happy to see their old friends (Ivins and Tenney) and showed that they had worked hard to keep their faith and section of the Church alive and going during the twelve years they went without support from Salt Lake City. And as Tenney continued his efforts, he relied on help from members in the region, including calling some on short-term missions, such as Lino Zárate, Simón Zúñiga, Margarito Bautista, Juana Páez, and several others.[3]

Many of the converts had previously converted to Protestant churches and, when left to their own devices, had relied on their experiences there in their efforts to know how to run church operations (where the branches had been meeting at all). The result was that they had taken routes that leaders in Salt Lake City would have considered foreign to the Church. For example, a meeting of the Atlautla branch strongly resembled the worship patterns of Methodist meetings, with the singing of many hymns, several prayers, a couple speeches, and women playing a very prominent role in worship services.[4] Other branches, such as the one in Cuernavaca, displayed similar patterns. At that branch, Tenney recorded working to teach them the Latter-day Saint pattern of prayer and “the rules of governing meetings. How they should be conducted & that the President should not act as deacon but each in his sphere & calling thus giving to each their proper honor, that singing so much was not actually necessary but not a sin.”[5] He apparently made similar efforts in the other branches, working to standardize their worship services (and gender roles) in church, modeled on the approaches used in Utah.

As part of the effort to reconnect members of the Church in central Mexico with the broader Church, the Relief Society was established in the area in 1903. Under Tenney’s direction in February 1903, Hettie Tenney, Nettie Taylor, and Lexia Harris came from the Juárez Stake and spoke about the Relief Society. Then, after a conference in which Tenney was released, they traveled around to the different branches that had been brought back into the mission structure and called Relief Society presidencies. Lexia Harris–who was the wife of the new mission president and who had been called as the President of the Society in the Mexican Mission (with Juana Paez and Maxima Rios as counselors)–continued traveling and instructing the sisters in central Mexico about the purposes and history of the Relief Society. Thus, the Relief Society came to central Mexico as part of the efforts to revive the Church there after it had been abandoned for 12 years.[6]

Through the efforts of Ammon Tenney and his associates, the Church’s official presence in central Mexico was revived and the Relief Society was organized in the area for the first time.



[1] Lucrecia Suárez de Juárez, “Relief Society Brings Happiness,” in At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women, ed. Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2017),

[2] F. Lamond Tullis, Grass Roots in Mexico: Stories of Pioneering Latter-day Saints (Provo: Brigham Young University, 2021), 91-99.

[3] Tullis, Grassroots, 111-113.

[4] Jared M. Tamez, “Our Faithful Sisters,” in Just South of Zion: The Mormons in Mexico and Its Borderlands, ed. Jason H. Dormandy and Jared M. Tamez (Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2015), 75-77.

[5] Ammon Tenney, Journal, July 7, 1901, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, UT.

[6] See Tamez, “Our Faithful Sisters,” 81-84.