Mormonism in Mexico, Part 20: Stakes and Temples

The Third Convention was reunited to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in part due to the observation that stakes with local leadership and local temples would come only as the schism healed and the Church continued to become stronger in Mexico. It took some time, but stakes and temples did come.

I love meeting the children of Lehi in spotless white in the numerous temples in the Mexico South Area.[1]

~ Clate W. Mask Jr.


This is part 20 of a history series in connection with the Mexican Mission Hymns project.


Fifteen years passed between the reunification conference in 1946 and the creation of the first stake in Mexico outside of the Anglo-American colonies. And, ironically, when it was organized in 1961, another Euro-American church leader from the colonies—Harold Brown—was called to serve as stake president. This caused some dismay among Mexican Latter-day Saints, but they came to terms with it. Brown also made it a point to call native Mexicans as his counselors. And when the Mexico City North Stake was organized in 1967, one of those counselors—a man by the name of Agrícol Lozano Herrera—became the first ethnic Mexican stake president.

A notable event that occurred with these early stakes was the second area conference to take place outside of the United States. Held in the National Auditorium, Chapultepec Park in Mexico City in August 1972, the event was attended by President Harold B. Lee and his counselors, along with seven members of the Quorum of the Twelve and local leaders and members from the stakes of Mexico. It was at this conference that Elder Bruce R. McConkie articulated a change in the doctrine of the gathering of Israel. Drawing on texts from the Book of Mormon and the Bible, he defined the gathering as “a great missionary undertaking. It is a matter of inviting scattered Israel to return to the Lord their God, to worship once again the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob, to come unto the Lord and forsake their false gods and false creeds.” As such: “The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil, … every nation is the gathering place for its own people.”[2] This was a doctrinal solidification of policy that discouraged converts from gathering to Utah. The conference report was subsequently published, and contains many talks given by Mexican Latter-day Saints, including one by stake Relief Society President Lucrecia Suárez de Juárez that was included in At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women.

Part of what enabled the creation of stakes and the decision to hold an area conference in Mexico was that church growth exploded in Mexico after the reunification. Between 1946 and 1961, members on record increased from around 5,300 to nearly 25,000. By 1983, the number of members on record had increased to around 240,000. This represented significant growth, though, as F. LaMond Tullis noted: “The ingress was larger than the institutional fabric of the Church could handle, and the retention rate turned out to be quite low.”[3] Thus, not all members on record were members in reality.

Still, the rise of stakes in Mexico does indicate that real institutional growth was occurring. By 1975, eleven stakes existed in Mexico City. Then over the course of a weekend in November 1975, Elder Howard W. Hunter visited and oversaw the creation of sixteen new stakes—fifteen in Mexico City and one in Veracruz. Growth has continued since then, with Mexico being home to 227 stakes as of late 2023. Mexico is also one out of three countries in the world to boast an official membership of over one million people (the others being the United States and Brazil).[4]

Temples historically have also served as a signal of institutional strength in a country. After the temple ceremonies were translated into Spanish in the 1940s and began to be performed in the Mesa, Arizona Temple in 1945, many members traveled across the border to receive the temple ordinances and do temple work for the dead. These journeys were demanding—often the bus trips were expensive and took weeks. As such, they could only realistically occur once in a lifetime for most of the Saints. Latter-day Saints in Mesa provided help where they could, offering housing and food to those who had made the journey. The construction of the Mexico City, Mexico Temple in the early 1980s, however, was a welcome development.

On March 21, 1976, at a meeting with Church leaders in Mexico and Central America, the First Presidency announced that a temple was going to be built in Mexico.[5] The Mexican legal system still proved challenging for the Church, since it required all buildings to be open to the public (a no-go situation for a temple) and forbade importing building materials and furnishings from outside the country. For the first hurdle, though, laws changed, allowing the Church to gain the necessary building permits in 1979. As for the second hurdle, the Church felt that the materials available in Mexico were not sufficiently high-quality for the temple and managed to get an exception from the embargo to import materials for the temple. With the legal arrangements in place, groundbreaking occurred on November 25, 1979.

The planned location of the temple also provided a few challenges. The site was built on the dried up sediment bed of Lake Texcoco, making the land marshy and unlikely to support the weight of a temple. Earthquakes also are prevalent in the area, leading to additional concerns about the stability of the building.[6] In response to these concerns, the temple foundation was strengthened by using steel pilings pounded into the bedrock below the temple. In recent years, some additional renovations have taken place to further strengthen the temple against seismic activity and to deal with some settling that has occurred, but the structure has done very well overall.

The temple was designed by Emil B. Fetzer. Perhaps best known for his work on the Ogden and Provo Utah Temples and his controversial redesign of the Logan, Utah Temple interior, Fetzer served as head architect for the Church from 1965 to 1986. During the design process, Fetzer proposed five different options for the Mexico City Temple. The one that was chosen had “a white marble cast stone facing. Brother Fetzer said the style is a modern adaptation of original Mayan architecture.”[7] A grandson of Heber J. Grant had given Fetzer a book on Mayan architecture that he had inherited from President Grant several years beforehand. Fetzer used the book to develop his Mayan-inspired designs. The result incorporated a large A-framed base of the 140-foot tower that used arched openings (inspired by the Mayan corbelled vault) and a facade of white cast marble. This was met with approval by the Mexican government for incorporating native design elements.[8]

Local Mexican Latter-day Saints made some major sacrifices to make the temple a reality. As Richard O. Cowan wrote:

Despite widespread poverty, the 242,000 Saints in the Mexico City Temple district raised the remarkable total of $1.5 million. Some sold family heirlooms, while others sacrificed their livelihood by dedicating crops to the temple. Because of the scarcity of heavy equipment, most of the construction was accomplished by hand labor.[9]

It was a remarkable contribution to the construction of the first temple in Mexico.

Dedication ceremonies were held on December 2, 1983. President Gordon B. Hinckley (at the time, the second counselor in the First Presidency) performed the dedication. A few excerpts from the prayer:

Almighty God, Thou great Elohim, in the name of Thy Beloved Son Jesus Christ, we bow before Thee in supplication and thanksgiving. …

We thank Thee for this great nation, the Republic of Mexico. Bless those who govern, that they may be inspired to do that which will ensure peace and freedom for the people of this land, and the continued growth of Thy work. …

Now, Father, we are here assembled to dedicate this beautiful and sacred house to Thee and to Thy Beloved Son. In the authority of the holy priesthood in us vested, this authority which is a gift from Thee, and in the name of Jesus Christ, we dedicate unto Thee and unto Him this, the Mexico City Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with all parts and aspects of its structure, its fittings and its associated facilities. …

We thank Thee for all who have labored to build it. We thank Thee for those who have designed it, constructed it, decorated it, and made it ready for this day of dedication. We thank Thee for the faith of all who have contributed of their means to make it possible. Give unto each that sweet feeling that comes of consecration to Thee and Thy work. May this temple be holy to all who enter it. …

We ask it all as Thy thankful children, and we dedicate ourselves to Thy service, in the name of our Beloved Savior, Thine Only Begotten Son, even the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.[10]

At the time of dedication, the temple was the fifth largest in the world, and the largest outside of the United States of America.

Since then, more temples have been built in Mexico. The Colonia Juarez saw the construction of a small temple in 1999, with eight more temples being dedicated across the country the following year. Three more have been built since then, with more announced. These include the four temples that President Russell M. Nelson announced during the October 2022 general conference that were planned with the intent “to build multiple temples in selected large metropolitan areas where travel time to an existing temple is a major challenge.”[11] The Church has a strong presence in Mexico and a promising future.


[1] Clate W. Mask Jr., “Standing Spotless before the Lord,” CR April 2004,


[2] Bruce R. McConkie, 26 August 1972, Mexico and Central America Area Conference 1972, pp. 41-46.  See, Official report of the first Mexico and Central America area general conference … [Salt Lake City?]: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, c1973, See also

[3] F. LaMond Tullis, Grass Roots in Mexico: Stories of Pioneering Latter-day Saints (Provo: Brigham Young University, 2021), 39.


[5] “Plans Announced for Temple in Mexico,” Ensign, May 1976,

[6] See Chad S. Hawkins, The First 100 Temples (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2001), 76–77.

[7] “Plans Announced for Temple in Mexico,” Ensign, May 1976,

[8] Richard O. Cowan, Temples to Dot the Earth (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 184–187.

[9] Richard O. Cowan, Temples to Dot the Earth (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 186.

[10] “Dedicatory Prayer: Mexico City Mexico Temple, 2 December 1983,”

[11] Russell M. Nelson, “Focus on the Temple,” General Conference, October 2023,

1 comment for “Mormonism in Mexico, Part 20: Stakes and Temples

  1. I served in Venezuela from 81 to 83. One of my zone leaders was one of three triplets who served their missions at the same time–and all in Spanish speaking countries. The other two (triplets) served in Mexico and Chile–and my zone leader told us of how his brothers were baptizing 10 and 20 people a month (respectively) compared to our 2 or 3 a month in Venezuela. We were jealous.

    I’ve mentioned this before–but looking at Mexico today I can’t help believe that what we’re seeing is the literal fulfillment of the prophecy regarding the Lamanites blossoming as a rose. Exciting times.

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