“The Church in Oaxaca, Mexico,” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 78
In 1949 Arwell L. Pierce, then president of the Mexico Mission, climbed a hill overlooking Oaxaca, capital city of the state of Oaxaca, and felt impressed that the gospel of Jesus Christ would flourish there. The first LDS missionaries began working in the city that year.
But President Pierce’s impression looked doubtful when, soon thereafter, severe persecution forced missionaries from the area and member meetings ceased.
In 1951 young Elder Joe J. Christensen was sent with his companion to check on the handful of members in Oaxaca. Elder Christensen, now an emeritus member of the Seventy, particularly remembers finding one member, a young mother named María Real de Alcazar. “She greeted us very warmly, then went into her hut and brought out a jar of clay. She put in her hand and pulled out her tithing, which she’d been faithfully keeping for months,” recalls Elder Christensen. “Her circumstances were so humble, I hesitated to receive it from her.”
The faith of local members such as Sister Alcazar has led to the fulfillment of President Pierce’s impression. Today, a house of the Lord and the Mexico Oaxaca Mission headquarters stand in the city of Oaxaca. Nearly 9,000 members live in the city, and a total of 24,000 Latter-day Saints live in the state of Oaxaca, which includes 67 wards and branches.
Oaxaca is located on the relatively narrow neck of land in southeastern Mexico, a region that was once a center of ancient Mesoamerican cultures. Close to Oaxaca city are the famed Monte Albán ruins. The archaeologically rich area is often called “land of the temples” because of its many ruins.
Modern Oaxaca members are characterized by their love of the temple of the Lord. Until the temple in Mexico City was built in 1983, Oaxaca Saints sacrificed greatly to travel more than 1,200 miles to the nearest temple in Mesa, Arizona.
Last year’s completion of the Oaxaca Mexico Temple is considered a great blessing by members who dreamed of the day they would have a temple nearby. Ruth Sánchez Velasco, a member of the La Noria Ward, Oaxaca Mexico Atoyac Stake, says, “In 1966, when my husband and I went to the Mesa Arizona Temple to be sealed, I received my patriarchal blessing. In it I was told, ‘You will see the day when you will not have to travel far to enter the house of the Lord, … and you will enter there many times.’ When they built the temple in Mexico City, just five hours away, I thought the promise of my blessing had been fulfilled. But now I realize that that promise has been fulfilled right here in my birthplace of Oaxaca.”—Kristine Miner, BYU 92nd Ward, BYU 9th Stake
Oaxaca State, Mexico
First branch organized: 1956
Current wards and branches: 67
Temple district: Oaxaca Mexico Temple