Church History
A Division in the Church

A Division in the Church

In 1923 Agricol Lozano Bravo began escorting missionaries on their visits to villages in rural Hidalgo. Though Lozano was not yet a Latter-day Saint, he knew there was a deep distrust of foreigners in post-revolutionary Mexico and hoped his company could keep the missionaries safe. The next year, shortly after Lozano joined the Church, Isaías Juárez, Bernabé Parra, and Ábel Páez were called as local leaders. Over the next decade, as government restrictions on foreign clergy forced foreign missionaries from the country, Lozano looked to Juárez, Parra, and Páez for guidance. “They were very good men,” he recalled. “I learned a lot from them.”

As restrictions stretched on, members in Mexico began to hope for a native mission president who understood their culture and could legally function in the country. Twice, members held conventions to draft petitions explaining their situation and desire to the First Presidency. Many were disappointed when a mission president from the colonies in northern Mexico called foreign missionaries to lead many units. In 1936, some members refused to recognize the mission’s authority and appointed Ábel Páez, who was Mexican by “race and blood,” as the leader of a new group called the Third Convention.

Agricol Lozano Bravo was working to build and repair meetinghouses when Margarito Bautista approached him to promote the group. But Lozano resisted Bautista’s claims. “We were confident that a man of our race would come to instruct us,” Lozano admitted, “but you do not know what you are doing.” Trying to appoint a new leader without working through the Church’s structure of priesthood authority, he argued, was like trying to construct a building without a foundation.

Some of Lozano’s friends accused him of being brainwashed because of his faithfulness to priesthood authorities as roughly one-third of Mexican members joined the Third Convention. But Lozano could not deny his testimony and remained steadfast. For their part, members of the Third Convention preserved Church teachings and programs despite the separation. In 1942 a new mission president, Arwell L. Pierce, was called. He confided in Lozano that the prophet had set him apart to heal the schism. Lozano watched Pierce reach out to Third Conventionists. Pierce noted that while their methods were wrong, their goals were compatible with the faith. He listened to them, expressed love for them, and made time for them. Once Lozano noticed Pierce nodding off in a meeting. “Forgive me, brother,” Pierce said, “but I haven’t slept. I was talking things through with Ábel, so we can get the family back together.”

George Albert Smith with Mexican Saints after reunification

President George Albert Smith (center) with Mexican Saints following the reunification conference, 1946

Pierce suggested that more than a Mexican mission president, what members in Mexico needed was a stake of their own. Both active Church members and Third Conventionists were willing to set aside their past hard feelings for that goal. In 1946 President George Albert Smith traveled to Mexico, and both groups came together for a reunification conference. Afterward, the Saints worked together to build up the Church, and in 1961 the first stake in Mexico was organized—with Julio García, a former Third Conventionist, as the first counselor. A few years later, Agricol Lozano Bravo saw his son Agricol Lozano Herrera set apart as the first ethnically Mexican stake president—members’ old longing achieved at last on the foundation of priesthood authority.