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Mexico has become the first nation outside the United States to reach the epoch milestone of 100 stakes.

At the foot of the legendary volcanic peak Popocatepetl, just a few miles from where the country was dedicated in southern Mexico more than a century ago, the Tecalco Mexico Stake was created June 25.Though mists of the summer rainy season obscured the extinct volcanos of "Popo" and its neighboring Ixtacihuatl, about 30 miles south of Mexico City, more than 2,500 members gathered as the Chalco stake was divided by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Council of the Twelve to create the new stake.

The conference at which the stake was created was attended by descendants of some of the first converts in this nation. The meeting was held beneath a yellow awning secured in place by poles and, appropriately, heavy iron stakes. Called as president of the new stake was Felipe Hernandez Luis, former bishop of the Ozumba Ward.

Creation of this new stake means:

- Mexico becomes the first nation outside of the United States to reach that number of stakes.

- Since the first Lamanite stake was created in Mexico in 1961, one out of every 14 new stakes in the Church has been in Mexico. Additional stakes soon will be created.

- Membership in this country is increasing. The total recently passed the

half-million mark.

In the Chalco-Tecalco area, Aztec and Mayan cultures anciently flourished and maintained avenues of trade. Hundreds of archaeological sites dot the southern Mexico area. Some Book of Mormon scholars indicate that Nephites and Lamanites may also have lived here centuries ago.

Both Elder Scott, and Isaias Lozano, regional representative for the Moctezuma region, discussed the Book of Mormon in their addresses. (Elder Lozano is the brother of Agricol Lozano, the first Lamanite stake president in Mexico and the Church.)

"I feel that we are accompanied by some of the leaders of this work in this area, from Book of Mormon times to this dispensation," said Elder Scott, delivering his remarks in Spanish.

He also discussed two modern-day prophets. President Ezra Taft Benson, knowing that Elder Scott was coming to Chalco to create the 100th stake, said, "Tell them I love them," and added, "Thank them for their prayers in my behalf."

Elder Scott promised members at the stake conference that he would carry the expression of love from each member when he returned, and to give a report on the conference to President Benson.

Elder Scott also referred to President Spencer W. Kimball's vision, which he spoke of in his 1977 area conference address. At that time, President Kimball said, "I had a dream . . . I saw doctors, as well as lawyers, looking after the health of the people. I saw you people as owners of industries and factories . . . ."

Elder Scott noted that this vision is now being realized, and encouraged the youths to continue to fulfill that vision. He observed that the present strength of the Church is based upon the obedience of the established members. He called upon the youths to not be satisfied with merely living, but to "build beautiful lives of service upon this base."

To be successful in performing extraordinary service, "do not be deceived by the customs and traditions that abound. Live the commandments of God in your homes," he counseled. "With all my heart, I ask you to live the commandments of the Lord."

When Elder Scott referred to the "base" established by obedient members, he was describing a foundation put in place over many years. The very name of the stake, Tecalco, is an Indian word meaning "house on a rock." This house-on-a-rock stake's beginnings go back to when the Church was first established in Mexico.

Elder Moses Thatcher of the Council of the Twelve, assisted by Elder Meliton G. Trejo, arrived in Mexico in November, 1879. By mid-December, Elder Trejo had visited towns in the Popocatepetl area, including probably Ozumba and Tecalco and other neighboring communities.

On April 6, 1881, Elder Thatcher and others ascended Popocatepetl to "Friar's Point" above the timber line, he dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel.

A branch was established in Tecalco by 1884. Mormon colonies of North Americans were established in northern Mexico in 1886.

The success of missionary work in Mexico City was interrupted in 1889 when emphasis was placed on colonization. By then there were 241 members in the area.

President of the mission was Ammon M. Tenney, who left in 1889 but returned in 1901 to gather the members back into the fold and resume missionary work.

Evidence of Pres. Tenney's labor remains in the community of Tecalco, where leaders say "half the town is LDS." Two wards in the community are named Popo and Iztla, after the mountains.

Today, dirt roads thread between adobe walls in the community of some 3,500, much as they did when Pres. Tenney visited in the early 1900s. At the town plaza stand the remains of one of the earliest LDS Church buildings outside of the colonies, an adobe structure erected in 1926 by spade and burro, and the labor of men and women. Nearby lives Fidencia Garcia de Rojas, 100-plus, who said she was baptized by Ammon Tenney in 1901. A tiny woman, she smiled like a delighted child when told of the creation of the Tecalco stake.

The influence of a later president, Pres. Rey L. Pratt, who served from 1907-1931, is also pervasive in the area.

At a brief gathering after the conference, a few old timers shared recollections of Pres. Pratt's mission. With the old timers were a few North American missionaries who served in the 1940s and 1960s.

Several old-time members recalled Pres. Pratt's conferences. "He had a very potent voice," said one. "He wanted the whole village to hear him, whether they were at the meeting or not."

In one poignant moment during the informal gathering, the North American returned missionaries thanked the members for opening their homes and hearts to them as young men so far away from home.

And these old-time, faithful members, in turn, thanked the missionaries for coming to Mexico and sharing with them the blessings of truth leading to eternal life.



Most stakes in countries outside U.S.*

1. Mexico 100

2. Brazil 56

3. Chile 50

4. Philippines 37

5. Canada 34

6. England 32

Peru 32

7. Argentina 27

8. Japan 23

9. Australia 18

10. New Zealand 16

The United States has 1,112 stakes