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Mexico’s president welcomes prophet

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Continuing his practice of going the "extra miles," President Gordon B. Hinckley paid a courtesy visit to the president of Mexico Nov. 11, and two days later traveled to Belize, a small nation where members seemed surprised he even knew they existed.

He delivered his messages in both locations with conviction, confidence and respect.President Hinckley's brief visit on Nov. 13 to Belize, a place described by its inhabitants as "a bit of the Caribbean," completed a list; he has now visited every country in Central America. About the size of New Hampshire and once known as British Honduras, Belize is on the east side of the Yucatan Peninsula.

President Hinckley sandwiched a visit here between stopovers on the peninsula Nov. 12-14. Earlier, on Nov. 11, President Hinckley visited Mexico's president, Dr. Ernesto Zedillo, at the president's stately and parklike Los Pinos residence in Mexico City.

The Church president spoke to 4,000 members in Oaxaca on Nov. 10. Plans to speak to members in Tuxtla Gutierrez later that day were spoiled by Hurricane Rick, which lashed the coastal areas and created hazardous weather inland. When the airplane had to return to Mexico City, the members gathered in Tuxtla Gutierrez were deeply disappointed. As the conference proceeded, the choir stood to sing. The conductor's baton marked rhythm, and mouths moved, but so emotional with disappointment were the members that only the sound of the piano could be heard. However, President Hinckley was able to send a telephone message to the members.

He addressed 5,300 members in Villahermosa Nov. 11, and also met with Gov. Roberto Madrazo of Tobasco and a group of dignitaries. Some 7,800 members gathered in the Poliforum in Merida to hear the prophet Nov. 12. Another 2,000 members were crowded in the Cancun stake center Nov. 13 to hear President Hinckley after his return from Belize. During his seven-day trip, he traveled more than 6,000 miles and spoke to some 75,000 people in nine meetings. Each meeting was a memorable, lifetime experience for those who attended, the majority of whom had never seen a Church president in person before. (The earlier portion of President Hinckley's visit to Mexico, where he addressed more than 43,000 members in Mexico City and 13,000 in Puebla, was reported in Church News on Nov. 15.)

President Hinckley also briefly visited the famous Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza, on Nov. 12. (Please see related photos, pages 8-9.)

After leaving Mexico, President Hinckley stopped in Atlanta to dedicate the new baptistry of the Atlanta Temple. (Please see report on page 5.)

President Hinckley was accompanied on the visits in Mexico and Belize by his wife, Marjorie, and Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Barbara, who also spoke at each meeting. Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy and president of the Mexico South Area and his wife, Karen, also accompanied the group and spoke at most meetings. Elder Octaviano Tenorio, Area Authority Seventy and counselor in the area presidency, accompanied the group in meeting with President Zedillo. In Belize, Elder Julio Alvarado, Area Authority Seventy and counselor in the Central America Area presidency and his wife, Blanca, attended and spoke. Pres. Josue Ricardo Perez of the Honduras San Pedro Sula Mission also spoke. He was accompanied by his wife, Aida.

In the meeting with President Zedillo, President Hinckley was graciously received. Jose Angel Gurria, foreign relations minister, escorted the group to the reception room where the meeting took place. There, President Hinckley told of the history of the Church in Mexico - the early days of the Church in and near Mexico City, and the establishment of the colonies in the north. He also spoke of the Church's educational and humanitarian efforts in Mexico. He noted that the Church has about 800,000 members in Mexico who meet in some 1,500 wards or branches. These local units are presided over by Mexican leaders.

President Zedillo, in turn, expressed his admiration for the Church members in Mexico, who, he said, are known as good citizens and a hard-working people.

President Hinckley presented him with a framed copy of the "Proclamation on the Family" and a photo book, The Mission.

The president of Mexico expressed interest in the concepts of the family proclamation.

"I was very impressed with Dr. Zedillo," said President Hinckley after the meeting. "He is a very able man, a young man. He was very friendly, very courteous, very respectful. He knows something about the Church, and has done some research on it. We had a pleasant and a delightful visit."

The meeting was held despite the busy schedule of the president of Mexico. A graduate of Yale University with a doctorate in economics, he is currently embattled with the Mexican congress over the national budget, and involved in negotiations with the United States.

President Hinckley said he also enjoyed meeting Mexico's foreign minister, Jose Angel Gurria, who has visited Temple Square and skied in Park City, Utah.

In traveling to Belize, President Hinckley became the first Church president to visit here. A low-lying country lush with tropical vegetation, Belize was the last British colony in the New World. Independence was gained in 1981 and the country now has some 215,000 residents who speak English, Creole and Spanish. Missionary work began in Belize in 1980, and the Church has some 2,000 members, in a district and five branches.

Some 1,200 members gathered early in St. John's College Gymnasium, coming in buses from branches throughout the country. A small group of members traveled by boat and bus from the distant San Pedro Branch.

"It is a great pleasure to be with you," said President Hinckley. "I have never before been to Belize. No president of the Church has ever before been to Belize. This is a small country, but a very important country. And I am grateful for the privilege to be here."

He said that the Church teaches "the positive gospel for which we have the keys. And the first great principle of that gospel is this: We believe in God, the Eternal Father and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. This is the great foundation upon which this work is established."

President Hinckley asserted, "I know that prayers are heard and answered. And I hope that you know that prayers are heard and answered.

"Yesterday, we were at Chichen Itza, and a young man who had served a mission there and learned the Mayan languages, sang to us in Mayan. He sang, `I Am a Child of God.' It was beautiful. I hope my dear friends, that every one of you can sing, `I Am a Child of God,' that you will never forget, whether there be adversity, whether there be trouble, that there is something of divinity within you, something which came from your Eternal Father, who is our God.

"He has restored an understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . the living Son of the Living God. He came to earth, He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, and blessing those in trouble. He was crucified. He died. He rose the third day, and today stands on the right hand of His Father.

"We must treat others as we would have them treat us. We have taken upon ourselves His holy name at the time we were baptized, and each time we meet together and partake of the sacrament. . . . He loves us as His children, and He has offered great opportunities to us."

President Hinckley encouraged all the young men present to take advantage of "your privilege and your opportunity and your responsibility when you reach the right age, to go out into the world as a missionary, to teach the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."

He strongly encouraged the young men and women to "get all the education you can get. Here we are meeting at St. John's college. Let this be a reminder to each of you young men and you young women, that education is the key which will unlock the door of opportunity. Struggle for it. Save for it. Sacrifice for it. You will be blessed in your lives, and you will do that which the Lord has invited you to do."

He also encouraged members to pay their tithing. "He expects us, my brothers and sisters . . . to pay a full tithing. Now many of you are very poor, I know that, and you [may] say you cannot afford to pay your tithing."

However, said President Hinckley, "It is a matter of faith. And if we expect the Lord to bless us as He has promised to do, we must do what He has asked us to do, that is, to pay our tithes and offerings.

"The Church does not take any money out of Belize. Instead, the Church puts a great deal of money into Belize so you never need feel that which you pay in tithing will leave this part of the world. You will help build the kingdom of God here in your native land, if you will do so."

President Hinckley concluded his address by observing, "When all is said and done, the whole purpose of this work is to bring happiness into the lives of our people. God bless you, my beloved Latter-day Saints. We must leave you and be on our way. But it has been a wonderful thing to be here. You are pioneers of the work in this land. It will go on and go strong if you will keep the faith."