Transcript for Andrew Jenson, "Mexican Mission," Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941), 493-96
MEXICAN MISSION (The) comprises the republic of Mexico and the Mexican population residing in Arizona, New Mexico and California, U. S. A. Conditions in Mexico at the close of 1930 were such that no statistical reports were available whereby the mission could be segregated into districts or branches as in the other /b missions, but according to the official statistical report the total membership of the Church in the mission was 3,882 on Dec. 31, 1930, including 88 Elders, 87 priests, 69 Teachers, 131 Deacons and about 2,500 lay members and 1,000 children. Fifty-six missionaries from Zion, including nine missionary sisters, were laboring in the mission at the close of 1930. At that time the mission consisted of the following branches of the Church: El Paso, in Texas; Gila Indian Reservation at San Juan in Maricopa Co., Arizona; Brownsville, in Texas; Los Angeles, in California; Saltillo, in Coahuila, Mexico; Pacheco, in Hidalgo, Mexico; San Marco, Tula and Hidalgo, in Mexico; Chihuahua, in Chihuahua, Mexico; La Paz in Mexico, and Mesa, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Rey L. Pratt, of the First Council of Seventy, was president of the mission, the headquarters of which were at 2067 South Hobart Boulevard, Los Angeles, Calif.
At the general conference of the Church held in Salt Lake City in October, 1875, Elders Daniel Jones, Anthony W. Ivins, Ammon M. Tenney, James Z. Stewart, Helaman Pratt, Robert H. Smith and Wiley C. Jones were called to open a mission in the Republic of Mexico. Later Meliton G. Trejo was added to the mission. The missionaries crossed the Rio Grande at El Paso, and began their labors there Jan. 7, 1876. Three months later the mission extended its activities to the city of Chihuahua, the capital of the state of Chihuahua. Select passages from the Book of Mormon were translated by Elder Trejo into the Spanish language and distributed among the people. A very successful meeting was held in the city of Chihuahua attended by 500 people, and many private interviews were had with the people and city and state officials.
The missionaries returned to the United States in April of the same year. The following year (1876) Louis Garff and Meliton G. Trejo opened a mission in Sonora, Mexico, and baptized five persons in Hermosillo, in Sonora. In May of the same year Helaman Pratt and George Ferry commenced a mission among the Yaquis Indians of Sonora, but not much progress could be made with these very warlike people. In the fall of 1878 Pres. John Taylor received a number of letters from Dr. Platino C. Rhodacanaty, a resident of the City of Mexico, making inquiry concerning the doctrines of the Church. In response to these inquiries a number of the Church works were sent and through them a score of people became interested in the work and believed it so far as they could understand it from books.
A year later, at the October conference, 1879, Elder Moses Thatcher of Logan, Utah, James Z. Stewart of Draper, Utah, and Meliton G. Trejo of San Pedro, Ariz., were called to open a mission in the City of Mexico. Elder Thatcher was joined by Elder Stewart in Chicago and by Elder Trejo in New Orleans. This second mission really grew out of the first mission to Mexico since it was through one of the pamphlets containing translations from the Book of Mormon by Elder Trejo which fell into the hands of Dr. Rhodacanaty that the correspondence with Pres. John Taylor was started. The missionaries entered Mexico via Vera Cruz, arriving at the capital city Nov. 16, 1879. The brethren found that Dr. Rhodacanaty, Pres. Taylor's correspondent, was a Greek on the paternal and a Mexican on the maternal side. He was an educated and cultured gentleman and had been publishing a monthly periodical entitled "Vos del Dieserto," in which he was setting forth the principles of the new dispensation. Four days after the arrival of the missionaries in the City of Mexico Elder Thatcher baptized Dr. Rhodacanaty and one Silviano Artiaga; the latter was said to be a pure Aztec. Two days later six others were baptized, and on Nov. 23, 1879, a branch of the Church was organized with Dr. Rhodacanaty as president and Silviano Artiaga and Jose Ybarola as counselors-all three being ordained Elders. Through the American minister, Mr. Foster, to whose receptions he was invited, Elder Thatcher was enabled to meet some of the leading men of the City of Mexico and of the republic. Later he had an extended interview with Senor Ignacio Mariscal, who for many years was the accredited representative of the Mexican government at Washington, D.C., and later minister of foreign affairs in the Mexican government. He was well acquainted with Utah affairs and esteemed as one of the ablest men of the Mexican cabinet.
The mission met with opposition, and some of the newspapers in Mexico, as well as leading newspapers in the United States, published scurrilous articles against the Mormons, but through Elder Thatcher's effectual answers to the writers in the "Two Republics," and other papers, the unfriendly attitude of these newspapers was overcome. This newspaper controversy concerning the Latter-day Saints and their faith was not unfavorable to the work, and by the close of the year 1879 sixteen persons had been baptized and added to the little branch previously organized. In January, 1880, Parley P. Pratt's "Voice of Warning" was translated into the Spanish language by Elders Stewart and Trejo and later printed. Elder Thatcher left the City of Mexico for Utah Feb. 4, 1880, leaving Elder James Z. Stewart in charge of the mission pro tem-a responsibility which he ably discharged. Elder Thatcher returned to the City of Mexico Dec. 5, 1880, accompanied by Elder Feramorz L. Young. During his absence the Spanish translation of the "Voice of Warning" had been widely circulated, and soon after his return a 4000 edition of John Nicholson's tract, "Means of Escape," was issued in Spanish and circulated. This was followed by a 32 page treatise on the divine origin of the Book of Mormon written in English and then translated into Spanish and published in that language. Elder Thatcher also wrote a treatise on "Mormon Polygamy and Christian Monogamy Compared". This was also translated into the Spanish language and published. Elder Stewart had written a treatise on the "Coming of the Messiah," 30,000 copies of which were widely distributed. There was also a complete translation of the Book of Mormon into the Spanish language under the supervision of Elder Thatcher, the conjoint work of Elders Trejo and Stewart. The book was published in 1886. Meantime a number of baptisms had been administered in addition to those already noted, and by August, 1881, the branch in Mexico had 61 members. Another branch of the Church was organized at Ozumba, at the base of Popocatepetl. Ozumba is about 40 miles southeast of the City of Mexico. In August, 1881, Elder Thatcher was released to return home, and on Sept. 15, 1881, accompanied by Fernando A. Lara, a native Mexican brother, and Elder Feramorz L. Young, whose health was failing him, he left Mexico via Vera Cruz for Utah. En route, while crossing the Gulf of Mexico, Elder Young died of typhoid fever, and as there was no means of preserving the body in that climate, he was buried at sea Sept. 28, 1881, off the coast of Florida. August H. F. Wilcken, who had arrived in Mexico three months before the departure of Elder Thatcher, was placed in charge of the work in Mexico, being the only Elder from Utah left in the mission. Subsequently, however, he was joined by other Elders, and though the force from Utah was never large, the mission was continued under various presidents until 1888, and by June, 1889, all the Utah Elders were withdrawn from the Republic.
The Mexican Mission was reopened in June, 1901, by Elder John Henry Smith, assisted by Elders Anthony W. Ivins and Henry Eyring, both of the presidency of the Juarez Stake of Zion, which by this time had been organized with saints residing in the states of Chihuahua and Sonora. Ammon M. Tenney was chosen as president of the mission. The visiting party of brethren, before leaving the City of Mexico, had an interview with Pres. Diaz to whom they explained the nature of their mission then reopened. Pres. Diaz expressed great satisfaction and wished the brethren success. After the visitors had left the City of Mexico June 17, 1881, to return to their homes, Elder Tenney took up his labors in which he was fairly successful. The force of missionaries from Utah and the Mormon colonies steadily increased and in September, 1881, they numbered 11, and two years later these were increased to twenty.
Missionary work in Mexico continued until the revolutions and counter revolutions beginning in 1911 made it necessary for the missionaries to be withdrawn on account of national prejudice against the United States. Occasional attempts were made to reopen the mission, but in 1919 missionary headquarters for the mission were transferred from Mexico City to El Paso, Texas. Meantime a considerable amount of missionary work was done among the Mexicans in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Colorado, and representatives of the Mexican Mission visited the saints in Mexico as opportunity offered, but the Elders were not permitted to make permanent residence in the capacity of missionaries in Mexico. The local Mexican saints, however, in many of their branches, held together steadfastly under the direction of the local priesthood and conferences were held occasionally in the various districts, reports of such meetings being sent to mission headquarters in El Paso. This system is continued to the present time (1930).
A little pamphlet entitled "El Evangilio Restaurado," published monthly by the Mexican Mission, has been liberally distributed to the saints in Mexico, giving much enlightenment and encouragement to them in their isolated condition. In 1929 a new and improved edition of the Book of Mormon in the Spanish language was published in Independence, Missouri, under the direction of Pres. Rey L. Pratt. The number of baptisms which have been performed in Mexico by the native missionaries under present conditions is remarkable. A chapel for the benefit of the Mexican saints has recently been erected in Mesa, Arizona. In 1929 the headquarters of the Mexican Mission were moved from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles, California.
Following is the list of presidents of the Mexican Mission: Moses Thatcher, 1879-1881; James Z. Stewart, who presided during the absence of Elder Thatcher from Feb., 1880, to Dec., 1880; August H. F. Wilcken, 1881-1883; Anthony W. Ivins, 1883-1884; Helaman Pratt, 1884-1887; Horace H. Cummings, May, 1887-Oct., 1887, and Henry Eyring, Oct., 1887-June, 1889. After the reopening of the mission in 1901 the following Elders have presided: Ammon M. Tenney, 1901-1903; Hyrum Smith Harris, 1903-1904; Talma E. Pomeroy, 1904-1905; Hyrum S. Harris (second term), 1905-1907, and Rey L. Pratt, 1907-1930. (See Comprehensive History of the Church by B. H. Roberts, Vol. 5, pp. 568-579. Also Jenson's Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 127-136.)