Photo courtesy of Barbara Morgan
MEXICO CITY, Mexico — The final class of approximately 650 students graduated from Benemerito de las Americas, an LDS Church-owned high school in Mexico City, on June 14. At the graduation ceremony, Elder Alfredo Miron, the school's final director and an Area Seventy, symbolically handed a large wooden "key to the campus" over to the new MTC President Carl Pratt. On the key was written the name of the school with the dates 1963-2013, indicating its "fifty years of teaching the youth of the Latter-day Saints." Under these dates was written 2013- Missionary Training Center, and the scripture, "Behold, I will hasten my work in its time" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:73).
On June 26, President Pratt and his wife, Sister Karen Pratt, welcomed their first group of about 100 newly set-apart missionaries, some of whom had graduated as high school students only a week-and-a-half earlier from the same campus. "I cannot believe it's only been 10 days since I graduated from this school," said one elder as he was entering the new MTC. "It's quite a special experience to be able to see the way in which the Lord transforms things in order to fulfill his work.
"I can see now," he continued, "how this campus as a missionary training center will be used to bless even more people than it already has. It's worth every sacrifice. This is going to be an incredible work, and I'm looking forward to being able to serve the Lord as soon as I can."
Fifty years ago, on Nov. 4, 1963, Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve broke ground for the school, named Benemerito de las Americas after the Mexican national hero Benito Juarez. Elder Romney stated, "This school for which we are breaking ground today is destined to become a great Spanish-speaking cultural center. Its influence will reach far beyond the valley of Mexico. ... It will be felt in all of Latin America, including South America. Hundreds of thousands of people will come here. Going out from here, they will help the nation build up its education, its culture and its spirituality. This school will prepare men for a better future here on the earth and for eternal life in the world to come. ... Those who attend will learn of the pre-earth life and of principles and practices which will prepare them for the life to come. ... It is my prayer," he continued, "that our Father in Heaven will bless ... the Mexican people; that they may come to an understanding of the real purpose of this institution." He then prayed that the Lord would, "turn all that is here done to the furtherance of Thy purposes, the salvation and exaltation of Thy children."
Nearly 23,000 students have attended Benemerito since its inception nearly a half century ago. Over the years the school has provided education from elementary through high school. Beyond academics, the school became well known for a variety of its extracurricular activities including soccer, American football, karate, choir, band, basketball and, most especially, its folk dance team that traveled throughout Mexico and other countries. From this school have come political leaders, attorneys, doctors, teachers, businessmen, missionaries, mothers and fathers, bishops, Relief Society leaders, stake presidents and even General Authorities.
In fact, of the current stake presidents serving in Mexico, 25 percent are alumni of Benemerito. Approximately 90 percent of the young men who have graduated from Benemerito over the last five years have served or are currently serving as missionaries. When asked how Benemerito has impacted his life, Abraham Martinez, the Seminary and Institute Area Director for Mexico and an Area Seventy replied, "Benemerito is my home. Benemerito is where I raised my family. Benemerito is my family."
On Jan. 29, Elder Daniel Johnson, President of the Mexico Area, announced to students and faculty at Benemerito, and to those watching via satellite at chapels throughout Mexico the upcoming transition of the school into an MTC. To the emotional students, teachers, administrators and church members present, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve gently taught, "Tears are the price we pay for love." He then testified, "This is a dramatic moment in church history. You have lived to see your role in one of the most historic moments in the church."
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