The Church in Mexico is one of the great success stories of the Restoration. The nation is home to more than a million Latter-day Saints, hundreds of stakes and a dozen temples.
But for many living in the Oaxaca coastal region of southwest Mexico, gathering with large groups of fellow members presents a challenge. The so-called “Isthmus” region in southern Oaxaca state is inaccessible by air and can be reached only by driving for hours along winding mountain roads.
Still, the members in the area are defined by their unity and faith.
“Although the area is relatively isolated from the rest of Mexico it has not been isolated from the Church,” wrote Elder Paul B. Pieper, a General Authority Seventy who presides over the Mexico Area. “Three striving stakes and three districts have sprung up along the Pacific coast of Oaxaca.”
On Dec. 9, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles arrived at the “Isthmus.” The occasion marked a joyful moment in local Church history. He is believed to be the first apostle to visit the area.
Over a three day period, Elder Andersen presided over a variety of gatherings — including a member devotional, a Priesthood Leadership Conference, a devotional for young single adults and a special Dec. 11 stake conference for the Juchitan Mexico and Juchitan Mexico Las Flores stakes.
Thousands enjoyed being with Elder Andersen, who was accompanied by Elder Pieper and Elder Afredo Miron, an Area Seventy.
“There was a wonderful outpouring of love and emotion from the members,” wrote Elder Pieper.
Elder Andersen’s visit, added Elder Miron, will never be forgotten by Latter-day Saints across the region.
“The members were so excited for the stake conference that some arrived at three in the morning so they could find a good place to sit,” he wrote. “Elder Andersen’s visit brought great comfort to the members.”
The area is home to several indigenous communities that speak native languages. Many of the women enjoy wearing bright embroidered traditional dresses called “tehuanas” on special occasions such as Church meetings.
Scores of members were able to shake an apostle’s hand for the first time and listen to his special witness of the Lord.
“I was most struck by Elder Andersen’s testimony of the Savior, the Prophet Joseph Smith and President Thomas S. Monson,” wrote Elder Miron. “Tears flowed freely when people — young or old — shook Elder Andersen’s hand. A beautiful spirit filled the air.”
Elder Andersen’s counsel to the Mexican members, said Elder Miron, was simple: “Do the things that invite the Savior into your life.”
Elder Andersen encouraged the members to be kind to one another, to claim the blessings of paying tithing and to find opportunities to serve in their homes and congregations. He also taught the importance of overcoming personal obstacles that stand in the way of attending the temple, observing the Sabbath and strengthening family relationships.
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