Friday, September 19, 2008

Templo Mayor

On Aug. 13th we visited the Templo Mayor in the heart of Mexico City. This archaeological site unusual because it is literally a stone’s throw from the Zocalo, the central plaza in the Historic Center of Mexico City.

When I visited the Zocalo after my first mission in 1964 there was no Templo Mayor, just old colonial buildings. In 1978 workers from the power and light company unearthed an eight-ton stone disc of an Aztec goddess while they were laying underground power lines. The Mexican law dictates that in such cases all work cease and that it be reported to the government.

Subsequent exploratory excavations revealed that this was a major archaeological site. Old colonial buildings were demolished and for the next nine years the site was excavated. It was officially opened in 1987. Excavation of new areas continues today.

According to legend the temple was built on this spot because an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake. The Aztecs began building the temple in AD 1325. The Templo Mayor became the center of religious life for a city of 300,000. After the Spaniards arrived in 1521 destroyed the temple and built over it. The serpent was a major theme in the construction.

The Templo itself is a large stone pyramid with wide staircases similar to many seen in other parts of Mexico. On the upper part are twin temples dedicated to the god of war and the god of rain. It is here that victims were sacrificed and then thrown down the staircases after their hearts were cut out and placed in a statue of a stone eagle.

In the temple site remnants of wall murals have been restored to display some of the original colors. Carvings of serpents and frogs are repeated in many of the structures. Probably the most notable artifact in this area is the Wall of Skulls, a panel of human skulls covered with stucco.

Adjacent to the site a beautiful museum has been built to display more than 6000 pieces from the excavation. Among the many exhibits are found two identical life-sized clay statues of Aztecs warriors in eagle costumes. The exhibits do a superb job of depicting the variety and splendor of the Aztec Empire.

As I conclude my visit, I could not help but thinking about the contrast between this corruption of the use of temples and our understanding of the true purpose of temples . The concluding chapters of the Book of Mormon describe the fallen and depraved state of the Lamanite and Nephite peoples. The similarities are striking. What a contrast to temples built to the Holiness of the Lord.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Wednesday, August 20th was an exciting day on our Manzana del Templo. Missionaries from the four Mexico City missions, the Mexico City MTC, and mission presidents from more than 20 Mexico missions gathered at the MTC on the Manzana del Templo for an address by Elder Holland. You can imagine how excited the young missionaries were to see and hear an Apostle of the Lord, a rare opportunity for most of them.

Almost everyone was in their seats at least an hour early and some more than that. As early as 7 a.m. we could see a stream of young missionaries entering the Manzana and heading to the MTC. It was quite a sight! We arrived about 8:45 and the Chapel was full with chairs extending clear to the back of a large adjoining cultural hall. As we looked around we could see a sea of white shirts and suits. There were more than 1000 in attendance. Luckily we senior missionaries had reserved seating up front which turned out to be a great spot. This is one of the blessings for being one of the "old folks".

In the choir seats were the mission presidents, and the MTC president. On the front row of the stand were seated Elder Holland, Elder Clayton, one of the presidents of Seventy, and the Area Presidency. All the priesthood leaders were accompanied by their wives. The MTC president's wife played the piano and the MTC president interpreted for Elder Holland.

Elder Clayton and the Area Presidency both spoke in Spanish. Janice is sure they gave great talks but didn't follow too well. However, Larry enjoyed them and wrote notes to Janice explaining the main ideas of the talks. Of course, the highlight was Elder Holland's talk. He made some brief introductory statements and closing statements in Spanish but the bulk of his talk was in English and was interpreted by Elder Piñon, our delightful MTC president.

As usual Elder Holland gave a very powerful speech. It was amazing to both watch and hear. He would get so animated that sometimes he would not even stop for the interpreter, but President Piñon seemed to keep up somehow. It was fun to watch how President Piñon, who is a very animated man by nature, would literally hold his hands together to stop himself from using them to talk. He did use facial expressions though and it was priceless to see. At one point near the end of the talk when Elder Holland had been gong on at a very fast rate and Elder Pinion was rushing to keep up with him, Elder Holland stopped, turned to President Piñon, and gave him a big kiss on the cheek and said "I love you". President Piñon without missing a beat translated it then got a silly look on his face and said "I love you too."

One of the main points of Elder Holland's talk was the concern that Church leaders have for the missionaries. He said that one of President Hinkley's recurring themes was that the Church is not doing enough for the missionaries and that too many missionaries come home from their missions and become inactive. He said, "This church cannot live with the loss of a single missionary." He talked of how the missionaries need to teach with the Spirit but in order to do so they have to be fully converted themselves. He told us that the most important convert in all our life will be ourselves. He also said missionaries should be the evidence of their missions. He added that none of us can control someone else's life, i.e. whether they will accept or reject the Church, but that we can control what kind of a missionary and returned missionary we are.

To our surprise after the meeting Elder and Sister Holland and several of his party came in through the back door of the Visitor's Center. Unfortunately we weren't there at the time but we certainly heard about it from the sisters that were working. The group just walked through quickly and took a general look at things. All of us had previously been given very clear instructions that we could not take cameras to the meeting. But, now they were on our grounds. One of the sister's quickly got her camera out and was able to get a few pictures. When we arrived later that day she was "floating on air". We were glad she was able to document the occasion for us. We did take pictures of the missionaries streaming out after the meeting and as you can see it was quite a sight.

We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve this mission and the wonderful faith promoting experiences we are having. The gospel is true. It brings joy and happiness to those who live its principles. We feel such great love from our Heavenly Father and from you. Thank you for your love and support.