General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1




I HAVE been requested to occupy the first hour tonight in speaking on Mexico. I am very glad to have the opportunity to say a few words about that country at this time. GCB February 13, 1895, page 133.2

Mexico lies very near our own country. It would seem that we would be very familiar with it, very familiar with its situation, its products, its people, its religions, its language, and all that pertains to it. It would seem that, being a part of our own continent, it would be a place of special interest to us; but so far as my observation goes, the people of the United States, as a rule, know very little about Mexico. We know much more about the countries of Europe, and even about some countries of Asia and Africa, then we know about Mexico. Perhaps one reason for this is the lack of communication between the two republics. Perhaps another reason is that the languages of the two countries are entirely different and that publications have not been interchanged to any great extent between the two countries. Even on the border, we find people who have lived within a few miles of the Rio Grande that know nothing about what is transpiring on the other side of the river. GCB February 13, 1895, page 133.3

Mexico is pre-eminently a mission field. Perhaps there is no country in all the world that needs the gospel, the regenerating power of the gospel, more than Mexico needs it at the present time. Perhaps there are very few countries in the world that are more destitute of the real principles of the religion of Jesus Christ than are the people of Mexico. I was thinking it might be of interest to you to have a review of the history of Mexico, not referring especially to our own work in that country, nor to the missionary work of other denominations there; but referring more especially to the country in its political and religious aspects, noting the causes that have led to the present condition of things, that by understanding these, we may be better able to form correct opinions as to the need that exists for missionary work, and further than understanding the needs, we may know better how to go to work to send the gospel to the people of that country. You will all remember that Mexico was the first country on the western continent to be settled and governed by Europeans. It was first discovered in the year 1518, and the next year after its discovery, the Spaniards began the work of conquest, which was finished in a little more than two years, so that in 1521 Mexico became a Spanish province. GCB February 13, 1895, page 133.4

When the Spaniards discovered Mexico, it was not a country inhabited by a few roving tribes of savages, but it was a country with a vast population united in one great government, with an emperor and a privy council, and a regularly organized system of courst of justice. The art of writing was well understood and there were many books in existence. They had some knowledge of the sciences. Most of the works of the Aztecs that might give an intelligent idea of what the people were, what they believed, and the progress they had made in civilization, were destroyed by the conquerors because they contained certain evidences of idolatry, for the people were idolators. But some things still remain which show that they were advanced in civilization and had some knowledge of the sciences. To illustrate this, they had some knowledge of astronomy. They had their year divided into eighteen months of twenty days each, to which they added an intercalary month of five days, and every year added a certain number of days which made their year more nearly correct than the year of any civilized country in the world at that time. GCB February 13, 1895, page 133.5

They had their factories, and manufactured pottery, cloth, and many articles out of silver, brass, and stone. They had also their permanent cities, churches, and dwellings. They had also their system of religion, with their temples and an elaborate system of services. Some rites in their religion were very similar to the rites of the Christian religion. They practiced baptism, and the ceremony they used in baptizing was very similar to that used by Christians, and the objects that they expected to be gained through the rite of baptism were very similar to those which the Christians look forward to when they administer the same rite. Another rite in their religion corresponds to the Lord’s supper. They took the flour of maize (or corn) and made it into a dough by mixing it with blood. After this was baked they ate it, saying as they did so that they were eating the body and blood of their god. GCB February 13, 1895, page 134.1

Marriage was celebrated with as much solemnity as marriages are celebrated in Christian countries at the present time, and the penalties for different offences against the State and the Church, such as theft, murder, and adultery, were as severe as the penalties against the same offences are at the present time. But there was one thing connected with their religion which seems to lower it far below anything which is now found in the world, and that was their system of human sacrifices. They had a tradition that assisted the Spaniards very much in the conquest of the country, which was to the effect that in the distant past a white man had come to their coast in a very large boat, that he had reigned in the country for several years, that he taught them the knowledge of the true God, and that he went away across the sea as he came, telling them that he would return at some future time and would continue to endeavor to teach them the true religion, and the knowledge of the true God. This tradition had been handed down from generation to generation, and they were expecting the return of the white man. They expected that his return would usher in a golden age. When the Spaniards arrived on the coast, the question at once came up, Is this the white man that has returned? Is this the white man that has come back to teach us the knowledge of the true God? And when they saw the white man’s religious services (for they had their priests with them) many of them thought that the white man had returned. GCB February 13, 1895, page 134.2

The Spaniards heard of the tradition and made the fullest use of it for their selfish purposes, but there was everything in the history of the conquest to show that the Spaniards were anything but gods or people sent from God. They regarded the people as nothing better than beasts. While they carried the ensigns of religion, they lost no opportunity to oppress and rob the people and to reduce them to servitude for their own aggrandizement. after the conquest was completed, the Spaniards who had carried the image of the Virgin Mary with them and attributed to it their success in the conquest, desired to introduce this virgin as the patron saint of the country, but found the Indians very much averse to accepting as their palm saint this virgin who was held up by the priests as the god that helped the Spaniards in their conquest. GCB February 13, 1895, page 134.3

The Aztecs, although they had been a warlike people among themselves, were really a docile people. They were not a people to resist the encroachments of such a nation as the Spaniards represented, but allowed themselves to be terrorized, and cowed into submitting to everything that the Spaniards put upon them, even their religion. The whole country, including the people, was divided up among the leading Spaniards that had engaged in the conquest. Then began the work of building their cities, their bridges, their roads, their cathedrals, which exist at the present time; so that in a few years there sprang up a material civilization in many respect in advance of what it is to-day, for these old building are the pride of the country now. The cathedrals, the bridges, the roads, the cities, and the walls are standing there to-day very much as they did three hundred years ago, with the exception of the ravages of age. So we see that while the present territory of the United States was simply a howling wilderness, Mexico had become in a certain sense a civilized country, with the appurtenances of civilization as they existed at that time in Spain and other countries of Europe. Almost a hundred years before the Dutch had built their mud fort on Manhattan Island, Mexico had its cathedrals, its palaces, its grand residences, and its printing presses. GCB February 13, 1895, page 134.4

From this it would seem that Mexico should be far in advance of the United States at the present time. It has many natural advantages; it has the advantage of climate; it has a prolific soil; it has very rich mines of gold and silver, especially of silver; and it also produces all the tropical and semi-tropical fruits in great abundance, as well as corn, wheat, and other grains. Had Mexico been ruled as the United States has been, had it had the opportunities that the United States has had in many ways, it might have been in advance of the United States at the present time. But we find Mexico far behind in improvements, education, and enterprise; there is a lack of a general dissemination of the knowledge of the arts and sciences; and although there are intelligent people there who are capable of the highest culture and of doing all that any other people in any other country of the world can do, yet their powers are largely dormant. GCB February 13, 1895, page 134.5

Now what is the reason for all this? Why is Mexico so far behind to-day when it was so far in advance three hundred years ago? We can look over the country and read its history, and the answer that comes back to us is that it has been blighted by Catholicism. Catholicism has crushed all the energies out of the country; it has banished everything that is good, and to-day, while their cities are filled with churches, while there is a continual clangor of bells from morn till night to indicate the different feasts, the different masses, yet there is an utter lack of anything that is spiritual in the religion of the people of that country. GCB February 13, 1895, page 134.6

It was my privilege when I was traveling in Mexico a year ago last December to visit the city of Guadaloupe on the day of a feast, and there were acres of people gathered there. I very much wish that all the people that are here to-night could visit this place on one of the feast-days of these people in Mexico, to convince you that they are in great need of the gospel. There were gambling booths in all the streets, and all the entire opening in front of the church was filled with gambling booths, where all the games of chance were carried on — gambling of all descriptions. Then a little further out in the outskirts, they had their cock fights, their bull fights, and all those things going on there in connection with their feast that they were celebrating. But there were many pious men and women there, bowed upon their knees, with their hands extended in their devotion, many of them having a candle in one hand, or a candle in both hands, and there they would stay for hours, some of them, before the altar. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.1

As I was going out of the court, I met some pilgrims coming in. They were walking on their knees. They had walked perhaps for miles. I have no idea, but I know they had come so far that they were perfectly exhausted; they seemed unable to take one step after another. There was one man each side of them to keep them from falling down on the ground from sheer exhaustion. As the streets were paved with rough cobble stones, some of the people spread their shawls and blankets in front of them to protect their knees. Thus they thought that they were doing an act that would be very meritorious and that would secure for them a blessing, and salvation at last. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.2

Mexico was domineered over by Catholicism without any opposition for about 350 years. You all remember that in 1821 Mexico became an independent nation, and when it did so it adopted a constitution called the Constitution of the Three Guarantees. The three guarantees were the guaranty of religious liberty and union. The guaranty of religion was that the Catholic religion should be the only religion that should be tolerated in the country. So it went on in that way for thirty years longer, and finally from the different struggles they had passed through, some of the better class of men began to see that the church was a curse to Mexico; they began to see that in order for them to have even civil liberty, the church must be dethroned, because the church had ruled the viceroys, the presidents, the dictators, and the judges of the people. they had simply become the tools of the church. So the people aroused and said, We will declare ourselves not only free from Spain, but we will declare ourselves free from the rule of the Catholic hierarchy. They passed a law of reversion in 1857. These laws were of such nature as to declare their independence of the Catholic church. As these laws are practically the voice of the government of Mexico, it might be interesting to know just what they are. I give a synopsis of them as follows:— GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.3

“Congress cannot pass laws establishing or prohibiting any religion. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.4

The free exercise of religious services. The State will not give official recognition to any religious festivals, save the Sabbath as a day of rest. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.5

Religious services are to be held only within the place of worship. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.6

Clerical vestments are forbidden in the streets. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.7

Religious processions are forbidden. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.8

The use of church bells is restricted to calling the people to religious work. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.9

The State does not recognize monastic orders nor permit their establishment. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.10

The association of Sisters of Charity is suppressed in the republic, and Jesuits are expelled and may not return. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.11

Matrimony is a civil contract and to be duly registered. The religious service may be added. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.12

Cemeteries are under civil inspection and open for the burial of all classes and creeds. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.13

No one can sign away his liberty by contract or religious vow.” GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.14

These are some of the principal laws that bear upon the subject of religion, so that in Mexico today there are no church orders except the order of the priesthood; monks and sisters of charity have all been disbanded and are not permitted there at all. I have not seen a sister of charity in Mexico in all the time that I have been there. The church has secured about two thirds of all the property in Mexico. This was confiscated, except the houses of worship, and at the present time we find soldiers quartered in the old cathedrals, and museums and libraries and all these kinds of things in the old churches. This is a much better use than they were put to one hundred years ago. GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.15

[The hour having expired the speaker postponed until a future occasion an account of the work in which he with others is engaged in the city of Guadalajara.] GCB February 13, 1895, page 135.16