The Mexican Revolution impacted every Mexican, and that included the Mexican Latter-day Saints, some of whom did their best to stay out of the conflict, some of whom became casualties of war, and some of whom joined in the revolution.
At times I have wondered why the Savior cried when He saw Mary anguished by the death of her brother, Lazarus, even though He knew that He had the power to raise Lazarus and that very soon He would use this power to rescue His friend from death. I am amazed by the Savior’s compassion and empathy for Mary; He understood the indescribable pain that Mary felt at the death of her brother, Lazarus.
We feel that same intense pain when we experience the temporary separation from our loved ones. The Savior has perfect compassion for us. He doesn’t fault us for our shortsightedness nor for being limited in visualizing our eternal journey. Rather, He has compassion for our sadness and suffering.
This is part 15 of a history series in connection with the Mexican Mission Hymns project.
This is the second in a trilogy of posts on the Mexican Revolution within the larger framework of the overarching history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico. The first laid out the groundwork of the Revolution. This one focuses on the experiences of Mexican Latter-day Saints during the Revolution. A third one will focus on the experiences of the colonies in the north. But, as mentioned, this will focus on the different experiences of a few Latter-day Saints during the Revolution.
Andrés Carlos González: First Mexican Mormon Missionary
Missionary work slowed and suffered during the Revolution. One of the brave missionaries who continued to proselytize even during the war was Andrés Carlos González. He was the first Mexican Latter-day Saint to serve as a full-time missionary and started his mission in August of 1910, which was focused on Mexico City. He had been living in Colonia Dublán, Chihuahua, Mexico with his wife, Minnie Myrtle Spencer, before his call. (And, as a side note related to the hymnbook, Manrique González was his older brother.)
Andrés González’s efforts and trials resulted in one of the most beloved Spanish hymns in our hymnals. As the revolution raged through its first phase, Andrés focused on smaller towns where Catholicism dominated. Knowing that Protestants tended to be more likely to listen to their message (having already chosen to reject Catholicism), he and his companion thought they would be able to attract more attention by singing a popular Protestant hymn known as “In the Sweet By and By.” They were soon arrested for “stealing” the Protestants’ song. While in jail, worrying that they might “disappear” (as so many had during the Revolution), González wrote different lyrics to the tune. When the missionaries were released from prison the next day, they went out and sang “Placentero nos es trabajar” on the street corner. As the police came to arrest them for singing “In the Sweet By and By” again, Andrés exclaimed that: “You can’t take us to jail. It’s not the same song.”
On another occasion, Elder González had other troubles. One day, he and his companion were captured by Zapata loyalists and accused of being spies from an opposing faction. They were released, but had an even closer encounter with Madero’s troops later that day. Also suspecting them of being spies, the soldiers lined them up against a wall and prepared to execute them. But, taking some inspiration from Abinadi in the Book of Mormon, González shouted out that “You can’t touch us, we have not delivered the message the Lord sent us to deliver to Francisco Madero, the president of the Republic of Mexico!” According to one account:
Miraculously they were taken to see him. They explained to him the Book of Mormon and told him about Christ’s visit to the Americas and that the people in Mexico were descendants of those people who received Christ. This interested Madero and he said that he believed it. …
Madero asked where Andrés was from and I think he said Monclova, Coahuila. Madero said that he had a [Juan] Francisco González as his teacher growing up, and Andrés said that he was his father. Madero gave him a big abrazo [hug] and they were ready-made “compadres”. Madero gave Andrés a paper stating that no one should molest the missionaries but it was short-lived because Madero was killed a short while later.
Francisco Madero was a key figure in launching the Revolution in the first place, but was overthrown by Victoriano Huerta in February 1913. Luckily, Andrés Carlos González was released in August of 1912, and returned home to the north before that happened. Though, he found that life had changed dramatically in the colonies when he got back there (but that’s a story for another day).
The most famous martyrdom of a Latter-day Saint in Mexico happened during the Mexican Revolution. The story is told more fully in Saints 3, so I’ll summarize the key points of the story and let people follow the link to read a more thorough version of the story.
In the city of San Marcos, Rafael Monroy (a recent and well-to-do convert) served as the president of a branch of around forty Saints (among whom were his mother, Jesusita, and wife, Guadalupe). Rafael was neutral in the war, but maintained friendly relations with the regime of Venustiano Carranza that ruled in the region at that time (and would eventually win out in the Mexican Revolution). In July of 1915, however, Zapatistas captured the village and began to make demands for resources for their army. While they occupied the village, a neighbor named Andres Reyes (who was resentful of the Monroys for abandoning the Catholic church and supporting others in doing the same) began to spin stories of the Monroys being members of the Carrancista army who were hiding a cache of weapons. Taking this seriously, the Zapatistas arrested Rafael Monroy and his employee and counselor, Vicente Morales, and began interrogating them about the weapons cache. When Rafael and Vicente declared their innocence and neutrality, however, the soldiers did not believe and threatened: “If you do not give us your weapons, we will hang you from the highest tree.”
The Zapatistas were insistent that the cache of weapons existed, even though they faced repeated denials and were unable to find anything of the sort in the Monroy store and home. So, they continued to press harder, arresting Guadalupe and her two sisters. They also tortured Rafael and Vicente, hanging them from a tree until they passed out, reviving them, and then doing it again. During the process, the soldiers told them that if they would abandon their religion and join the Zapatistas, they would go free. “My religion is dearer to me than my life,” Rafael said, “and I cannot forsake it.”
As shared in Saints:
Back at the store, the rebels kept up their search for weapons. Jesusita and Guadalupe insisted there were no weapons. “My son is a peaceful man!” Jesusita said. “If it weren’t so, do you think that you would have found him in his home?” When the soldiers again demanded to see the family’s weapons, the Monroys held out copies of the Book of Mormon and Bible.
“Those aren’t weapons,” the rebels said. …
Later, Jesusita brought her children food. Before she left, Rafael handed her a letter he had written to a Zapatista captain he knew, seeking his help to prove his innocence. Jesusita took the letter and went looking for the captain. The Monroys and Vicente then blessed their meal, but before they could eat, they heard the clatter of footsteps and weapons outside the door. The soldiers called for Rafael and Vicente, and the two men exited the room. At the door, Rafael asked Natalia to come out with him, but the guards pushed her back inside.
The sisters looked at one another, their hearts pounding. Silence settled over them. Then gunshots split the night.
Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales were executed by Zapatistas. While the incident has a lot of political context that affected how things played out, nationalist support for the Catholic church and opposition to the American-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were strongly mixed into the whole scenario.
Zapatista Latter-day Saints
Other Latter-day Saints had more positive experiences with the Zapatista faction. The major platform of Emiliano Zapata was the end of large land ownership, village control over ejidal lands expropriated during the Porfiriato and a guarantee of inalienability for peasant land holdings. Many of his followers had been influenced by the ideas of our old friend Plotino Rhodakanaty, as had some of the Latter-day Saints who lived in the region. During 1916, major battles occurred in Ozumba, Amecameca, Atlautla, Tecalco, and other nearby regions where Latter-day Saints lived. These Mexican Latter-day Saints found refuge in Tecomaxusco within the barracks of Zapatista Gregorio S. Rivero, a brigadier general in the army. This built the trust of Latter-day Saints in the region and led to some of them enlisting in the Zapatista army, where they found tolerance and respect for their religious beliefs and practices.
The policies that Zapata supported were appealing to indigenous Mexicans, who had largely been dispossessed of their land and resources during the Spanish colonization. Venustiano Carranza’s platform was not seen as radical enough to really enact the political and economic emancipation of indigenous Mexicans, so these Latter-day Saints felt that they were justified in fighting the Carrancista army. They even cited Captain Moroni’s title of liberty in support of that decision (“in memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”). Luz Bautista (Juana and Margarito’s father) declared outright that Emiliano Zapata was a man of God (“un hombre de dios”) whose cause was just and has the blessing of the Creator (“es justa y tiene la bendición del creador”). These experiences led to a strong sense of nationalism and a somewhat radicalization of the political activism of these Latter-day Saints, something that would affect later interactions with church leaders from the United States.
Mexican Latter-day Saints experienced a variety of circumstances during the harrowing events of the Mexican Revolution. Some continued their work as missionaries and faced challenges from different factions. Many died in the war, including Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales. And some actively participated in the war, such as the Mormon revolutionaries in Zapata’s army. The experiences were important in shaping the lives and future of these members of the Church.
 Moisés Villanueva, “Favored of the Lord in All My Days,” CR October 2021, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/10/28villanueva.p16?lang=eng
 “Mexico: Church Chronology,” Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/global-histories/mexico/mx-chronology?lang=eng.
 See “Spanish Hymns and the Future Hymnbook,” Chad Nielsen, Times and Seasons, April 5, 2019, http://archive.timesandseasons.org/2019/04/spanish-hymns-and-the-future-hymnbook/
 See John A Gonzalez, “Elder Gonzalez: First Mexican Missionary,” in No More Strangers and Foreigners: The Melding of Cultures Against the Backdrop of Deep Religious Faith (Independently Published, 2019), 45-68.
 “An Experience from Andres C. Gonzalez’ Mexico Mission,” Family Search.
 Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 3: Boldly, Nobly, and Independent, 1893–1955 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2022), 172-178,
 See Elisa Eastwood Pulido, The Spiritual Evolution of Margarito Bautista: Mexican Mormon Evangelizer, Polygamist Dissident, and Utopian Founder, 1878–1961 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), 163-164.