Elders Russell M. Nelson and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced the change personally during a meeting at the school on Tuesday January 29th. Although Elder Nelson cited the recent surge in missionary applications as a result of the reduction in age requirements for full-time LDS missionaries, he said the decision was also prompted by the success of 18-year-old missionaries called from Mexico since 1999. The lower 18-year-old age limit for male missionaries called from outside the United States has actually been in force since 1999.
Elder Holland noted the sadness felt by students and families at the announced closure of the school, which was established in 1964 and has been an important educational and cultural resource for Mexican Latter-day Saints, with some 23,000 graduates during its 49-year history, but explained that its new role would be more significant, considering that it will eventually become the Church's second largest MTC. Very little modification will be necessary since it's described as a miniature BYU, with most necessary amenities already in place. There is currently a small MTC adjacent to the Mexico City Temple, but its disposition has not been decided.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the LDS Church chooses not to operate a parochial school network. At one time, the Church owned more than 100 private schools around the world; now only 16 remain, to include two in Fiji, one in Kiribati, one in Mexico (besides Benemerito), four in Samoa, and eight in Tonga. Instead, the LDS Church prefers to supplemental normal education with one hour of seminary for high school students each day. In the Mormon heartland of Utah and southeast Idaho, release-time during the school day is authorized; elsewhere, LDS students attend seminary either before or after school. It's probably just as well the LDS Church stay out of the parochial school business considering how intrusive and rapacious civil rights bureaucracies are trying to force political correctness on other private schools around the United States; the Church won't have to expend valuable time and resources defending against lawsuits by activists who want abortion included in the health care plans for teachers under Obamacare or by other activists who would want to force them to accept openly-gay students. More information about the seminary and institute program is available HERE.
A complete list of the 15 MTCs currently in operation is provided HERE. This list includes the small MTC currently adjacent to the Mexico City Temple.
Reaction: A short post has been published by The Millennial Star. Several informative comments extracted from the media sources are published below:
doingmybest upland, CA 4:48 p.m. Jan. 30, 2013 (Deseret News):
When I served my mission 1969-1971, we used to take investigators so they could see an example of the church's interest in education.
Students, many new members and some investigators (who would soon become members) would work there to pay for their studies at Benemerito de Las Americas, and would send whatever was left from their earnings to help their families.
Students lived there and each house would be operated by a Mom and Dad and everyone living church principles...It was no ordinary high school.
The church also operated a fine accredited Teacher Training School there (Escuela Normal) and those teachers would go on to teach at all of the church schools throughout the country.
It's a sad day, mixed feelings about the closing.Wish they could have continued to do both a missionary and the "high School". But we believe we are guided by The Lord and His Prophet in these decisions and we respect the decisions made.
Poqui moqui posted 8 hours ago (KSL Channel 5):
The LDS Church built primary and secondary schools in locations where the local education was below world standard and there was a significant number of LDS members living in the area. As the level of education in these countries has risen, the LDS Church has closed these schools. The goal is to eventually close all of these schools because the level of local education is risen to an acceptable standard. Closing the school is a compliment to the level of education in Mexico City. Mexico is coming of age.
hispanaspa posted 8 hours ago (KSL Channel 5):
We all that live the experience to be part of the Benemerito de las Americas we can tell that was our best time in our life and was our celestial home were we learn to live the gospel and learn also science, art and another disciplines but we can said that we have the best friends in our life LDS friends who are always there to help us no matter what. Some of them are serving in stakes, 70'S and have a higher education because the Benemerito and also the best citizen in the country we all feel sad because we are no going to be able to send our children there and also because some of us never have the opportunity to be there after school done Some best memories of my life are with this school.
jp posted 6 hours ago (KSL Channel 5):
El Benemerito! We used to call it "El Beni" I served in the Mexico City North mission from 90-92 and at the time we were the smallest geographical mission in the world (if I remember correctly). Because of that, the whole mission got together on 1 Monday per month called "superlunes" (super Monday). We would play all sorts of sports (soccer, basketball,etc) and have lunch provided by the mission. Totally memorable times that I miss. It is too bad however that the kids will not be able to attend that wonderful school anymore. However, in the HASTENING of the work, they will now be attending other schools locally and hopefully setting good examples and spreading the work there.