Missionary moments: 'We were astonished'

Our Spanish branch was created about two years ago with the usual growing pains. Our missionary effort was not going as well as we expected, so branch Pres. Kermit Smith set up a special fast day.

Soon after, a full-time Spanish-speaking missionary attempted to telephone a referral. He dialed the number, and a Spanish-speaking woman answered the phone. She said the person the missionary wanted was not at that number. The elder then told her that he had a special message to give to the Spanish-speaking people in the area. He invited her to hear a discussion and presentation, and she, surprisingly, readily accepted. The elder and his companion went and presented the first lesson.On the second visit, I, as the branch mission leader at the time, went along. Part of the lesson was to have the investigator read from the Book of Mormon. We gave the book to the husband, Ramiro. He accepted it reluctantly, and said that he never went to school in Mexico beyond the second grade and could not read well. I asked him to try and told him that I would help him with the long words. Ramiro began to read, but suddenly stopped and asked, "Who were the bad guys, the Nephites or the Lamanites?" We told him that the Nephites were the good ones. Again, he stopped and asked, "Was Lehi the father of Nephi or the other way around?" By this time, we were astonished at Ramiro's questions. If he couldn't read well, then how did he know enough to ask such pertinent questions?

He told us the following: "Because I didn't want to go back to school, my mother sent me to help a sheepherder in the southern part of the Mojave desert. One day, the sheepherder told me that the next time he went to town for groceries he would get a book, and after our chores were done, he would teach me to read. Every night we read from a book. I never knew that the book was the Book of Mormon."

Ramiro and his wife, Reynalda, were taught all the missionary discussions. They were baptized in February 1993. As soon as Ramiro received the Aaronic Priesthood, he baptized his eldest son and daughter shortly after their 8th birthdays. Ramiro and Reynalda have eight children.

About five months after Ramiro Garcia's baptism, he was killed in a work-related accident. His conversion story and my testimony served me well when I spoke at his funeral.

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