Elder Valeri Vladimir Cordón: A strong gospel foundation

A strong gospel foundation instilled at home saw Valeri Vladimir Cordon through life’s challenges, beginning at age 15 when he went away from home to attend school

From his mother, Elder Valeri Vladimir Cordón gained a gospel foundation that served him well when he moved 150 kilometers away from his hometown, Zacapa, Guatemala, to attend high school in Guatemala City, never to return to live there.

Elder Cordón was sustained as a General Authority Seventy at the 2016 general conference in April.

“The most important thing I received from my mother was to be very reverent about all the sacred things of the Church,” recalled Elder Cordón, who is a son of Ovido and Ema Orellana Cordón.

“And she gave us this feeling in almost all the things that we did in our house,” he said. “At the dinner table, she would insist we have prayer before we touched our food.

“And, of course, she was always singing the sacred hymns of the Church. That was the way she gave us most of the knowledge that we had about the gospel.” Among their favorites were the Primary songs “I Am a Child of God,” and “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission.”

The message seemed to impact the family of three brothers and two sisters, as four out of the five grew up to serve missions; the youngest sister married in the temple before she had an opportunity to serve a mission. And recently, the mother served a full-time mission at the Guatemala City Guatemala Temple, thus sustaining the family tradition of service to the Lord.

At one point in their lives, Elder Cordón and his two brothers were all serving as stake presidents in different places at the same time.

Elder Cordón was born to convert parents. “My mom became a member of the Church when she was 16,” he said, “When they married, my father was not a member; he joined the Church a couple of years later.”

That would happen after he moved away to work in Chicago in the United States. There, he was influenced by strong Church members and was baptized. A year later, the family was sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple, when Valeri was 3 years old.

The father served for years as a district president and counselor in the mission presidency in Guatemala to President Carlos H. Amado, who is now an emeritus General Authority Seventy.

President Amado would be a strong influence in young Valeri’s love for the gospel, answering his thirst for knowledge with words of wisdom.

The Cordón home in Zacapa was “operations center” for mission training when President Amado and other mission officers would come to the branch, arriving early in the morning, taking meals at the home, and leaving in the afternoon after the training sessions and other business of the mission had been accomplished.

“So I would say from my father I gained a motivation to work diligently in the Church,” he reflected.

His mother was trained as a schoolteacher, but applied her skills in the home, teaching the children to read and write before they ever entered public school. At age 15, it was time for him to attend high school in Guatemala City, where he nurtured a love for computer science.

Living with other students who boarded with a family, he applied the teaching he had received at home to keep the Sabbath day holy.

“That kept me out of trouble,” he said. He found himself alone on Sunday afternoons. He would remain in his white shirt and tie throughout the day and would pass the time by staying at the meetinghouse, listening to whatever meeting was going on there and soaking up the knowledge.

Elder Cordón served in the El Salvador San Salvador Mission from 1987 to 1989, then returned to Guatemala where years later he met his wife-to-be, Glenda Zelmira Zea.

She had joined the Church at age 9, having been influenced by her uncle who was LDS and talked often about the Church.

When she was 13, her mother moved to the United States, and she remained in Guatemala, where she stayed with other relatives who were not members of the Church.

In that household she was criticized for reading the scriptures, so she would do it in secret, often hiding amid the plants in a coffee plantation behind the house so she could do it unseen.

At age 16, she obtained her patriarchal blessing and began to prepare to serve a mission.

Those plans would be diverted however, when, at age 19, she met Elder Cordón, who had returned from his mission. They became acquainted at a young single adult activity.

Months before meeting him, Sister Cordón recounted, she had confided to the Lord in prayer that the only thing that might keep her from serving a mission would be if the opportunity came to start a family with the right man.

After they had started dating, she would recognize him from a picture she, as a 12-year-old, had seen in the local edition of the Church magazine Liahona. He was pictured with other young men in the Church, his cousins, and she picked him out as the most handsome among them, never dreaming that one day he would be her husband.

They were married in the temple in Guatemala City and were blessed to rear three daughters. Meanwhile he completed his education, including an MBA at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and pursued a successful career as an information systems director for multinational corporations.

“We have tried to keep the same good traditions that I received from my family,” Elder Cordón said. “We have conversations about the Church, about God, about the gospel, almost every day with our daughters.”

From an early age, the Cordón daughters have been nurtured by their parents with a determination to lead pure lives in preparation for eventual marriage in the temple.

“We have talked to them line upon line, each according to her age and comprehension,” Elder Cordón said, “until now we can have very open conversations with them.

“I would say that having had those earlier conversations has made everything easier.”

Sister Cordón added that they have found that small decisions made early on can have profound influence for good later on.

Biographical information:

Family: Born Feb. 19, 1969, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Ovido Cordón and Ema Orellana. Married Glenda Zelmira Zea Diaz on March 25, 1995, in the Guatemala City Guatemala Temple. They are the parents of three daughters.

Education: Received bachelor’s degree in information systems from Mariano Galvez University in Guatemala City, Guatemala, 2010; MBA degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, 2012.

Employment: Information systems director, Pepsico Central America Caribbean, 2012-2016; information systems director, GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company, 1995-2011.

Church service: Area Seventy in Central America Area, 2013-2016; counselor in presidency of Costa Rica Jose East Mission, 1998-2016; former stake president, high priests group leader, bishop, high councilor, elders quorum president, institute teacher, seminary teacher; missionary in El Salvador San Salvador Mission, 1987-1989.

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