When Mario Eduardo Guzman P. opened his door to the missionaries in 1976, he opened a door to a new world.
The world he entered though his conversion to the Church was one of single-minded dedication to the gospel. His dedication led to service as branch, district and stake president, regional representative and now vice chairman of the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple committee.As vice chairman of the temple committee, he helped organize the groundbreaking ceremony held Nov. 10, 1996, at which President Gordon B. Hinckley presided. Since that time site work has started for the temple, which will be located on a hillside above Cochabamba.
As temple construction progresses, Brother Guzman and the committee will plan the open house and dedication ceremonies, as well as helping to prepare members to do temple work.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place a little more than 20 years after missionaries came to his door in 1976.
They taught the gospel to the airline executive, who had been "totally dedicated to the things of this world." Among his worldy habits was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.
"I listened to the missionaries for two months. Finally one missionary asked for my cigarettes. He took them away." The investigator stopped smoking and was baptized Feb. 21, 1976.
The first Sunday the family attended the Cochabamba 3rd Branch, he was invited to the branch president's office where he was called as a Sunday School teacher.
His first calling was nearly his last.
"I decided I would never return to Church," he said. "I was a man who understood nothing about the gospel teachings. I told them of my decision not to attend because I knew nothing of the teachings. We stayed home; our children and my wife wept and wept. Then the missionaries came by and I told them of my decision to never again attend Church. The missionaries gave me a Sunday School manual and asked me to study it and pray.
"I prayed and although I don't know why, I agreed to teach the class. On Sunday, I went to Church trembling. I gave the lesson, and one of the longtime members came up afterward and said, `Brother Guzman, never have I heard such a good lesson since I became a member of the Church.' "
But this calling was to be short-lived. In about two months he was released as Sunday School teacher and called as counselor in the branch presidency.
"Such has been my life," he said. "I have dedicated it to the Lord."
He said one of the first problems he faced was one of the most difficult. As ground operations manager for Lloyd Aero Boliviano, he was required to work on Sundays.
"All the executives worked on Sunday. No one took it off. I spoke with the president and general manager of Aero Boliviano and told him I was no longer able to work on Sundays and explained why.
"He replied that I had to work Sundays or I would be terminated. This was very difficult for me as I had 23 years with the company.
"But I accepted his decision because I loved the Lord. When I was about to resign, my superior officer asked me not to leave. He said, `You know too much about the practical operation of this business. I need your help."
The two went to the president's office and sat at his table.
"The company president listened, then he put his hands on mine and said, `Guzman, you go ahead and take Sundays off.' So I became the only executive of Lloyd Aero Boliviano who took Sundays off."
Brother Guzman said that now he is retired, "I am able to dedicate all my time to the Lord. I know with all my heart that these things are true; I have no doubt that we are engaged in the truth."
He and his wife note that all their children and grandchildren are active in the Church. The youngest grandchild will soon be baptized, and the oldest is serving a mission in Chile.
"I give you my testimony that God lives, and that President Gordon B. Hinckley, who came to Cochabamba, brought light into our lives, and we will follow him and give him our full support. We are infinitely grateful to have a temple being built in Bolivia."