Elder Joaquin Esteban Costa has a message he wants to share with all people: Studying the Book of Mormon is the best way to know Jesus Christ.
Two days after he was sustained as a General Authority Seventy during the Saturday afternoon session of the 186th Annual General Conference, Elder Costa and his wife, Renée Valera Costa, told the Church News of how the Book of Mormon became one of the most important elements in their lives.
When he was a 21-year-old university student in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a friend introduced him to Renée Varela. She hesitated before accepting a date with Joaquin because he was not a member of the Church but eventually agreed to go on one date. That date led to others. By the time they had gone on their fourth date, she decided she “liked him too much” and told him she felt they shouldn’t date anymore. At the end of the school year, they went to their homes in different parts of Argentina.
He said, “She received a mission call; I received a marriage call.” It had been, he said, love at first sight for him.
After she completed her mission and returned to Buenos Aires, their matchmaking friend, Alin Spannaus — now an Area Seventy — arranged for her and Joaquin to attend the same party, at which Joaquin asked her for a date.
“I prayed and decided to give him a chance,” Sister Costa said, “but I set a deadline in mind, that if he wasn’t interested in the Church we would break up. Before the deadline, he proposed. He still wasn’t a member of the Church. I said ‘No.’ I explained that I wanted to marry in the temple, that I wanted a husband who could bless my children. He thought I was crazy. He complained and said, “I don’t mind that you’re a Mormon. Why are you concerned that I’m a Catholic?’ I explained about the priesthood.”
Elder Costa said, “At first, I was upset. But I began talking to my LDS friend. I took the missionary discussions with the idea that I could prove to her that I could learn about the Church and understand it — and prove her wrong.”
“He never expected he would receive a testimony,” Sister Costa said.
“I was not progressing in the discussions with the elders,” Elder Costa explained. “She came to me with tears in her eyes and asked me to pray about the Book of Mormon from the beginning to the end. I had never read it with real intent.”
“He didn’t make it to the end before he received a strong testimony,” Sister Costa said. “He didn’t get baptized just to please me.” After he was baptized, they dated another year and then married in the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple in 1989.
Elder Costa said, “On the day before I got baptized, my father called me and said, ‘Your grandmother (who was around 80) will not like this. Wait for her to pass away.’ I told him ‘I’m sure this is what I have to do.’ My grandmother later thanked me because I read the scriptures and prayed.”
Sister Costa said that his family became very supportive. “After he became a bishop, his mother said to me, ‘I think he’s always been a Mormon because he has always been the good boy. In his heart he was being a Mormon.’ I think she was saying that being Mormon was being good.”
Elder Costa received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1987 from the University of Buenos Aires. As a young couple they moved to Provo, Utah, where he received a master of business administration degree in 1994 from Brigham Young University. They and their growing family, which includes four children, lived in Chicago, Illinois, as he worked for Citibank. His banking career took his family back to Argentina for a few years and then to the Czech Republic and to the Sultanate of Oman. For the past two years, he and his family have lived in Lima, Peru, where he has been working with Maj, a Danish investment firm focused on microfinance.
While living internationally, Elder and Sister Costa and their children had the opportunity to live in large wards and small branches, and to serve in ways they never thought possible. They cite their experience in the Czech Republic as an example. Neither spoke Czech, but he was called to serve as a counselor in a branch presidency and she was called as the Primary music leader.
While they lived for two years in the Czech Republic, Elder Costa’s work took him on business trips throughout that country and to Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. “Then I received the invitation to go to the Sultanate of Oman. We made dearest friends in a very small branch in Salalah. For a while, sacrament meeting was in our house. It is amazing how the Lord knows details of your life and blesses you in different situations.”
Their children were the only young men and young women in the branch. “Our kids loved that branch,” Sister Costa said. “The best leaders were called to Young Men, Young Women and seminary. Our son had a teacher just for him in early morning seminary.”
Elder Costa said, “Everywhere we’ve gone our family grew stronger in the Church.”
After they left Oman, they went back to Buenos Aires for four years. They had been living in Lima, Peru, for two years at the time he was called as a General Authority Seventy.
Elder Costa said that he and Sister Costa have learned that “the gospel is simple. Just try to be the best you can. When you make a decision to serve, you get a calling and then another calling. You keep saying ‘Yes.’ The gospel has blessed our lives, and the lives of our children. We just try to live simple gospel principles and what the Book of Mormon teaches.”
Family: Born March 8, 1965, in Concordia, Entre Rios, Argentina, to Graciela M. Fassi and Eduardo J. Costa. Married Renée Varela in the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple on Sept. 29, 1989. They are the parents of two sons and two daughters.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1987, and master’s in business administration, Brigham Young University, 1994.
Employment: Worked in the banking industry in Argentina, the Czech Republic and the Sultanate of Oman in the Middle East. At the time of his call as a General Authority, he was working in Lima, Peru, with MAJ Invest. His duties focused on microfinance.
Church service: He has served as a bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, counselor in a mission presidency and an Area Seventy.