Elder Patricio M. Giuffra was 4 years old when his father died of cancer. As a result, he grew up questioning God and wondering why life was so unfair.
“My father was a good husband, father and provider,” Elder Giuffra recalled thinking. “Why did he have to die?”
Answers and understanding came about a decade later when 14-year-old Patricio and his mother met missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and accepted the gospel.
“The plan of salvation gave me hope because I understood the purpose,” he said.
From the time he was baptized, the gospel of Jesus Christ has anchored Elder Giuffra’s life.
“The Church has been my life,” he said. “I feel like I’ve always belonged to the Church.”
Patricio Mauricio Giuffra Vargas was born in Valparaíso, Chile, on April 6, 1962, to Lazaro Dante Giuffra Riffo and Olga Rosa Vargas Canales. He was the youngest of 13 children (two died) and grew up in the coastal city of Valparaíso.
Elder Giuffra’s grandfather emigrated from Italy to Chile as a young man with strong devotion to another Christian faith. But when the health of Elder Giuffra’s father began to fail and he was about to succumb to cancer, Lazaro Giuffra told his wife he no longer believed in that faith.
“My father prepared the way for us to join the Church,” Elder Giuffra said.
While searching for answers to his questions, Elder Giuffra became curious about other religions and began visiting churches as a teenager. He felt something in his life was missing, although he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.
One day in 1976, young Patricio saw two American missionaries — “those two gringos,” as Elder John Messerly and Elder Chris Osorio were called — visiting a neighbor’s home. He later inquired about them and learned they were missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I want to know about your church,” Elder Giuffra told them.
The missionaries taught the Giuffra family about Jesus Christ and related the account of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in the first meeting. Elder Giuffra’s mother felt the message was true and told her family they needed to listen.
As they continued to meet, the missionaries answered Elder Giuffra’s questions and introduced them to the local Latter-day Saint congregation, where they felt welcomed. Elder Giuffra and his mother were baptized three weeks later on Sept. 12, 1976.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation really came to my life in the time that I needed it,” he said.
One of the special moments of Elder Giuffra’s life happened in 1989, when he was sealed to his parents and deceased siblings in the Ogden Utah Temple. After the ordinance, his mother whispered to him, “I felt your father’s presence.” Elder Giuffra’s memories of his father are limited, but he has faith that he will see him again one day.
Five years after his baptism, Elder Giuffra knew he needed to serve a mission; still his mother struggled with letting her youngest child leave her. She preferred he attend a local university and continue his education.
Elder Giuffra prepared and paid to take the university entrance exam — but never took it.
“I was hiding that information from her,” he said. “I was doing my mission paperwork with the bishop.”
Inevitably the day came when Elder Giuffra and his bishop sat down with his mother for an honest discussion. The bishop persuaded Elder Giuffra’s mother to let her son serve a mission.
“The bishop was prepared,” said Elder Giuffra, who viewed his bishop as a great man and father figure. “He helped her understand it was the right thing for me to do.”
Elder Giuffra was called to serve in the Chile Osorno Mission in 1981. Interestingly, his stake president, Fernando Caballero, was later called to be his mission president.
Elder Giuffra said his mission experience prepared him for life and future service in the Church. He likes to tell young people not to think twice about “enrolling in the Lord’s university.”
“It taught me discipline. It taught me how to improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father. It taught me that the gospel really changes people’s lives. It taught me there is hope and there is faith,” he said. “I saw miracles.”
Following his mission, Elder Giuffra wanted to continue his education at Brigham Young University. He had studied English in high school and practiced with several American mission companions, but he wasn’t accepted right away. Instead he found himself in BYU’s English as a Second Language program.
For a while, Elder Giuffra lived with Robert and Lola Smith, a Latter-day Saint couple in the Provo, Utah, area. Every morning they read the English scriptures together. The Chilean college student said he watched a lot of cartoons and news programs while also attending English-speaking wards for additional practice. Eventually, he met the necessary requirements and was admitted to BYU. Learning English has been a great blessing in his life, he said.
“If I am in the States, I need to learn the culture,” Elder Giuffra said. “I’ve got to love the place where I am. That helped me.”
Before starting his Master of Business Administration program, the 30-year-old traveled home to Chile to visit his family. His stake president invited him to attend a meeting where a missionary was speaking. He arrived to find the meetinghouse packed and sat in the back, but not before a young woman sitting near the front caught his eye. Afterwards the stake president greeted Elder Giuffra and said he had a young woman he wanted him to meet. The stake president then introduced Elder Giuffra to the very young woman he had noticed earlier. Before he returned to Utah they went on a double date, and the young woman even came to see him off at the airport.
“Who’s that?” his mother asked him before he boarded his flight.
“Just a friend,” Elder Giuffra said. “Mom was worried. I was still her baby.”
The young woman’s name was Maria Eugenia Gonzalez Olmos. She had joined the Church at age 16 in Antofagasta, Chile, before her family moved to Valparaíso. In time, her family became less active, but Maria and her sister remained active, thanks to good Young Women leaders.
“The gospel changed my life,” Sister Giuffra said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the gospel.”
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Maria was 24 years old and close to completing her university degree in oceanography when she met Elder Giuffra.
After he returned to Utah, they continued their relationship through long-distance phone calls. They hadn’t known each other very long when they mutually decided to fast and pray about marriage. Elder Giuffra had met Maria’s mother, but not her father, when he called to ask permission to marry her.
“He said it was fine. … It was love and faith,” Elder Giuffra said of their unique courtship.
The couple was married in the Santiago Chile Temple on Dec. 23, 1992. Following the wedding, the newlyweds flew to Utah, where Elder Giuffra continued his graduate program. He finished in 1994, and they returned to Chile to raise their family, pursue a career and serve in the Church.
Decades later, Elder and Sister Giuffra can look back and see the Lord’s hand in their lives and see how he has prepared them for his calling as a General Authority. They expressed gratitude for the lessons learned and want to use their knowledge and experience to bless others.
“The gospel is everything. It’s our life, the meaning for why we do things,” Elder Giuffra said. “We don’t know any other way.”
Family: Born in Valparaíso, Chile, on April 6, 1962. Son of Lazaro Dante Giuffra Riffo and Olga Rosa Vargas Canales. Married Maria Eugenia Gonzalez Olmos on Dec. 23, 1992, in the Santiago Chile Temple; they are the parents of four children.
Education: Received Bachelor of Science degrees in marketing and translation/interpretation in 1990 and a Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in marketing and operations in 1994, both from Brigham Young University.
Employment: Lumber buyer and Materials Manager for Woodgrain Millwork (1994-1996), sales manager and operations manager for Alvenius Chilena (1996-1998), general manager at Carbotech Chile (1998-1999) and a general manager at Arcotex S.A. (2000 to present time).
Church service: Area Seventy (2015-2020), stake president, bishop, stake Young Men president, stake executive secretary and full-time missionary in the Chile Osorno Mission.