How Elder Gregorio E. Casillas has come to know that ‘working through the challenges is worth it’

Sustained as a general authority during April 2024 general conference, Elder Casillas and his wife have always raised their family to put God first

Elder Gregorio E. Casillas grew up only a few blocks from his Latter-day Saint chapel in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.

“Being born in the Church and living all of your life around the Church starts to give you a testimony, but sometimes you are too young to understand it,” Elder Casillas said, as he reflected on his new calling as a General Authority Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He smiled as he remembered growing up near that chapel in Tijuana more than 30 years before the city would have a temple of its own for local Latter-day Saints to worship and serve in.

“When the lights were on at the church, we knew there was something to do,” he said.

Map shows the location of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico in relation to Mexico and the Americas
Map showing the location of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. | Church News graphic

His mother had converted to the Church in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, before moving to Tijuana looking for work. She found work, and she met her future husband. The two married and raised their family in the city. Elder Casillas is the third of four children and was preceded by two older sisters and followed by one brother.

The family was sealed in the Los Angeles California Temple when Gregorio was 14 years old. He called it the “experience of a lifetime” because the family had prayed and fasted for a long time that his father would do what he needed to do and feel what he needed to feel for them to be sealed as a family.

He said everything he did as a young man revolved around the Church — the fun, the camping, the activities and the Sunday worship and meetings.

“We were there much more than one day each week. We were there two, three, four days each week. And we were there with all of our friends from other wards too,” he said.

Being sealed in L.A. wasn’t the first time he had been to the temple. At 12, he went to do baptisms for the dead. Attendees had to get up before sunrise and drive across the border from Mexico into the United States and drive hours to the temple. His mother encouraged him before leaving for that first trip to pray about and for those for whom he would be baptized. He said that made for a spiritual experience he wouldn’t forget.

Los Angeles California Temple. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

He later served in the Mexico Tampico Mission, where he built lifelong friendships. One of those friends wanted him to go on vacation with him shortly after they finished their missions. But Elder Casillas’ father firmly encouraged him to stay and attend an event for young single adults in the Church. Despite his initial protests, he said, he wanted to be obedient to his father’s counsel and attended the YSA event.

A young Alma Angelina Obeso Gonzalez from Mexicali, Mexico, also wasn’t extremely excited to attend the event. But her father told her it would be a great place to meet new friends and expand her social circle.

Reluctantly, each attended. While there, the two met, talked to each other, attended classes together and danced for hours.

Before the two were married, they lived 100 miles apart while he studied in Tijuana and she studied in Mexicali. In the months before their marriage, they prayed and fasted to know where to live and start their family. Elder Casillas remembers the feeling he had from the Holy Ghost.

“I remember while we were fasting, hearing the Lord say, ‘If your mountain is the Rumorosa (a large mountain between the two cities), I will take it away,’” Elder Casillas said.

The Lord cleared the path for them to be in Mexicali as the university there unexpectedly accepted him as a transfer student, he said. The two were sealed in the San Diego California Temple in June 1999.

The San Diego California Temple. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“And we met people we needed to meet. And we served in callings where we needed to serve,” he said.

They are now the parents of three sons — a journey to parenthood that was not as easy as they imagined it would be. As their parents encouraged them as children and young adults, the Casillases have put the Lord first in their marriage and in their family.

“From the time I was very little, I was taught to put God first in my life,” Elder Casillas said. “I think that is key. We always looked at what we both wanted, and we accompanied each other on the road toward our goals.”

The road to having a family included the challenges of miscarriage, finishing school, changes of employment and moving to different homes. But they agree the trials brought blessings.

“Working through the challenges is worth it,” he said.

Sister Casillas was finishing a law degree while pregnant. She graduated with honors, but her professors told her she was ruining her career by having children at that time.

“‘Everything you could have achieved is not going to happen,’” she remembered them saying. “They said that because they thought they knew what I wanted, but that wasn’t it. That wasn’t most important to me.”

She earned her degree, with their first son being born between finishing her final exams and the graduation ceremony. Elder Casillas earned his degree in civil engineering.

“While the Lord asked some difficult things of us, He was guiding us to where He needed us to be,” he said.

The family stayed focused on doing what they felt Heavenly Father needed them to do and being where He needed them to be.

“To serve the Lord, we have to be willing to leave everything,” Sister Casillas said.

For the Casillas family, that meant selling everything they owned when they left for Mexico City after Elder Casillas was called to preside over the México México City South Mission. Sister Casillas said she knew one thing for certain at that time.

“The Lord is in charge,” she said.

Elder Gregorio E. Casillas
Elder Gregorio E. Casillas | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

That attitude became important to the family and their missionaries as they served for a year and a half prior to the COVID-19 pandemic throwing them a curveball of historic proportions. And while the circumstances of their service changed during that time, their faith in Heavenly Father’s plan remained unshaken. They encouraged their missionaries to serve with the same energy but in new ways, and the missionaries responded enthusiastically.

“We saw miracles,” Elder Casillas said. “We saw things happen that wouldn’t have happened without COVID.”

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Whether it was with the individual missionaries, their collective support of each other, their parents’ responses to them serving under unprecedented challenges, or the new ways in which they labored to share the gospel with others, the Casillas said they saw miracles in many aspects of missionary service during that time.

“We learned how much the Lord loves His children,” she said.

Elder Casillas said that through all of their challenges and blessings, they saw a pattern weaved throughout the family’s life together.

“When we put God first, all the other things find their place. It requires a little bit of faith and a little bit of action, and then the Lord extends His hand to bless us.”

The Tijuana Mexico Temple | Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Continuing to put God first, Elder Casillas said, has helped him to have a strong testimony of the principles of the gospel that he hopes to continue to learn from and teach about as a General Authority Seventy.

“Jesus Christ lives. I know that He was resurrected from the dead and that He lives. It is through His infinite Atonement that we will be able to live again after we die, that we will be able to meet all of our loved ones that have died and that we will be able to have eternal life with Him. I know that He lives. I know that He loves me. I know that He loves you and that He is the Son of God, my Savior and Redeemer.”


Family: Born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on Aug. 26, 1975, to Gregorio Casillas Diaz and Maria Ascención Bueno Murillo. Sealed to Alma Angelina Obeso Gonzalez on June 25, 1999, in the San Diego California Temple. They are the parents of three children.

Employment: Worked as the Mexico Area temple facilities manager for the Church at the time of his calling. Previously, he worked as a project manager for several construction companies and for the Church as a temple engineer.

Education: Degree in civil engineering from the Autonomous University of Baja California in 2002 and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Xochicalco University in 2024.

Church service: Area Seventy, president of the México México City South Mission, stake president, bishop, ward Young Men president and full-time missionary in the México Tampico Mission.

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