“Jennie Duran,” Ensign, Nov. 1973, 60–61
“I get a strange and wonderful feeling when I realize that my veins are rich with the blood of Ephraim of the house of Joseph. I have two precious heritages,” says Jennie Duran, a convert of Spanish and Indian ancestry.
“You have great pride in your pioneer heritage, and rightfully so. So do I, because through it I received the gospel,” she adds. “However, through my forefathers, the remnant of the house of Joseph, you received what you now share with us.”
Jennie states, “Lamanite encompasses a large group of people: Mexicans, Samoans, Chicanos, Peruvians, Chileans, Uruguayians, and so forth.”
She believes that part of the responsibility of Latter-day Saints is to fulfill the Book of Mormon prophecy to be a “nursing father” to the Lamanites by providing them with leadership positions and assignments so they may prepare themselves to become “heirs in our Father’s kingdom.” She encourages members to “teach the Lamanite with love and understanding and, in return, be taught by him.” Part of this acceptance, she feels, is not making light of the Lamanite’s food, languages, or customs.
Such gospel love was shown her family by the missionaries. Jennie was raised by her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Nemecio Tafoya, in Bingham Canyon, Utah, where her grandfather first met the missionaries.
“Grandfather told the missionaries that he preferred the Book of Mormon in Spanish. Since he was leaving Utah for Santa Cruz, New Mexico, they asked for his new address and he gave it to them.
“After the move, a new book arrived for my grandfather—the Book of Mormon. He started to read it. My grandmother would toss it up into the cupboard, but my grandfather would always retrieve it. Then my grandmother began to wonder why he was so interested, so she began to read it, too.
“My grandfather loved all living things, respected them, and trusted God. So he was ready to see the missionaries when they came to our home one sunny spring day. After that, they visited us every Tuesday night for cottage meetings. Before each meeting, my grandmother would prepare a delicious supper for the elders. Dessert was lemon pie topped with whipped cream from our own cow.
“I was 12 years old, and I felt resentful about the whole situation. I felt my grandparents were being misled, but I supported them because I loved them,” Jennie explains. “I especially supported them when the principal of our parochial school threatened to expel me if my grandparents didn’t start going to church again.
“The turning point came when a missionary asked me to teach a Sunday School class. He knew how I loved school and that I wanted to become a teacher, and, of course, I agreed. The teaching manual was the Book of Mormon in story form. Some of my students were my own age, but it’s a proven fact that the teacher learns more than her students.
“So by the time my grandparents were ready to be baptized, so was I.
“After our conversion, my grandparents felt they needed an additional room, a missionary room. Grandfather made the adobes, built the room, and bought a bedroom set so that four missionaries could be lodged. The best linens were provided. Our home was literally theirs.
“Shortly after this, Grandfather started to work on the indoor plumbing so that the missionaries and Church authorities would have adequate facilities. Though my grandparents had only moderate means, they literally felt that all they owned was for the Lord’s use.”
Her grandfather impressed her with the importance of her dual heritage by taking her, shortly after her baptism, to visit relatives at the San Juan Indian Pueblo in New Mexico. As they left, he told her that one of her great-great grandfathers, Francisco Tafoya from Spain, had fallen in love with and married a lovely Pueblo maiden. In addition to this ancient family tie, he reminded her of the religious ties: “They are the Lord’s chosen people. They have remnants of the gospel and don’t even know it. A council of elders helps the chief govern the pueblo. All the harvest is stored together and distributed according to need during the winter months. This is part of the united order that lingers from untold centuries.”
“The Lord’s Church teaches that an individual must have self-esteem, a righteous pride in his family, and pride in his ancestry,” Jennie says. “I am thankful to belong to a Church where different cultures can enjoy fellowship in the house of the Lord, ‘no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens’ (Eph. 2:19) in the household of God.”