“The Saints in Estipac, Mexico,” Ensign, June 1992, 75–76
“Hóla, Presidente Robins. I’m visiting here from Fresno, California. My brother-in-law, Aurelio, is a member of the Church, baptized in Fresno, and my sister and her family want to learn about the Church. Could you send missionaries to teach them?” Thus, in 1985, missionaries were sent to Estipac, Mexico.
Fifty miles southwest of Guadalajara is a small sign on the highway indicating the turn-off for the town of Estipac. A man on horseback, a boy seated behind him, drives a herd of skinny cattle along the road. The scenery is typically Mexican: brilliant blue sky with billowy white clouds and verdant valleys with fields of corn and sugarcane ripening under the hot sun. In Estipac, the village streets are cobblestone; the houses, adobe, with pots of paper flowers lining the rooftops.
In 1985 Aurelio Valle met LDS missionaries at his door. A strong, impressive young man, his rich black hair flecked with gray, he welcomed the missionaries, as did his wife and children. Missionary tracts and the Book of Mormon were read avidly. Within weeks, Concepción Valle and her children were ready for baptism. She remarked simply, “I had a dream and I know the Church is true.”
The Valle family took seriously their new responsibility to share the gospel with their neighbors. Each time the missionaries visited, the Valles had a new family for them to teach. Aurelio eagerly attended each discussion, and the Church grew rapidly in Estipac.
The first Latter-day Saint meeting in Estipac was held in an electrical shop. Water had been sprinkled on the dirt floor to keep down the dust. A fifty-gallon oil drum draped with a white cloth served as a pulpit; a borrowed tablecloth covered the cardboard sacrament table. Twenty people attended and listened eagerly as a young missionary spoke on the Atonement.
The next Sunday, the various investigators met at the shop and found it closed without notice. But that week, a member, Nicolás Gonzalez, quietly told the missionaries, “You may use my house. I have been building two extra rooms onto my house. I don’t need the rooms. I don’t know why I was building them. But now I know—there is space there for the people.”
Brother Gonzalez—a campesino, a man of the earth—was not seeking a change in his life, but when he and his friend Ramón Garcia went to a neighbor’s home to investigate the new religion, the doctrine the missionaries preached seemed logical and important to him. He was impressed.
Two weeks after Nicolás’s baptism, former fellow workers told him and Ramón, “If you continue in this religion, no one will talk to you.” When Nicolás and Ramón did not back down, they were further threatened: “Your house will be burned down.” “Brethren,” Nicolás said, “I have been baptized and confirmed; I will not change. If you must burn the house, burn it.” The threat was not carried out. He is now president of the Sunday School and has been to the temple.
Sara Allende is another member who comes to church faithfully, with her baby in her arms and her children—two of whom were recently baptized—by her side. She feels comfortable at church, unashamed to be known as a follower.
“I have only missed one meeting since I have known the Church—when my baby was ill,” she says proudly.
Sister Valle smiles when others criticize her for being a member of the Church. “Why are you so blind?” she asks. One day she asked the missionaries about a point of doctrine. She listened carefully and then said, “That’s what I told them! I wonder at how I am blessed to answer their questions.”
The Valle children are excited about the Church and love to sing the hymns. They sit on the front row and have many of the songs memorized. Eight-year-old Edgar, recently baptized, plans to go on a mission as soon as he is old enough.
Economic conditions are difficult in Estipac. Most of the Church members work in the sugar factory, the town’s main industry. But the factory operates only six months of the year. Because few people own their own land and other work is scarce, some members must find work in Guadalajara or elsewhere when the factory closes. Still, faithful members manage well enough and give credit to the Lord.
“We don’t make any more money than we did before,” Aurelio Valle says, “but we have been blessed for paying tithing and somehow have money left over that we never had before.” Aurelio Valle now has a new home. His wife is Relief Society president, and he is branch president.
When Spain conquered Mexico in 1520, the conquistadors divided up the land by giving each designated officer all the land within eyesight. Estipac was the central point of one such parcel, and the remnants of the old hacienda that marked that spot are visible even today.
Now there is a chapel located at the outskirts of Estipac. That building, too, is a center point, an enduring one—of faith and fellowship in the restored gospel—as more than a hundred members of the Church continue to grow in the gospel and share its blessings with others.