A Friar’s New Life

    “A Friar’s New Life,” Ensign, July 2000, 58–59

    A Friar’s New Life

    As a young child living in Tacna, Peru, I remember sitting around my father’s chair with my brothers and sisters, listening to stories of Jesus Christ and the ancient prophets as my father read from the family Bible. The teachings of the Savior and the lives of the prophets made a deep impression on my life at an early age.

    Around the age of eight, I made a promise to myself to give up the things of the world and devote my life to the service of God. I knew that He loved me, and I began to seek Him to know His will for me. But at age 14, I was still confused and I wondered what direction I should take.

    During the years that followed I stayed busy, helping out in a local monastery. The superiors of the monastery observed my actions, often discussing among themselves whether I would continue my training to become a priest or be permitted to join the Franciscan order. Ultimately the decision was mine, and remembering my earlier promise to serve the Lord, I signed a deposition in court giving up my worldly goods and my inheritance.

    For many years I worked within the Franciscan order, serving and studying in many places while holding many positions of responsibility. As I learned more about the Bible through my studies and prayer, many questions arose that I could not find answers for. To help satisfy my desire for more understanding, the superiors at the monastery allowed me to attend meetings of other religions. I attended a number of Protestant churches and meetings held by traveling evangelists. Time after time, I came away dissatisfied. As my frustrations grew, I finally decided to withdraw from the order and become a civilian.

    With no inheritance and no source of income, I turned to my education from the university and entered the world of business. There I found stability and success, but it did not quench my thirst for the truth of God.

    A few years later, while vacationing in Tacna at my parents’ home, I met the Latter-day Saint missionaries. In broken Spanish they tried to tell me about the restored gospel, but I didn’t really listen to their message. I did, however, agree to meet them the next day for more interchange of ideas. Because of a mixup we did not meet the following day at their chapel. A few days later I saw them in the street and was disappointed they had not met with me when we had scheduled. With a large crowd watching, I embarrassed the young men because they had been unable to keep their appointment with me; I felt they had been discourteous. As the crowd dispersed, I realized I should have helped them in this nervous and difficult situation; I had been rude to them.

    When two new missionaries came five months later, I felt I should give them a chance and I listened to their message. I listened but still had no real interest. They left me a copy of the Book of Mormon and challenged me to read it, explaining they would return in two days to discuss it further and answer any questions I might have.

    Determined to right the wrong I had committed against the earlier missionaries and to prove these young men were deceived, I stayed up all night and read the entire book, taking 13 pages of notes on doctrinal points. When they returned in two days, they were surprised to find I had read the entire book. Many of my questions were designed to raise contention. Realizing this, the missionaries suggested I put aside my questions for now and listen to the presentation they had prepared. At the end of their visit they gave me a copy of the Doctrine and Covenants and some pamphlets, once again challenging me to read and pray about them.

    Soon after their next visit, they gave me a copy of Jesus the Christ and explained that it contained much of the information I had asked about earlier. Thinking this would be the last book I would have to read, I accepted it. As I read I was impressed by the truths contained in this book as well as the others the missionaries had brought me in subsequent visits. The more I read these books and the more I studied the scriptures to prove them wrong, the stronger the understanding came that they were true.

    At the end of each visit, the elders would tell me to pray to obtain a testimony. After reading the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, Jesus the Christ, and all of the pamphlets given me, I knew in my heart that the Church was true, but I still wanted a spiritual witness. Retiring to my room, I knelt down and asked God if the Church was true. As I opened and read from Jesus the Christ, I received a burning in my bosom that I recognized as the witness of the Holy Ghost. Again I prayed, asking if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if the Book of Mormon was true, and again He answered me. The burning in my heart continued to swell as I found answers to questions that for so many years had gone unanswered.

    My manifestations from God that the Church was true left me only one road to follow, and I was baptized along with 11 others on 6 April 1972. That day marked the end of my search and the beginning of my new life in the true Church of Jesus Christ.

    • Abel Telésforo Gonzales Rebaza is a member of the Santa Patricia Ward, Lima Peru La Molina Stake.