“Friend to Friend,” Friend, Feb. 1996, 6
I was born in 1934 on Marinduque, an island in the heart of the Philippines. During World War II, my family lived in Bohol, where we were safe, and afterward settled on another island, Negros Oriental, where I grew up and studied law, finishing school in 1956. In 1960, I married my wife, Myrna, but it wasn’t until January 1964 that my family and I learned about the gospel.
One Sunday morning, we were sitting on the veranda when my oldest daughter, who was three years old, asked me a question that caught me by surprise. She saw some of her friends going to church in their nice clothes. “How come we don’t go to church?” she asked. At that time we weren’t attending church because my wife and I belonged to different churches and neither wanted to join the other’s church.
My daughter’s question really made me think. I was troubled because before I was married, I always went to church. That night I was inspired to kneel and seek divine guidance. I recall even saying that I would offer my life to serve the Lord.
A few days later, two young men knocked at our door and introduced themselves as messengers of the Lord. When I saw their calling cards, I remembered some things I knew about the Church. When I was young, I used to read western novels that talked about Mormon pioneers and settlements. I had also read about some members of the Church in American magazines. When we started talking about the doctrines of the Church, I was surprised to find that I already believed most of its teachings. I had read the Bible and knew that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost were three separate beings, and I felt that there must be prophets and revelation.
The elders continued to teach me for several months, but somehow I could not gain a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I had read the passages in the Book of Mormon that the missionaries marked for me, but I had trouble accepting their challenge to read the whole book.
I enjoyed having them in our home, but I had the feeling that they were getting discouraged with me. One day when they challenged me to read and pray, I felt that it would be the last challenge. I didn’t want to lose their visits, so I decided to read. This time before starting, I prayed with a real desire to know if the book was true. A miracle happened: instead of getting bored as usual, I was so interested that I couldn’t stop reading.
That night, after reading many chapters, I knew that this was the word of God. With a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon, it was then very easy for me to accept Joseph Smith as a prophet. When the missionaries returned and asked me if I wanted to be baptized, I said yes. I was baptized in November 1964. I felt the Spirit of the Lord so strongly during my baptism that I really felt reborn. Besides the covenant of baptism, I made a private covenant that I would serve the Lord all my life.
Right after I was baptized, I was called to be the first counselor in the branch Sunday School, and a few weeks later, the branch financial clerk. Through the years, I have served as branch president, stake president, and regional representative, and then mission president in the Philippines Naga Mission.
I was prepared for those callings by working with many great leaders. One of those was Monte Keller. An officer in the United States Air Force, he was stationed in the Philippines and served as branch president. I was his counselor, and he showed me what it meant to be a Church leader. He truly loved the people and spent a lot of time serving them.
Sometimes we were out late at night visiting the members. When we had work days at the chapel, he always did the hardest work. Brother Keller also showed me how to conduct meetings, organize activities, call speakers for sacrament meeting, and interview and home teach members. He taught me leadership through his example. Throughout my church service, I have tried to serve as he did.
As a leader in the Philippines, I was able to help in the planning and building of the Manila Philippines Temple. The Lord was watching over its construction. The day before the groundbreaking, a typhoon approached Manila and we feared that we would not be able to proceed. That evening at a mission conference, a missionary prayed for the weather to clear so that the groundbreaking could continue. During the night, the typhoon changed direction, and we were able to proceed the next day.
I am very grateful to be a member of the Church. I hope that you children of the Church will learn through prayer and study that the gospel and the Book of Mormon are true. My wife and I have eight children whom we have raised in the gospel. I am grateful that my oldest daughter, when she was a small child, asked me that important question. Because of her, I began to seek the truth and to serve the Lord and others. You can help your parents and families remember the Lord, as my daughter helped me.