Church History
A Taxi Driver and a Prominent Hill

Stories of Faith

A Taxi Driver and a Prominent Hill

In 1963 Gonzalo Baquero was a taxi driver for the Hotel Quito, a distinguished hotel in Ecuador’s capital, when two Latter-day Saint men approached him. A. Theodore Tuttle, the General Authority supervisor over South America, and Sterling Nicolaysen, the president of the Andes Mission, needed Baquero to guide them to government offices. During their drives, the two asked about a prominent hill visible from nearly all parts of town and known locally as the Panecillo. Baquero brought them to the top to look out over the city. Both leaders believed the time was right to open Ecuador to missionary work, but the legal process would take some time.

Tuttle returned months later, this time with his wife and another couple whom he introduced to his taxi-driver friend as Spencer and Camilla Kimball. Baquero learned Spencer was an Apostle and had come to Ecuador to accelerate the registration of the Church with the government. The Kimballs befriended the taxi driver immediately, enjoying short excursions with him to the equator monument, the hillsides of Quito, and an indigenous market. As they parted, the Kimballs insisted Baquero write, and they exchanged mailing addresses. At Christmastime, Baquero sent them a holiday card.

That December, Baquero also met future Apostle Boyd K. Packer and drove him and Tuttle to the Panecillo. Baquero watched as the two men reverently took photographs—and he learned they had already envisioned a day when a temple would be built in Quito.

Nearly a year later, Baquero’s friend Elder Kimball returned, this time with other leaders and the first four missionaries assigned to Ecuador. The government had given sanction to the Church, and the group had come to observe a sacred apostolic responsibility—Kimball would pray for the nation of Ecuador and dedicate the land for the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of Zion.

Elder Kimball with Baquero and others, 1964

Gonzalo Baquero (center) with Spencer W. Kimball and others during their tour of Ecuador, 1964

Kimball did not hesitate to include Baquero. Over the next two days, Baquero and another taxista drove Kimball and the missionaries to possible preaching sites as far as Otavalo, about four hours north. Baquero watched Kimball interact with local people and teach a young man during a shoeshine about the Book of Mormon and the heritage of the Otavalan people that linked them to an ancient American prophet. He drove them back to Quito and, in the early evening, up to the Panecillo. A light rain fell, deterring tourists, but one local family lingered. Kimball invited them and the two taxi drivers to huddle together with the Latter-day Saints for the dedicatory prayer.

Baquero listened as this Apostle spoke of the long wait some in this very circle had endured in receiving the gospel message and of Ecuador representing a special opening of covenants to descendants of Lehi. When the prayer closed, Kimball pleaded with Baquero and the family to join the Church.

Baquero and his family welcomed the missionaries’ teachings. Less than three weeks later, he packed his taxi with other early converts and drove about an hour to a recreation center. One by one they entered a swimming pool that was used as a baptismal font and were baptized, fulfilling Kimball’s prediction that Baquero should be among the first Ecuadorian members of the Church.