Church History
Preaching in Peguche
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Preaching in Peguche

While visiting Otavalo in 1965, Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urged the missionaries to introduce indigenous Otavalans to the Book of Mormon without delay. As preaching began, however, the missionaries and early Latino converts met strong opposition. Rumors about the foreign missionaries spread throughout the surrounding Imbabura Highland Quichua (Kichwa) villages, and without Quichua language skills, the missionaries struggled to overcome misconceptions and the language barrier.

On a return visit to Ecuador two years later, Kimball preached among the Quichua people himself. A few Latino branch members and missionaries joined Spencer and Camilla Kimball in an open-air meeting. In the small village of Peguche, near Otavalo, a knoll near the road and railroad track crossing afforded them a natural amphitheater where buses let out many workers in the late afternoon. As local residents got off the buses, the missionaries invited them to hear from a living Apostle of Jesus Christ. Soon about 20 people gathered. As the missionaries began their meeting, the audience grew to more than 100, and then Elder Kimball rose to speak.

Translators conveyed his message in Spanish and Quichua. Kimball told of this people’s sacred ancestry and the coming of Jesus Christ to the Americas. “Of all the meetings I have ever attended,” Kimball wrote of the event, “none has ever quite eclipsed this one.” Pointing to the sky, he spoke of the sound of the still, small voice from the heavens announcing the appearance of the Son of God, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. “Every eye followed my motion to the sky,” he remembered, “as though the Savior were actually there coming through the thin clouds.” As Kimball closed his remarks, the crowd surrounded him to shake his hand. The scene left him speechless.

Missionaries continued attempts to reach native Otavalans after Kimball left. One day, two sister missionaries began teaching Rafael Tabango, telling him of a book that spoke of his covenant ancestry. Tabango felt drawn to the message but worried his struggles reading Spanish would hinder his ability to understand. He prayed, as the missionaries had taught, and in a dream saw the angel Moroni, who read portions of the Book of Mormon to him. He decided to join the Church, but he was nervous to tell others about his decision.

Cover of The Church News March 1972

Rafael and Teresa Tabango on the cover of the Church News, March 4, 1972

Tabango was baptized on July 14, 1968. That same day, he realized it would be wrong to keep quiet about his newfound faith: he would need to act as a messenger to his people. As the first native Otavalan Latter-day Saint, Tabango worked tirelessly alongside the missionaries to share the gospel in Quichua. They preached in Peguche again, sometimes visiting late into the evening. The branch grew, and in time Tabango assisted in translating the Book of Mormon into Quichua. Less than 15 years later, a stake was organized in Otavalo: the first in South America comprised almost entirely of indigenous people. Rafael Tabango was called as its first patriarch.