In 1996 Wilson Simarrón returned from his studies in Quinindé to his home among the Chachi people in the Guayacana jungle in northwestern Ecuador. He brought with him copies of the Book of Mormon and the news that he had embraced the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Centuries before, the Chachi had fled to the region to preserve their autonomy. They had been led since then by families like the Simarróns, who had won the trust of the people over generations. Wilson’s father, Virgilio Simarrón, was a Chachi governor and planned to pass the office on to Wilson someday.
As Virgilio embraced the restored gospel and worked to share it in the community, however, some accused him of creating a division among the Chachi people. Virgilio’s critics soon brought him before the communal council, hoping to force him to abandon his new faith. The council agreed with their perspective. “You will remain as our governor if you renounce the Church of Jesus Christ,” they told him, ordering him to retract all he had said in favor of the faith.
The governorship had always been important to Virgilio, but his own integrity was at stake. “I made a commitment to God,” he told the council, “and when a man makes a commitment to God, it is irretractable.” Virgilio finished in tears, but the council decided to choose another governor in his place.
After losing their family’s traditional position, the Simarróns continued their work preaching the gospel. Their efforts soon bore fruit. On May 30, 1999, 60 Chachi people were baptized in the Canandé River. Wilson later served as branch president among his people. “My ancestors have always been governors, heads of soldiers, strong warriors for the lineage of my father,” Wilson said. “I feel that all these ancestral roots still manifest in me. But now that I am a member of the Church, all that strength has become to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”