“I am ready to go back,” mission president Rey Lucero Pratt said after returning to Salt Lake City from Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. But his wish was not granted; Pratt could only write and encourage local leaders he’d called to guide the Saints through the conflict.
Among them was Rafael Monroy, a convert Pratt had called to preside over Church meetings in San Marcos. Monroy’s extended family worked actively to care for the Saints as the conflict around them deepened. The Monroys offered housing and jobs to Saints from other towns whose lives were disrupted by the fighting and purchased land as a possible place of refuge for Saints who had fled northern Mexico. They continued to preach the restored gospel, even as neighbors criticized them for leaving the country’s traditional Catholic faith, boycotted their shop, and marked their home with graffiti.
In 1915 Zapatista fighters wrested control of San Marcos from Venustiano Carranza’s Constitutionalists. Fueled by suspicion of their faith, rumors spread that the Monroys kept a secret supply of weapons in their shop. Soldiers soon arrested Rafael Monroy, his sisters Guadalupe, Natalia, and Jovita, and his cousin’s husband, Vicente Morales. They hung Rafael from a tree and beat him, insisting that he surrender his hidden cache of weapons, but he had no weapons to give them.
Rafael’s mother, Jesucita, begged the soldiers to release her children. When asked about the rumored weapons, she offered them her scriptures, saying their only weapons “were the Bible and the Book of Mormon.” The soldiers, however, refused to believe her. In the evening, they executed Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales. Jesucita Monroy heard the gunshots but was not permitted to retrieve the bodies for burial until morning. “Imagine what my suffering was,” she wrote to President Pratt, “to remain with my [son’s] corpse lying there and my three daughters prisoners.” The three Monroy sisters were released the next day and lived to pass on the memory of the martyrdom of two faithful Saints to the next generation.
Violence was not the only trial that came with the war. Famine and disease also spread, and sisters in the Relief Society rose to meet the needs around them. “Our sisters of the Relief Societies have been as ministering angels to those in want and in distress,” Pratt wrote of their efforts. One Relief Society president, Petra Lopez, “untiringly ministered to the sick” during a typhus epidemic that shook central Mexico during the revolution, until she herself contracted the disease and died. Pratt wrote that she too should be remembered as a martyr.