Friend to Friend

“Friend to Friend,” Liahona, May 2000, 2

Friend to Friend

My family has always been my greatest teacher. I was born in Seville, Spain; then my family moved to Paraguay and later to Uruguay. Because we moved around, I often had to say good-bye to my friends. I relied more and more upon my family members to be my friends. I am grateful for my family members, because they will be my eternal friends.

My family investigated the Church for three years. It was very important to my parents that we be baptized as a family. They knew if we joined the Church, it would often be difficult for us to choose the right. But they believed if we all decided to follow Jesus Christ, we could help each other when times grew difficult.

When we joined the Church, my parents committed our family to sacrifice and service. I saw that helping other people made my mom and dad happy. My parents were always serving, so I followed them around and tried to help, too. I was often too young to do much, but my parents’ example of service inspired in me a lifelong desire to serve.

In 1951, our branch started building a chapel. It was the first chapel in Uruguay. There were less than 100 members who worked with my parents to construct the building. Most of the work was done by the members of the branch. I wanted to help, too.

Some members mixed cement. Some members dug holes, and some hammered nails. There were not many jobs for a five-year-old, so they gave me the job of straightening nails. I took a hammer and pounded old nails, trying to make them straight. I loved the clang of the hammer and the challenge of getting the bends out of the metal nails. Most of all, I loved having a job. My parents reminded me that the chapel could not be built without nails. I felt thrilled that I could serve with my family.

After three years, the chapel was finally finished. President David O. McKay came to Uruguay to dedicate it. I remember President McKay standing in the chapel, and I was thrilled that he could see the building I had helped create. He put the cornerstone in place and dedicated the building. His white hair made him look like he had come from heaven. He went around and shook everyone’s hand. When he came to me, he bent down especially to shake my hand. It was my first experience meeting a prophet, and when he spoke to me, I had a warm feeling in my heart. I felt glad I had helped build the chapel.

Twenty years later, I became the bishop and served in the very building I had helped build. The branch had grown in those 20 years, and so had I. As a child, I had relied upon my parents’ testimonies. I later gained my own testimony as I served others.

Some of my favorite memories are of kneeling as a family in prayer and of reading the scriptures together, especially the Book of Mormon. Nephi was my favorite person in the scriptures. He acted fearlessly in following the commandments of God. Nephi was obedient, no matter how difficult it was to serve God.

In Primary, being obedient meant being quiet and listening to the lesson. My mother was my Primary teacher, and she always brought a picture of Jesus Christ. She taught us to be reverent, to stop playing and making noise, and to think of the Savior.

When I was an Aaronic Priesthood holder, being obedient meant preparing the sacrament with reverence. I knew I was doing something of great importance as I blessed the sacrament.

When I was a bishop, being obedient meant sacrificing to attend the temple. My wife and I were invited to attend general conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. We did not have enough money to make the trip, but we greatly desired to be sealed for eternity in the Lord’s house. We asked Heavenly Father to provide a way for us to answer His invitation to all Saints to go to the temple. We were blessed to find additional jobs. We earned enough to make the trip to Salt Lake City. Kneeling in the temple, all in white, with my wife, Cristina, was one of the most special experiences of my life. Our marriage was different after we went to the temple and felt the Holy Spirit of the Lord seal us for eternity.

Now being obedient means taking my family wherever the Lord asks us to go. It is often difficult for my children, Adrianna, Gabriel, and Silvia, to move around so much. Silvia was only seven months old when we moved from Uruguay to Argentina to preside over a mission. Every move means new friends for my children. They rely on each other as friends just as I relied on my family.

I love my children, and I love the children of the Church. You are Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters. Love your families and learn from their righteous examples. Be a righteous example in your family. Wherever you are, be a helper and learn to sacrifice and serve in the Church.

Background photograph by Lana Leishman

As a three-year-old

Elder Viñas with his wife, Cristina, and their children, Silvia, Adrianna, and Gabriel.