“Murilo Vicente Leite Ribeiro: Goiânia, Brazil,” Liahona, July 2017
When Murilo was baptized at age 16, his whole family was against it. When he received a mission call, his parents burned his church clothes. He stayed home and eventually helped bring his family into the Church, but he still felt unworthy for not having served a mission.
Cody Bell, photographer
I was introduced to the Church when I was 14. My friends and I met the missionaries on the street in our neighborhood. I did not accept their message at first because my family was already of another religion.
Two years later I was asked if I wanted to play football at the church. I really liked football, and I wanted to play. I was also invited to attend seminary. I attended for a while and became interested in the Church.
I talked to the missionaries, and they taught me about the First Vision. This changed my life. I was moved the moment they spoke about it. I cried in front of them. I was touched and felt a great spirit. I accepted their invitation to be baptized after the first lesson.
My parents were against the Church and did not attend my baptism. It was very difficult for me. My brother was the only member of my family who was with me that day.
After my baptism I went through many difficulties. I believed in the restored gospel, but my family did not yet have that vision. I tried to explain it to them, but my parents did not understand. I continued going to church, even though my parents thought I was forgetting the family. The truth was that I wanted them to go to church with me.
When the time came for my mission, I felt prepared. I had attended seminary for two years, I took the missionary preparation class, and I went to institute. I felt spiritually strong at the time, but my parents began to increase their persecution. My whole family was involved in trying to get me out of the Church.
I submitted my mission papers and received my call to serve in the Brazil Recife Mission. I told my parents I was going to Recife to represent Jesus Christ as a missionary. My father fought with me, and my mother went so far as to burn my church clothes and throw my books away. They were very angry.
I did not go on a mission. This was the hardest time in my life. I wanted to serve a mission, but I faced great opposition. I did nothing wrong, but I became discouraged and depressed, and I still suffered persecution at home. My parents hoped I would give up and not go to church anymore.
It was difficult for me to be a young man and to not be on a mission. I felt inferior to my friends who had already left on missions, and I felt alone at church. Some people thought I did not go because I was unworthy. But I did my best to remain firm in the faith.
During this time I met Kelly, who would become my wife. When I met her, my depression lifted and I was able to see myself as a child of God. Kelly was not a member of the Church when we started dating. We were eventually married, and after some time I baptized her. It was a special and sacred moment for me.
After our first child, Rafael, was born, we brought him to church to receive a blessing. My parents attended the blessing. It was the first time they ever went to church. From then on they started to hear the missionary lessons in their home. I eventually had the privilege to baptize my brothers and my parents.
It is funny because my father was very systematic about it. He said, “My son, when are you going to baptize me?” When he was baptized, I raised him out of the water and he hugged me. It was such an extraordinary moment in my life!
Years later I met with Elder Jairo Mazzagardi of the Seventy when he came to reorganize our stake. He asked me about my mission.
Elder Mazzagardi said, “Brother Murilo, I see that you were baptized when you were 16, but you did not serve a mission.”
“I did not serve a mission,” I said, starting to cry.
“But I do everything possible so the Lord will forgive me. I have served as a branch president for seven months, and I try to be a missionary and give my best. I work hard to help others. I want the Lord to forgive me. I do not want this blemish at the last day.”
“Brother Murilo,” he said, “do not look back; look forward. Whoever looks back walks backwards, and whoever looks forward walks forward. You are clean.”
I was happy to hear this! I felt light, happy, and peaceful.
It felt like a six-ton backpack was lifted off my back.
He told me to return with my wife and called me to serve as stake president.
Elder Mazzagardi then said, “Your experiences will help you be stake president. You will be able to help young people who have difficulties or who do not have the support of their parents. You did not have the opportunity to serve a mission, but this is your mission now. You will help send young people on missions.”
As stake president one of my main goals is to help young men and young women prepare to serve missions. The Lord has given me the right words at the right time to talk to these young people. I am grateful the Lord has given me the opportunity to help others choose to serve missions.