“Martyrs Who Kept the Faith,” Liahona, Apr. 2022.
In the summer of 1915, Rafael Monroy served as the president of a branch of around forty Saints in San Marcos, Hidalgo, Mexico. On July 17, a group of rebel troops overran the village, set up headquarters in a large house at the center of town, and demanded that Rafael, a prosperous rancher, provide them with beef.1
Hoping to appease the troops, Rafael gave them a cow to slaughter.2 After Rafael delivered the cow, some of his neighbors began talking to the rebels. One neighbor, Andres Reyes, was unhappy about the growing number of Saints in the area. Many Mexicans opposed foreign influences in their country, and Andres and others in town resented the Monroys for leaving their Catholic faith to join a church widely associated with the United States.3
Hearing this, the soldiers followed Rafael back to his house and arrested him just as he was sitting down for breakfast. They ordered him to open the family store, claiming that he and his American brother-in-law were colonels in the Carrancista army who were hiding weapons to use against the Zapatistas.
At the store, Rafael and the troops found Vicente Morales, another Church member, doing odd jobs. Believing he was also a Carrancista soldier, the troops arrested him and began ransacking the store as they searched for weapons. Rafael and Vicente pleaded their innocence, assuring the troops that they were not the enemy.
The soldiers did not believe them. “If you do not give us your weapons,” they said, “we will hang you from the highest tree.”
The soldiers brought the two men to a tall tree and slung ropes over its strong limbs. Then they placed nooses around their necks. If Rafael and Vicente would abandon their religion and join the Zapatistas, the soldiers said, they would be freed.
“My religion is dearer to me than my life,” Rafael said, “and I cannot forsake it.”
The soldiers pulled the ropes until Rafael and Vicente dangled from their necks and passed out. The rebels then released the ropes, revived the men, and continued to torture them.4
Back at the store, the rebels kept up their search for weapons. Rafael’s mother, Jesusita, and his wife, Guadalupe, insisted there were no weapons. “My son is a peaceful man!” Jesusita said. “If it weren’t so, do you think that you would have found him in his home?” When the soldiers again demanded to see the family’s weapons, the Monroys held out copies of the Book of Mormon and Bible.
“Those aren’t weapons,” the rebels said.
By that afternoon, the Zapatistas had taken Rafael and Vicente to their headquarters, where they were also holding Rafael’s siblings—Jovita, Lupe, and Natalia. Lupe was shocked at Rafael’s appearance. “Rafa, you have blood on your neck,” she told him. Rafael walked to a sink in the room and washed his face. He looked calm and did not seem angry, despite everything that had happened.
Later, Jesusita brought her children food. Before she left, Rafael handed her a letter he had written to a Zapatista captain he knew, seeking his help to prove his innocence. Jesusita took the letter and went looking for the captain. The Monroys and Vicente then blessed their meal, but before they could eat, they heard the clatter of footsteps and weapons outside the door. The soldiers called for Rafael and Vicente, and the two men exited the room. At the door, Rafael asked his sister Natalia to come out with him, but the guards pushed her back inside.
The sisters looked at one another, their hearts pounding. Silence settled over them. Then gunshots split the night.5
On the night of the Zapatistas’ invasion of San Marcos, Jesusita de Monroy had been on her way to speak with a rebel leader, hopeful that he could help her free her imprisoned children, when she heard the fateful gunshots. Hurrying back to the prison, she found her son Rafael and fellow Latter-day Saint Vicente Morales dead, victims of the rebel bullets.
Now, a year after her son’s death, Jesusita was still living in San Marcos. On the first Sunday in July 1916, the Saints held a testimony meeting, and each member of the branch bore witness of the gospel and the hope it gave them. Then, on July 17, the anniversary of the killings, they met together again to remember the martyrs. They sang a hymn about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and Casimiro Gutierrez read a chapter from the New Testament. Another branch member compared Rafael and Vicente to the martyr Stephen, who died for his testimony of Christ.6
Jesusita remained a pillar of faith for her family. “Our sorrows have been grievous,” she wrote in a letter, “but our faith is strong, and we will never forsake this religion.”7