To the Ends of the Earth

“To the Ends of the Earth,” New Era, Jan. 2003, 20

To the Ends of the Earth

They live in the “southernmost town on earth.” Next stop—Antarctica. But the distance from everything else just brings them closer together.

Go to Argentina. Then head south. Keep going. Keep going. When you run out of land at the Straits of Magellan, cross the water to the island Tierra del Fuego. Keep going. When you get to the far side of the island, stop. Now you’re at Ushuaia, what’s billed as the southernmost city in the world. It’s so far south that residents commonly refer to it as “the end of the world.”

This place of glaciers, where jagged mountains plunge to the sea, is pleasant for two or three months, with lengthy days. Then it is cold, stormy, and dark the rest of the year. Ushuaia is probably not the first location you’d think of as a home for young Latter-day Saints. But the Church is alive—and thriving—here. And LDS youth in Ushuaia know they are part of the fulfillment of prophecy, that the gospel shall “roll forth unto the ends of the earth” (D&C 65:2).

‘Finding my mother a husband’

Consider the story of Ximena Martinez. A few years ago, Ximena, her sister Micaela, and her brother Gonzalo were living with their divorced mother in Buenos Aires. Ximena was 15 at the time. She had been assigned the responsibility of taking care of the yard, “but I had neglected it,” she explains. “Daniel Garrido, a nice neighbor who lived across the street, offered to help. A few days later he came, accompanied by full-time missionaries. They worked hard and made everything look beautiful. But this was only the beginning. Daniel and his wife, Elisabet, continued to be faithful friends, and the missionaries offered to teach us about the restoration of the gospel. How could we say no?”

That was the beginning of a journey to understanding. After studying with the missionaries, Ximena’s mother was baptized. The children soon followed her example. “I decided to change my life, to have the kind of freedom only Christ can give,” Ximena continues. “More and more, I wanted to live the gospel. But there was something missing—we needed a father and we wanted to be sealed in the temple.

“One day at a Church dance, I talked to a friend named Martin Morresi. He mentioned that his father was a widower. Jokingly I said, ‘Well, my mother needs a husband! We ought to get them to meet.’ We only had one problem—his father lived 2,000 miles away.

“I began to tease my mother that I had found a husband for her. Then, at a stake choir rehearsal, Martin told me, ‘My father is coming to visit Buenos Aires, and he wants to have dinner with your mother!’ I was stunned, but I won’t even tell you my mother’s reaction. However, she accepted. Martin accompanied his father, Ruben, and I accompanied my mother, Susana, and we had a wonderful evening. Ruben Morresi was attentive and respectful. I could see he was upright and faithful, a man of God.”

Three and a half months later, Ruben and Susana were married in the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple. Ximena, Micaela, and Gonzalo Martinez were sealed to them and moved with them to Ushuaia, where they joined Manuel and Micaela Morresi as new brothers and sisters. (Three older children live away from home.)

“Now I live at the end of the world,” says Ximena. “I am working with all my might to help Zion to grow here. I know the Lord’s kingdom will extend to the four corners of the earth, and this is why He has guided us to one of them.”

Caring means sharing

Talk to other youth in Ushuaia, and you’ll also find they have a deep love for the Church and the blessings it brings to them. Boris Zapata, 12, says the gospel has taught him, as Moroni said, to “hope for a better world” (Ether 12:4). Juan Frau, 16, talks about his appreciation for seminary. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to study the scriptures every day,” he says.

“I had the opportunity to share the gospel with one of my school friends, Elena Ayala,” says Micaela Martinez, 18. “When she was baptized, it filled me with happiness. If we know that Jesus Christ lives, it is beautiful to share our feelings with others.”

Here at the end of the earth, the youth of Ushuaia have received the great light of the gospel. They gladly share it with each other and with anyone else who will receive it.

A Great Joy in My Heart

In an area as isolated as Ushuaia, life can seem lonely. Some young people turn to drinking, drugs, or immoral behavior, and eventually end up in despair. LDS youth have found happiness in following the guidance of their Father in Heaven. Listen to three members of the Quiroga family, who were baptized two years ago:

“Being a member of the Church makes me very happy,” says Matias, 14. “I feel deep inside me that I really am in the true church, that Heavenly Father helps me at every moment. I have learned a great deal as a new member. My teachers have taught me a lot, and the members have been very kind.”

His 18-year-old sister, Patricia, agrees. “Being a Latter-day Saint has changed my life in every aspect,” she says. “I have always had faith in God, but I had never felt His presence like I do in the Church. I love being in Young Women and working on my Personal Progress.”

“Before I was baptized, I asked in prayer if I was doing the right thing,” says 16-year-old Paola. “I felt a great joy in my heart. After that, I was baptized and felt the Spirit dwelling inside me. I know this is the true church. I do not doubt it. I feel happy when I do what is right.”

A Ray of Light

The Morresi and Quiroga families aren’t the only ones in Ushuaia with multiple teenagers. There are also four teens in the Cabanillas family, and their testimonies are strong.

“I have been a member of the Church since I was eight,” says Florencia Cabanillas, 14. “I know that Jesus Christ lives and that the scriptures are the word of God. I also know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I am very happy to have the gospel in my life, and to be able to achieve our goal as a family to be sealed in the temple.”

“I know that we have a prophet, seer, and revelator today, and that he receives revelation from God,” says Andrea, 15. “I know the Book of Mormon is a miracle, translated during difficult times. Joseph Smith prayed with great faith and received answers.”

“Not long ago, I had the opportunity to teach about the Book of Mormon in Sunday School,” says Estefania, 17. “I had to search the scriptures, and as I did, I felt I was part of these stories. I imagined myself there. I will never forget how Mormon felt as he saw the destruction of the Nephites. I will not forget the testimonies of the prophets. If you have not searched the scriptures, I recommend that you start today!”

Sabrina, 18, remembers the sister missionaries coming to home evening when she was 10. “They taught me simply but firmly that God reveals truth through prayer. They said I needed to kneel down and ask Heavenly Father in humility to give me a testimony. ‘Me kneel down?’ I thought to myself. A few days later, Mom wanted to go for a walk with my sisters and me. Even though the sun was shining and I wanted to go with them, something stopped me. I knew it was the perfect time. I knelt down in the dining room. I pleaded with Heavenly Father to let me know if the Book of Mormon was true. I asked Him if the principles I was taught in church were true. Five minutes went by. After I ended my prayer I remained on my knees. Suddenly, a ray of light illuminated my face. I could not understand this, because the house was dark. But there was a small window in the kitchen without a curtain, and the light was coming from there.

“I felt so happy. I realized that my Father had answered my prayer in this way. Now I have a testimony of all these things, and I know they are true. I know that prayer has tremendous power.”

Photography by Richard M. Romney

The common bond of the gospel brought the Martinez and Morresi families together in a loving blend. (Below, from left) Ximena, Micaela, and Gonzalo Martinez and Manuel and Micaela Morresi. (Above) The kids with their parents Susana and Ruben.

The Quiroga children (below, from left) Matias, Patricia, and Paola have found happiness in the Church while many of their peers in the isolated town have turned to drugs and other destructive behaviors.

The LDS youth group in Ushuaia also includes (below, from left) Florencia, Andrea, Estefania, and Sabrina Cabanillas, as well as Boris Zapata and Juan Frau. Their unity protects them from more than just the unpredictable elements in their town at the end of the earth.