Elder Montoya Defined by a Legacy of Faith

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 12 May 2015

Elder Hugo Montoya of the First Quorum of the Seventy and his wife, Maria del Carmen Balvastro.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Montoya’s great-grandfather Rafael Monroy was killed by Mexican revolutionaries rather than deny his faith.
  • He has lived as a faithful example of the Church, just like his great-grandfather.

“My great-grandfather said he wanted to pray. He prayed for his family, the Church members, and for the soldiers. Then he was executed.” —Elder Hugo Montoya of the Seventy

Elder Hugo Montoya will tell you he’s blessed by his family’s legacy of faith. Anyone who is familiar with Mexico’s rich Latter-day Saint history knows of his great-grandfather Rafael Monroy.

In 1915, Brother Monroy was living in southern Mexico during a period of historic civil conflict. He was serving as a branch president at a time when the missionaries from the United States had been called home because of the dangers. The Mexican Revolution was raging when he was arrested by a group of revolutionaries. A fellow member, Vicente Morales, was also detained.

“My grandfather was accused of supporting the other side,” said Elder Montoya, who was called April 4 to the First Quorum of the Seventy. “He was tortured and abused.”

July 15, 1915, would be Brother Monroy’s and Brother Morales’s last day in mortality.

A revolutionary general told the men they would be released if, among other demands, they renounced the Church. “My religion,” replied Brother Monroy, “is more important than my life.” The soldiers asked if he had a last wish. “My great-grandfather said he wanted to pray. He prayed for his family, the Church members, and for the soldiers. Then he was executed,” said Elder Montoya. Sharing that moment of his great-grandfather’s heroic loyalty to the gospel still brings emotion to Elder Montoya’s eyes.

The account of Rafael Monroy’s martyrdom is, at once, sad and inspiring. It demonstrates that a person’s strong example can be felt across generations.

Hugo Montoya was born in 1960 in Fresno, California, but he would spend most of his childhood in Mexico. For a time, the Montoyas were the only members in their small town in northern Mexico in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Elder Montoya’s father, Abel Montoya, served as the branch president. Each week, the Montoya children prepared talks to share at Sabbath services.

Over time, more and more people in the town began attending the tiny Latter-day Saint congregation. “I have heard many people there say that they were converted to the Church after listening to small children testifying of Christ and the gospel,” he said.

Young Hugo and his family would enjoy a grass-roots view of the Church growth that has come to define Mexico. Their tiny town in Sonora is now home to a district with four branches. Faithful members can worship in the nearby Hermosillo Mexico Temple.

In 1979, Hugo reached missionary age and accepted a call to serve full-time in the Mexico City North Mission. He was blessed to serve under the direction of wise and loving mission presidents. His first, President John B. Dickson, would later serve as a Seventy. “President Dickson was a great example who taught me things that help me to this day,” he said.

His second president, President Donald Atkinsen, challenged him on the day he finished his mission to return and help 10 more people serve missions. He took that challenge to heart. In his later callings as a bishop and stake president he would work with—and then recommend—dozens of young men and young women for missionary service.

Elder Montoya’s faithful example would also influence the young woman he would eventually marry—Maria del Carmen Balvastro. Carmen was working at a business owned by the Montoya family. She noticed a young man named Hugo who never smoked, drank, or cursed. He even invited her to go to his church. Then he left to serve his mission. Impressed by his comportment, she began attending the ward regularly. When Hugo returned home he made arrangements to have her study with the missionaries. She accepted their message and was baptized.

The two began dating and were soon married. “I have found comfort in the priesthood and have found the joy that can come from priesthood blessings,” she said.

Sister Montoya said she can’t fathom raising her five children outside of the gospel. It has blessed her with patience and an understanding of eternal families. When the Montoya children were small their father was typically serving as a local priesthood leader. He was rarely able to sit with the children during Sunday meetings. So Sister Montoya did her best to keep the little ones quiet and seated at church. “We had active children, but they knew they were loved,” she said. “If you show them you love them, they will mature.”

Elder and Sister Montoya are both strong advocates of family home evening. Their weekly, Monday night gathering “was one of the best ways to teach them gospel principles, including family prayer,” she said.

The Montoyas have a photo of the two of them at the Playa de Amor beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. They are standing together near the placid water holding hands. The photo represents the strength couples can enjoy even during difficult times because they have the gospel in their lives.

Elder Montoya was understandably overwhelmed when he was called to be a General Authority. He would be comforted by a prophet’s gentle words. “In a training meeting [for new General Authorities], President Thomas S. Monson said, ‘You are here because you love the Savior.’”

Elder Montoya was uplifted knowing his new calling placed him on the Lord’s errand. “I love the Savior and I will go wherever I am asked to go,” he said. “I will do whatever I am asked to do. I will say whatever I am asked to say.”

Sister Montoya is certain her husband’s willingness to serve the Lord will help him meet the sacred demands of his position. “This is a great responsibility and a special opportunity,” she said. “I know that the Lord called my husband because he has something to offer to the work.”

Biographical information

Family: Born April 2, 1960, in Fresno, California, to Abel Montoya Gutierrez and Maclovia Monroy Espejel; married Maria del Carmen Balvastro Rubio on April 6, 1983, in the Mesa Arizona Temple; five children: Henok (Gilda), Candy Enid de Pineda (Enrique), Sem, Susy Danhyra, Carmen Lizeth. Two grandchildren.

Education: Graduated from Sonora State University in 1986 with a degree in agricultural engineering. Employment: Various management positions at Xerox since 1996, including system consulting manager, senior analyst, and international and national payroll manager. Tortilla shop owner, 1994–2011. Church Educational System instructor, 1988–1991.

Church service: Served a full-time mission in the Mexico City North Mission from 1979 to 1981, ward mission leader, stake mission leader, member of stake high council, counselor in the stake presidency, stake president, elders quorum president, ward Young Men president, area auditor, Area Seventy.