Heritage is a personal and vital part of each of us, and Jennie Duran shares her feelings on the Spanish-Indian heritage she was born into and the Mormon heritage she adopted. Rosemary Petty of New Zealand shares a family testimony of prayer, and Elder Robert Scott Kelly of the Italy South Mission tells a powerful conversion experience from a missionary’s point of view. President Ho Nam Rhee of Seoul Stake in Korea tells of the special witnesses he has received of his Heavenly Father’s love.
“I get a strange and wonderful feeling when I realize that my veins are rich with the blood of Ephraim of the house of Joseph. I have two precious heritages,” says Jennie Duran, a convert of Spanish and Indian ancestry.
“You have great pride in your pioneer heritage, and rightfully so. So do I, because through it I received the gospel,” she adds. “However, through my forefathers, the remnant of the house of Joseph, you received what you now share with us.”
Jennie states, “Lamanite encompasses a large group of people: Mexicans, Samoans, Chicanos, Peruvians, Chileans, Uruguayians, and so forth.”
She believes that part of the responsibility of Latter-day Saints is to fulfill the Book of Mormon prophecy to be a “nursing father” to the Lamanites by providing them with leadership positions and assignments so they may prepare themselves to become “heirs in our Father’s kingdom.” She encourages members to “teach the Lamanite with love and understanding and, in return, be taught by him.” Part of this acceptance, she feels, is not making light of the Lamanite’s food, languages, or customs.
Such gospel love was shown her family by the missionaries. Jennie was raised by her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Nemecio Tafoya, in Bingham Canyon, Utah, where her grandfather first met the missionaries.
“Grandfather told the missionaries that he preferred the Book of Mormon in Spanish. Since he was leaving Utah for Santa Cruz, New Mexico, they asked for his new address and he gave it to them.
“After the move, a new book arrived for my grandfather—the Book of Mormon. He started to read it. My grandmother would toss it up into the cupboard, but my grandfather would always retrieve it. Then my grandmother began to wonder why he was so interested, so she began to read it, too.
“My grandfather loved all living things, respected them, and trusted God. So he was ready to see the missionaries when they came to our home one sunny spring day. After that, they visited us every Tuesday night for cottage meetings. Before each meeting, my grandmother would prepare a delicious supper for the elders. Dessert was lemon pie topped with whipped cream from our own cow.
“I was 12 years old, and I felt resentful about the whole situation. I felt my grandparents were being misled, but I supported them because I loved them,” Jennie explains. “I especially supported them when the principal of our parochial school threatened to expel me if my grandparents didn’t start going to church again.
“The turning point came when a missionary asked me to teach a Sunday School class. He knew how I loved school and that I wanted to become a teacher, and, of course, I agreed. The teaching manual was the Book of Mormon in story form. Some of my students were my own age, but it’s a proven fact that the teacher learns more than her students.
“So by the time my grandparents were ready to be baptized, so was I.
“After our conversion, my grandparents felt they needed an additional room, a missionary room. Grandfather made the adobes, built the room, and bought a bedroom set so that four missionaries could be lodged. The best linens were provided. Our home was literally theirs.
“Shortly after this, Grandfather started to work on the indoor plumbing so that the missionaries and Church authorities would have adequate facilities. Though my grandparents had only moderate means, they literally felt that all they owned was for the Lord’s use.”
Her grandfather impressed her with the importance of her dual heritage by taking her, shortly after her baptism, to visit relatives at the San Juan Indian Pueblo in New Mexico. As they left, he told her that one of her great-great grandfathers, Francisco Tafoya from Spain, had fallen in love with and married a lovely Pueblo maiden. In addition to this ancient family tie, he reminded her of the religious ties: “They are the Lord’s chosen people. They have remnants of the gospel and don’t even know it. A council of elders helps the chief govern the pueblo. All the harvest is stored together and distributed according to need during the winter months. This is part of the united order that lingers from untold centuries.”
“The Lord’s Church teaches that an individual must have self-esteem, a righteous pride in his family, and pride in his ancestry,” Jennie says. “I am thankful to belong to a Church where different cultures can enjoy fellowship in the house of the Lord, ‘no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens’ (Eph. 2:19) in the household of God.”
Rosemary Roberts Petty writes from New Zealand her testimony that God’s commandments are given to us for our own good, especially the commandment to teach children to pray. (D&C 68:28.)
Eight-year-old Janet took her five-year-old brother, David, out for a picnic one sunny winter afternoon, telling me they were going to the “jungle,” a favorite haunt on the skirts of the bush.
At 5:30 P.M. it was dark. Their father and brother searched for them without success in the jungle and through the village. Soon our neighbors had joined the search.
Meanwhile, Janet and David had long since realized they were lost. Janet had led them to “Lover’s Point,” deep in the bush. The low-hung trees made them feel uneasy, and they decided to finish their picnic elsewhere, but Janet discovered she did not know the way out. After trying a few wrong trails, they returned to Lover’s Point.
They waited to be rescued for three hours, two of them in darkness. “It seemed like a year,” Janet later recalled.
The next day when it was light we went to see the nighttime refuge. Our knees grew weak as we surveyed the spot. They had waited on three sloping feet of slippery soil and dry pine needles above a 50-foot drop into the icy waters of a rolling river. A false step in panic in a desperate attempt to get home … my throat grew dry.
But the children had not panicked. They had prayed. “We prayed three times,” David said in testimony meeting on Sunday.
The act of prayer may have been in itself their salvation—concentrating on prayer, they had no time to panic. Thinking of their Heavenly Father, they did not imagine monsters in the dark.
They heard voices calling later, but their weaker shouts were inaudible above the sound of the river. They wept then in disappointment, but there was no hysteria. Instead, they scooped a bed and prepared to spend the night; but an older boy, who was helping in the search, threaded his way through the jungle and found them there.
It might be dramatically complete to end the story here, but it would not be factually complete. For in addition to learning to pray, the children had learned other family lessons.
A year before, there had been a family home evening lesson that included suggestions on what to do if lost. Janet and David had not paid more than their usual attention, yet Janet had remembered that when lost “we must stay where we are and not get more lost.” They planned to eat only one sandwich and save the rest so they could have one each day. Janet knew water was more important than food, and they had none. “Otherwise,” she said, “we weren’t worried.”
Another lesson, a special one preparing for Janet’s baptism and confirmation, had focused on the Holy Ghost’s ability to bring to their remembrance things they needed to know. Their prayers on that ledge are secret between them and their Father in heaven, but as we waited at home, I had fervently petitioned that the children would know what to do.
Prayers are not answered in a vacuum. The commandment that our Heavenly Father had given us to teach our children to pray may have saved their lives; so, perhaps, had the commandment to hold family home evening.
Ho Nam Rhee
Ho Nam Rhee, first president of the Seoul (Korea) Stake, tells how he joined the Church.
I was first introduced to Mormonism when an American Army man I worked with, Calvin R. Beck, took me to MIA. Everyone at the meeting was American, and I was surprised that they all extended warm hands and called me “Brother Rhee.” I felt that brotherhood, and the word “brother” echoed in my mind for days.
I wanted to know more about this religion, so Brother Beck taught me about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel. I still remember one lesson based on the following questions:
Where did we come from?
Why are we here?
Where are we going after this mortal life?
The subject shocked me, because those questions have puzzled great philosophers throughout the ages. But as Brother Beck explained the plan of salvation, I was thrilled. I had no doubts. I think the Lord blessed me at that very moment.
My spiritual birthday came September 5, 1954, in Seoul. Elder Harold B. Lee, then an apostle of the Lord, personally confirmed me a member of the Church—an unforgettable blessing. I can still picture his kind, serious face and feel his warm, tender hands on my head.
I could hardly wait from Sunday to Sunday to share the testimony of the Saints. I was greatly blessed a second time when I was ordained to the office of priest by Joseph Fielding Smith, who dedicated Korea for the preaching of the gospel in 1955.
I feel I have an even more important position than the Korean ambassador to the United States, because I represent not one nation, but the kingdom of God. I am an ambassador of God to this world.
Robert Scott Kelly
Elder Robert Scott Kelly relates this powerful conversion story that took place in Naples, Italy, in the heat of August two summers ago.
At first glance Steven Cleary was not impressive. His long hair hung down his back and his hippie-style clothes made me look for needle marks on his arms—but there weren’t any. John Nicholls’ appearance was equally unimpressive. But one thing did stand out about them—they smiled!
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To Israel,” Steve replied.
“We’re on a pilgrimage. We’re looking for the truth,” John said simply.
A voice whispered to me. I quickly asked the two boys if they would like to hear about the Mormon Church, and they agreed to hear the first discussion the next evening.
I’ve taught many first discussions, but our first lesson with Steve and John was the most fantastic experience of my life. The spirit of the Lord was there. All four of us, my companion and I and the two boys from Birmingham, felt it, and we can testify of its presence. The look of joy on Steve and John’s faces when we challenged them to be baptized into the true church was indescribable.
Steve agreed to pray and the sincerity of his voice in thanking the Most High for showing them the truth brought tears to my eyes. When he finished, I slowly looked up to find their eyes still closed. Then John began praying. They prayed not as people unaccustomed to prayer, but as people who, at every chance possible, eagerly engaged their Heavenly Father in conversation. At the end I was crying.
Steve and John’s search for truth actually had begun at home in England. They had become disenchanted with the Christian doctrine taught to them, and they tried a number of things, such as drugs, music, and Hebrew mysticism. They finally returned to Christianity and began to actively study the scriptures, and joined a study group of young Christians.
However, both Steve and John agreed the group had only part of the answer. Disenchanted, the two young travelers took up their journey again.
They were not particularly seeking for the answer to their spiritual quest in Naples. They had thought instead of finding work, perhaps on a ship. But they couldn’t speak Italian and were, in their words, “inert.” It was on one of these inert days that they met the elders. Nine days later they were both baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Steve and John were literally starving for the truth. They read the Book of Mormon with the zeal of college students cramming for an exam and both finished it in four days. Their impressions of the Book of Mormon were best summed up by Steve as he told us it was “the heaviest book I’ve ever read!”
Both boys have returned to England and are planning to serve missions as soon as possible.