Though he was born and raised in Nevada, Elder Robert E. Wells has spent half his life in Latin America. He first learned Spanish as a missionary in Argentina. Armed with a degree in accounting and an excellent command of the Spanish language, he accepted an offer from First National City Bank to return to South America. Only four months after his release from his mission, he and his bride, Meryl Leavitt Wells, launched themselves on a career in international banking that has taken Elder Wells to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador.
From his earliest years, Elder Wells has felt—and followed—the influence of the Lord in his life. When he left the navy a few years after World War II, he was all set to finish his engineering degree at Berkeley—when he felt prompted by the Spirit to return to BYU and “learn the science of money.” When his new in-laws wondered whether he should leave the United States so soon after his mission, he pointed out that his patriarchal blessing promised him that he would serve the Lord “among the nations of the world.”
Years later, after the tragic death of his first wife in an airplane accident, the Spirit again guided him in a crucial decision. He had been a widower for two years, and he knew he should marry again. But to whom? As he prayed he was clearly told, “Marry a woman who will make a mission president’s wife.”
Other promptings led him back to the United States to look for a wife. He listed all the things his wife would need to be: a “mission mother” type, gentle and loving; a Golden Gleaner; a college graduate; a returned lady missionary, preferably with a background in Spanish; a musician—and many other things. He found her, too—Helen Walser Wells. He proposed to her seven days after he met her, but not before the Spirit had informed him in a profound spiritual experience that she was the right one. Thirty days after they met they were married, and, he says, “We’ve been happy ever since.”
He followed the promptings of the Spirit again in 1971, when, after serving as president of the Mexico Monterrey Mission, he turned down a chance to return to a prominent position in international banking in order to accept a less prestigious post in the Church Central Purchasing Department. Now, with his new calling, he and his wife understand what the Lord had in mind.
Elder and Sister Wells have seven children, ranging in age from twenty-four to nine. They also have one grandchild and another on the way. Elder Wells feels that the Lord’s guidance in his life not only has helped him and his wife to choose the right path at the “spiritual crossroads” of their life, but also has helped his children to realize that their father acts, not by whim, but by the word of the Lord. Perhaps it is because he is such a spiritual leader in his home that he is now able to fill his new calling as a spiritual leader in the Church.
Now that he is back in the United States, Elder Wells sometimes misses the Latin-American people. He has had many chances to visit them, however, as a Regional Representative in Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia.
But even after a quarter century in Latin America, Elder Wells has not forgotten his upbringing on a farm in Logandale, Nevada, sixty miles from Las Vegas, where he was born in 1927. His warm smile seems to fit right in, as much in a rural American town as among international business leaders. Perhaps it is a measure of the man that he is at home in either setting, able to listen, able to understand, and able to share the Spirit that has guided his life.