It All Started with Monica

Based on a true incident
Declare glad tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth (D&C 62:5).

Monica Chavez lived with her mother and father, her sisters Maria and Linda, and her baby brother, Tomas. Her grandmother lived next door. Just around the bend in the road lived her Aunt Juanita and her family, and her Uncle Esteban and his family. Uncle Roberto lived with his family in town, a few miles away. Her grandmother, aunts, uncles, and father were all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But none of them went to Church very often. Monica’s mother belonged to a different church, but she didn’t go to her church very often, either.

Sometimes Grandmother would take Monica and some of the other grandchildren to church. The children liked to go, but everyone else there spoke only English. Although Monica and the other grandchildren spoke both English and Spanish, Grandmother spoke only Spanish, and she didn’t understand the speakers at church, so she didn’t go very often. When Grandmother wasn’t going, Monica asked her father to take her, but he always said that he and her uncles were too tired from working so hard all week. They wanted to stay home and rest on Sunday.

Then something happened that changed everything. Two sister missionaries came to visit Monica’s grandmother. Missionaries had visited before, but these two sisters were different—they spoke both English and Spanish! The missionaries talked with Monica’s grandmother about her family. They made plans to visit all the aunts and uncles and their children. Then they encouraged Grandmother Chavez to come to church with her grandchildren.

That Sunday Grandmother Chavez did take the grandchildren to church. The missionaries helped her understand what was being said. The people at church shook the Chavezes’ hands and smiled at them, and some even learned to say “Buenos dias (Good morning)” and “Bienvenida (Welcome)” to Grandmother.

When church was over, Monica heard Grandmother talking with the missionaries in Spanish. “Monica is eight years old,” she said. “She is old enough and wants to be baptized. But I don’t know how to tell the branch president.”

Baptism is an important step,” Sister Farmer said. “The branch president knows that Monica is old enough to be baptized, but he wants to be sure that Monica is ready for it and also that her parents are ready to help her keep the promises that she will make when she is baptized.”

“In fact, that’s why we’re here,” Sister Johnson added. “Because we speak Spanish, the branch president asked us to help Monica and her family get ready for this important step.”

“Would you like to learn more about the Church, Monica?” Sister Farmer asked her in English, because she knew that Monica understood English better than Spanish.

“Oh yes! I like to come to church, and I want to be baptized.” Monica was very excited. She had wanted to be baptized for a long time.

The missionaries arranged to meet with Monica and her parents at Grandmother Chavez’s house. When they had all arrived, the missionaries taught Monica a lesson about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They told her about Joseph Smith’s vision and about how he translated the Book of Mormon, and they gave her a Book of Mormon. When the missionaries taught her, they spoke in English to her, then in Spanish to her grandmother. It made Monica feel very good when the sisters explained things to her in a way that she could understand.

Sister Johnson gave a Book of Mormon in Spanish to Monica’s mother and father and invited them to come to church.

Grandmother Chavez invited the sisters to a family barbeque to meet all of Monica’s aunts and uncles and cousins. In the following weeks the missionaries came many times to teach Monica and her relatives. Grandmother, Monica, and some of the other grandchildren started going to church every week, and sometimes Monica’s parents went with them.

Once, when Monica’s mother went, someone said to her in a friendly way, “If you think that the Church is good for Monica, don’t you think that it would be good for you too? Why don’t you prepare to be baptized with Monica?”

Monica’s mother didn’t understand everything that the man had said, so Sister Farmer explained in Spanish. Monica’s mother had listened to the missionary lessons many years before, but because they were in English, she hadn’t really understood them. She knew that these missionaries would help her understand the gospel in her own language, so she agreed to have them teach her.

One day the sisters asked Monica’s mother to pray to know if she should be baptized, and she did. She read the scriptures every day, too, and one night she had a dream. In the dream she was looking for white clothes to wear to her baptism. She felt very happy and peaceful. When she woke up, she knew that Heavenly Father had answered her prayer.

The day before Monica’s ninth birthday, Monica and her mother were baptized. Her aunts and uncles and cousins and father and grandmother came—so did many people from the branch. It was a very happy day for everyone, but most of all for Monica and her mother.

There were some people in the branch who thought that the Chavez family wouldn’t attend church regularly. “Wait and see,” Sister Johnson and Sister Farmer said.

Monica’s family went to church every Sunday with her grandmother. Aunt Juanita and her family, and Uncle Roberto’s family went too. After Sister Johnson and Sister Farmer left, other Spanish-speaking missionaries came, and all the Chavez relatives helped the missionaries teach other Spanish-speaking families about the Church. Soon there were Sunday School classes in both English and Spanish, and the tiny branch began to grow. Many people came to know how happy the gospel could make them. And it all started with Monica.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Karl Hepworth