The true church of Jesus Christ must have a living prophet. Ricardo Perez was convinced of that. But where was such a church?
His study of the Bible had led him to leave the church of his forefathers, in spite of what his family and friends might think. To them, this seemed like folly in the Guatemala of 1954. But Ricardo felt he could no longer practice some of the things he had formerly been taught. So in leaving the church of his youth, he felt that he had left error behind. He wanted to find the church God approved. He wanted to know the truth.
He investigated several evangelistic churches, but “I did not find a place to practice religion as the ancient Apostles taught,” he recalls. Study of the Bible had convinced him the true church would have certain unmistakable features—a living prophet, Apostles, baptism by immersion, and proper administration of the sacrament to members, for example.
Trying to find a place to buy a new Bible finally led him to the church he sought. “I often see some young men—North Americans—around here. They sell Bibles,” one of the employees in Ricardo’s tailor shop told him. At that moment, two Latter-day Saint missionaries passed by the door of the shop. “There they go!” the man said.
No, the missionaries explained, they did not sell books; they preached the gospel, teaching from a book called the Book of Mormon, as well as the Bible. They would leave a Book of Mormon with him for one week if he would read it.
“Since I was desirous of learning something more about the things of God, I started reading it immediately. As soon as I began, I felt the Spirit very strongly in the book. I knew it was of God,” Brother Perez reflects. “I reached a point where I would sometimes dream of events in the Book of Mormon before I had read them. Then when I would read the next day, it would be what I had already dreamed.”
When Ricardo Perez attended Church meetings with the missionaries, he found the Church offered all the things he had become convinced the true church must have—and more. He gratefully shared what he had learned with his family, and his children also believed.
He had not thought about the law of tithing, however, in his biblical study of Christ’s ancient church. It seemed a hard thing to give up one tenth of his income in his family’s difficult financial situation. “I don’t know if we can pay the tithing. Let’s wait until the Lord helps us (to be capable of paying), and then we will become members,” he told his wife.
His children and his wife helped him change his mind about putting off baptism. Daughter Angelina, then a teenager, had become convinced that the Church was true and wanted to join. She suggested to her mother that they plan a special birthday gift for her father—they would be baptized on his birthday, with him.
Ignacia Perez was not hard to convince. She had had a dream of her own. In it, a young man offered her a cup from which she was to drink. When she attended a sacrament meeting with her husband for the first time, at Angelina’s urging, Ignacia realized the cup in her dream had been a sacrament cup.
So she and the children studied the gospel with the missionaries, until finally she was ready to tell her husband, “We have a gift we want to give you for your birthday—but I have to tell you because it requires your consent.” He quickly gave permission, deciding then that they would simply find a way to pay tithing. He soon found it was not the difficulty he had imagined.
Ricardo and Ignacia Perez and their three oldest children—Angelina, Jorge, and Teresa—were baptized 26 January 1954. Their sons Israel and Victor were too young yet to be baptized, and their youngest son, Josue Ricardo, was not born until after the Perez family had been in the Church for three years.
Ricardo Perez’s commitment to his new faith led him into many leadership positions. Both he and his wife are descendants of the Mayans of the Guatemalan highlands, and early in their membership in the Church they took their family to meetings in the branch at Totonicapan, a largely Indian community in the mountains about fifteen miles away. Brother Perez later served three times as president of a branch in Quezaltenango, as a counselor in a district presidency, as a member of the district council, and as an auditor. Four Sundays a month often weren’t enough to do the auditing job, so he traveled to outlying branches on weekdays.
Brother and Sister Perez were sealed in the Arizona Temple in 1965. Wanting their children who remained at home to be sealed to them, Sister Perez prayed to make this blessing possible. In response, her tortilla business increased, helping provide the funds needed for them to make another temple trip three years later. Next, Brother and Sister Perez felt an urgency to have their married children sealed to them as well. She prayed for help again, and again the number of her tortilla customers grew. The money it brought in helped fund a temple trip with the rest of the children, along with spouses and children. In 1975, Brother Perez was called as the patriarch of the newly created Quetzaltenango Stake.
Like their parents, the Perez children have willingly given their time in service to the Church. Angelina has been Relief Society president six different times at the branch, ward, or stake level. Jorge, in addition to serving as stake president, has been president of the Guatemala Quezaltenango and Mexico Merida Missions. Teresa has held a variety of positions, including ward Relief Society president. Israel was formerly president of the Quezaltenango Stake, and is now serving as a Regional Representative. Victor is a counselor in the presidency of the Quezaltenango West Stake. Young Ricardo is a counselor to the president of the Guatemala Quezaltenango Mission. And the third generation of the Perez family in the Church is now following the same tradition of service.
Israel Perez comments that his father reads and studies consistently, frequently in the scriptures or other Church books. In addition to the love of God, perhaps the greatest heritage his father gave them as children, Israel says, was a love for education. While Guatemalan public schools did not offer twelve grades, as schools in many other countries do, Brother Perez insisted that his children receive the full benefit of what was offered. He also made sure that they knew their options in practical vocations, and when they chose one, he respected their choice.
Brother and Sister Perez are very close to their children. The Perez family meets together often for activities, and always closes them with prayer.
Of his father, Ricardo’s youngest son comments: “We all respect him. We’re glad to listen to his counsel.” Their father’s counsel respects their free agency. Asked by one of his children what to do about a certain problem, Brother Perez would usually reply, “Well, I would do this, but you must decide for yourself.”
Brother Perez does not take credit for his children’s faithfulness.
“I’m very grateful for the Church, and for my wife’s care and teaching of our children. They accepted the gospel with all their hearts. We know what a great blessing the gospel has been for them and us.”