Then I Believed, Now I Know

Sigifredo Verano probably didn’t seem like a very good contact when the missionaries first met him in California. He wore long hair and a beard, in the style of some of the rebels of the early 1970s. He worked full-time supporting his family, then studied for several more hours each day trying to educate himself for better employment. That left little time to listen to missionaries.

Most of his friends at work were atheists or agnostics, and Sigifredo himself hadn’t attended any church regularly for nearly twenty years.

When the missionaries first met his wife, Ana Lucia, she told them that they were welcome to come talk with him—if they could find him with time available. After several brief visits, he finally said, “Yes, go ahead and teach me. Let’s get it over with!”

It is a tribute to the love and dedication of several missionaries, and to the faith of the Verano children, that Sig and Ana Verano finally came into the Church. But it is their own diligent obedience that has helped build their strong testimonies.

Sig Verano had emigrated from his native Colombia, South America, to California, in 1963. Ana, the girl he was growing to love, was temporarily left behind while he began preparing to support himself, and possibly a family, in his new country.

He had received only three years of formal schooling in Colombia and spoke little English. In Los Angeles, California, his first job was making hats at the minimum legal wage, so he studied newspaper advertisements looking for something that would pay more. He spotted a training course for a “machinist.” The pay looked good, and in South America, a maquinista—train engineer—had regular employment, so he enrolled.

Sig did well in the course, but inquired after some time when they were going to get to the “big machines.” Be patient, he was told—that would come after the training. Toward the end of the training, he still had not seen a train engine. One day, he asked a co-worker how much they would travel in their future jobs. “What does travel have to do with this work?” the co-worker replied. After some confusing discussion, Sig finally asked, exasperated, “Will you please tell me exactly what we are learning?”

But Sig’s new job as a machinist was enough to provide the support he and Ana would need. They had continued their courtship by mail and were married by proxy in 1964. She emigrated to the United States in 1965. Edison, the first of their children, was born in 1966, followed by Julie in 1968 and Marbell in 1972.

Sigifredo was constantly studying to better himself educationally and economically. “He would finish one course and start another,” Ana says. He became a skilled automotive mechanic who was much in demand.

Though Sig had never denied the existence of God or committed grave sins, religion was not a significant part of his life. But he couldn’t accept the philosophies of his atheistic and agnostic friends. Once, Sig had pressed one of the agnostics with the question, “If you were to join any church, which one would it be?” The man answered, “I would become a Mormon,” and cited the goodness of the Latter-day Saints as his reason.

In fact, it was the good example of the only Latter-day Saint he had ever known—“an example of a good man”—that persuaded Sig Verano to listen to the Latter-day Saint missionaries for the first time. What they taught sounded like the truth to him. The Word of Wisdom made enough of an impression that the young mechanic gave up his cigarettes and liquor and began to pray on his own. Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy for him to go to church because he had long since broken the habit of attendance. Soon, he stopped listening to the missionary lessons.

But the Verano children enjoyed Primary, which then was held one afternoon a week. Sig or Ana would drive them to the chapel for the meeting. One afternoon, the car wouldn’t start. “Well, it isn’t my fault,” Sig told them. “I guess you won’t be able to go.”

Back in the house, six-year-old Edison wouldn’t give up. “Let’s pray,” he pleaded. So they knelt in prayer, then went back out to the car. To Sig Verano’s surprise, it started immediately.

After this experience, the Veranos attended Church meetings for a time, but quit after a few weeks. During this period there were several “coincidences” that helped to keep the Church in their thoughts. Sig’s mother-in-law, visiting from Colombia, spoke favorably of the clean-cut young American missionaries whose meetinghouse was near her home. An old friend from Colombia, now a sailor in the merchant marine, came for a visit. At dinnertime, he asked if he could say a blessing on the food—and Sig Verano recognized from his prayer that he was a Latter-day Saint. The friend, a convert who studied the scriptures ardently during his long voyages, bore his testimony to the Veranos, not knowing they had been investigating the Church.

Earlier, Sig Verano had told one pair of missionaries that they could come to visit as friends, but not as teachers. Before one of them went home at the end of his mission, he and his companion stopped by to visit and to invite the Veranos to meet his parents at a small farewell gathering hosted by friends. The Veranos were so impressed with the loving Latter-day Saints they met that they began taking the missionary lessons again.

But Ana Verano, faithful to the traditions of her forefathers’ church, became stubborn when she realized her husband was serious about joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She felt she didn’t need to be baptized again. So they reached an agreement: since the children liked the Church, he would take them there after his baptism. She would continue to go to her church.

But repeatedly during the week preceding Sig’s baptism, Ana dreamed of the Savior’s baptism by John in the River Jordan. She concluded that it was an indication, meant just for her, of the right thing to do.

Sigifredo and Ana were baptized in January of 1974. Their son Edison was baptized later that year, after his eighth birthday.

The Veranos’ struggles with faithfulness were not yet over, however, and neither was the loving work of others in fellowshipping them.

A fine home teacher, George Baker, helped keep them active in the Church, Brother Verano recalls. Unused to attending church meetings three times a day, beginning with priesthood at seven A.M., Brother Verano was ready to quit. The early meetings were difficult because he was working from midnight to six A.M. But Brother Baker, who could not go himself, arranged for someone to drive the Veranos to ward meetings, and kept them coming.

The Veranos’ spirituality grew as they faithfully attended meetings and obeyed gospel principles.

He was called as president of his stake’s Spanish-speaking branch, created in 1978, and was made bishop when, after five years, it became a ward.

The creation of that branch was a blessing also for Ana Verano. What little English she knew had made it difficult for her to participate in an English-speaking ward. In the Spanish-speaking branch, she could hold callings and grow in service as her husband had.

“My real testimony has come through working in the Church,” Brother Verano says. “Constant service is one of the things that strengthens one’s testimony.”

The first Spanish-speaking ward in their stake was divided shortly after its creation, and Sig was called to the high council. He now serves as stake executive secretary for the three Spanish-speaking wards in the Los Angeles California North Hollywood Stake. Ana serves in the stake’s English-language name extraction program.

Among the vocational courses Sig Verano completed in his wide-ranging studies was one in real estate sales. It led to a profitable new career—and to further strengthening of his testimony.

His sales career didn’t begin well. He was fired after only one week when the owner of the real estate agency learned the new salesman’s religion following Brother Verano’s refusal to work on Sunday.

“The gospel is so important in our lives that Sunday is empty if we can’t go to Church meetings,” he explains. But the owner of the real estate company said that the Mormons put too much time into Church service to be successful. Go work for a small agency where the owner will not care so much about sales success, he told Sig Verano.

Brother Verano took the dismissal as a challenge. He found a job with a larger agency, and, working only part-time in 1979, was its top salesman. He has consistently refused to work on Sundays; as branch president and bishop, he also devoted part of his Saturdays to Church service. Yet for several years he has been among the company’s top five salespeople.

In Church service, Brother Verano says humbly, he has gained knowledge that the Lord lives, that through him we can be redeemed, and that he has placed prophets on earth to help guide us. Those who only tentatively believe that the gospel is true can come to know of its truth with certainty as he has—by testing it in obedience and in service to others.

“When I was baptized into the Church,” he reflects, “I believed. But now I know.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert T. Barrett