The Book Cried Out


Marilu Ramirez of Zacatecas, Mexico, was only eight years old when she made her startling discovery: There on the street vendor’s magazine stand—somewhere between the newspapers and the television magazines—was a book with a blue cover and a golden angel blowing a trumpet.

Who knows how the book came to be there that day. It seemed out of place there on the rack, and it seemed to cry out to her to be picked up and read. The child paid for it and took it home.

As far as her mother was concerned, this was just another in a long line of strange religious books her daughter had brought home—and she punished the child for buying and reading it. The whole family thought Marilu was odd—too introverted, too obsessed by thoughts about God and religion. How could anyone explain the child’s dissatisfaction with the family’s traditional church? Why would she choose to waste her few extra pesos on religious books and pamphlets and then waste time reading them? But no amount of ridicule or pressure from family or friends made any difference.

To Marilu, this new blue book with the golden angel on the cover was different from all her other books. Something about it made her feel strangely wonderful inside, and she was crying before she had finished even the first page. Every page added to that feeling. “It was like filling a cup drop by drop,” she says.

Where was this peculiar book from? “I though it may have been from some obscure Oriental religion, or maybe from India,” she says. “I didn’t know how to find out which church it belonged to. But I prayed that I would someday find out. I already knew it was true.”

For the next nine years Marilu remained devoted to the book and studied it thoroughly. Then one day when she was seventeen, she saw two men in white shirts riding her bus. When she saw they were carrying books, she wondered if they knew anything about her book. But before she had worked up enough courage to ask, they got off the bus.

A month later, when she saw a similar pair of young men, she seized the opportunity. “Do you preach the gospel?” she asked them. The said they did.

“Do you know about a lot of different religions?” she asked. “I’m trying to locate one that isn’t very common.” And she told them about her Book of Mormon.

They elders eyed each other and then grinned. “We’re missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we’d love to teach you and your family.”

“No,” she insisted. “I just want to know if you can tell me which church uses the Book of Mormon.”

Was she joking? The elders wondered. “Do you know what we are called?” one of them asked. “Mormons!”

When they showed her their own copies of the Book of Mormon, she believed them—and she insisted on hearing more that very day.

During their first visit that evening, Marilu interrupted the discussion many times—not with questions, but with Book of Mormon verses she already knew by heart, verses that strengthened the concepts they were teaching. The elders were amazed at her knowledge of her well-worn Book of Mormon—at how easily she could find the very verses she was looking for.

This happened again and again during the next evening’s discussion. When they asked Marilu if she wanted to be baptized, she responded, “Yes, tomorrow!” With her parents’ permission, she was baptized the next day, 22 August 1984. And then she began her quest to serve a mission.

“I had wanted to tell others about the Book of Mormon since the day I found it when I was eight years old,” she says. “Now I felt I had to become a missionary.”

But she was only seventeen. Every year thereafter on her birthday, she asked her bishop if she was old enough yet to be called on a mission, but each year he told her she must wait until she was twenty-one. In the meantime, she taught Primary and Sunday School and continued to grow in her knowledge of the gospel.

Then—on the very day she turned twenty-one—her call came.

Sister Marilu Ramirez was prepared. A bright student, she was teaching elementary school even before finishing her university degree, and she carefully saved her earnings. By the time she received her call, she had saved up enough money to pay for her entire mission. At that point she gave up her job, with no assurance of finding one when she returned.

Her family was sure she was insane. The child who had wasted time and money on religious books was now throwing away a good job, all her savings, and eighteen months of her life. But once again, no amount of pressure made any difference.

Now on her mission, she prays for her family and writes them weekly.

On 24 January 1988, as her group is about to leave the Mexico City Missionary Training Center and enter their fields of labor, Sister Marilu Ramirez stands during a meeting to bear her testimony. Her jet black hair, pulled back and held in place with two blue hair clips, almost reaches her waist.

At the pulpit, she stands on a short stool in order to speak into the microphone. Her petite frame suggests that she might speak timidly, but her voice is powerful and her testimony is that of a mature disciple. “I have had to fight to get here,” she says with emotion, “and I have learned that without the Lord, I am nothing. But I have felt his infinite love for me, and I know in whom I have confided.”

The next day, as she meets her new mission president and his assistants, she again bears powerful witness of the Father’s love. “When I entered the temple for the first time a few days ago, I felt his Spirit and was overwhelmed by his love,” she says. “As I prayed to him, I asked, ‘Why do you love me so much?’ And I seemed to hear an answer: ‘Don’t you know I love all the world—all my children? I don’t want anyone to be lost.’ And I began to comprehend the great love he has for each one of us.” Her voice again fills with emotion. “I know that our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ live and love us. I feel very honored to be a daughter of God and to serve him as a missionary.”

Sister Ramirez is currently teaching the gospel to non-members who come to the Mexico City Temple visitors’ center. In the evenings, she and her companion go out into the surrounding neighborhoods to teach families the gospel in their homes.

Like that eight-year-old child, the twenty-one-year old missionary is still consumed with thoughts about God. And her cup, filled drop by drop when she read the pages of the Book of Mormon as a child, is now overflowing.

[illustration] Illustrated by Olinda Reynolds