Never Too Old

By Stephen K. Christiansen

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    He is strong, healthy, and full of life. He still goes to work every day. He loves the gospel. He is a tireless missionary. And he is ninety-one years old. The example of Lazaro Lucio Rivera del Carpio Marroquin shows that no matter how old you are, you can never be too old to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Brother Rivera was born 17 December 1899 in Arequipa, Peru. He eventually settled in Cuzco, a city about 600 kilometers southeast of Lima located in the peaks of the Andes Mountains. It was there he met the missionaries. The story of his conversion and subsequent dedication to the Church shows the faith and good works that characterize this Peruvian pioneer of the Church.

    “Like Joseph Smith and so many others, I was searching for the truth in all the religious sects,” says Brother Rivera, “but I never joined any of them.” His search came to an end when he was sixty-seven years old.

    “I was in my store, busily working,” he says. “It was a Sunday. My son Héctor came in and told me, ‘Papá, I know you’ve investigated many churches, but there’s a new one in town.’

    “I told him, ‘It doesn’t matter—they’re all the same.’

    “‘Come on,’ Héctor said. ‘This may be the one you’re looking for.’

    “Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord was with him to get me to go. So I put on my hat and went with Héctor to the meeting place. There I found two elders. I greeted them and they welcomed me. It was 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning when the meetings began, and I was there until noon. At first I didn’t understand much of what I heard, since I was more used to the religious customs I had grown up with. But by my second visit a week later, I realized that I had found the true church of Jesus Christ, especially when the elders spoke of the Word of Wisdom.”

    Now, twenty-four years later, Brother Rivera still gives much of the credit for his good health and energy to living the Word of Wisdom.

    “After my baptism, I felt something change inside,” he says. “It’s my secret for having lived so long.”

    “As long as I can remember,” says his son Héctor, “I have never seen my father break the Word of Wisdom. Never. I am sure it is because of this he is strong and the Lord blesses him.”

    The missionaries that Brother Rivera met in 1967 were the first assigned to Cuzco—although missionary work opened in Peru in 1956—and he was one of the first converts in that city. Since that initial contact with missionaries, Brother Rivera has always loved missionary work, and his enthusiasm is obvious as he talks about it.

    “I am a Latter-day Saint, so wherever I go I’m going to talk about the gospel,” he says. “I’m not going to waste time. I tell my friends, ‘If you want your life to go better, to have some of your problems solved, then I have the answer: Come to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come to our meetings, and afterwards the missionaries will instruct you and prepare you for baptism. Then you will be happy.’ I never get tired of talking about the gospel. I could talk day and night about it.”

    Not only does he talk about missionary work, he does it. In his shop in Cuzco, he hung up a poster inviting customers to sign up for missionary visits. He has also helped family and friends join the Church and build their testimonies.

    “It has been my luck to be like Peter, a fisher of men,” he says.

    Brother Rivera’s life in Cuzco represents a unique mixture of the old and new worlds in South America. He is a direct descendant of Nicolas de Rivera Viejo, a Spanish leader who came to the New World with Francisco Pizarro, the 16th-century conquistador. The city of Cuzco, on the other hand, was the site of the Incan capital long before the Spaniards ever arrived.

    Today, Brother Rivera puts to use age-old skills to create fine jewelry. His technique and attention to detail have attracted worldwide customers, including movie stars from home and abroad. But even though he has been offered jobs elsewhere, he has remained in Cuzco because he feels that is where he is needed.

    Shortly after his baptism, Brother Rivera was called as president of the Cuzco Branch. In this position, he was instrumental in blessing the lives of the members. He recalls one such instance: “A recently baptized member, Pablo Concha, was an engineer who was unemployed, and he decided to go to Lima to look for a job. Before he left, I said to him, ‘You will be in Lima fifteen days, no longer. When you return, not only will you have a job, you will have two jobs.’ When Brother Concha returned home fifteen days later, he had been named professor of geology at the university in Lima and president of the Office of Land and Mine Claims for the government.”

    Brother Rivera credits the Lord with putting the words into his mouth. “The Lord prompts his members to say what he wants them to say.”

    Héctor Rivera says his father’s faith has always been inspirational. “The sky could fall, and he would still attend his Church meetings on Sunday. Ever since he joined the Church, I have seen my father running to fulfill his callings.” Although he is over ninety years old, Brother Rivera, a high priest, currently serves as stake family history director.

    Another trait that characterizes Brother Rivera is his love of the scriptures. In addition to the Word of Wisdom, it is the scriptures to which he attributes his added vitality and energy in life. “I try to read the scriptures every day,” he says. “Even with my many years, I still have a lot to learn, so I continue to study, to wrap myself in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to be a little better every day.”

    Héctor says he sees his father reading the scriptures constantly. “In the morning when I wake up I find him reading the Book of Mormon, the Church magazines, and other Church books. Then when I go to bed at night, I see him in his room again, reading the same things. Every time I see this I marvel. When I saw how much he loved the scriptures, I began to read the Book of Mormon myself.”

    The scriptures have helped Brother Rivera stay as young on the inside as he acts on the outside. In fact, one of his favorite scriptures reminds him to “learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God” (Alma 37:35).

    “What beautiful words!” he says. “They give us an example of how we should follow the path of righteousness.”

    Despite his hard work and motivation, Brother Rivera realizes the true source of his blessings. “Many admire how old I am, but it is God who is giving me life,” he says. “Without Him, we are nothing.”

    How has living the gospel made Brother Rivera feel?

    “I am very happy, happier than if I had all the gold in the world. That’s what life is all about—serving God, serving others. The gospel is a beautiful thing.”