The Lord has encouraged the members of the Church in these latter days to choose their secular leaders carefully: “Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold” (D&C 98:10). The Lord’s prophets continually urge the Saints to become involved in their communities and to select good people to safeguard the laws of the land.
Elder Luis Alberto Ferrizo, a Regional Representative in Flores, Uruguay, knows how important it is to have wise leaders. For years, he has been involved in local and national politics. Now the people of Flores are looking to him for wise leadership. In Uruguay’s last election, Elder Ferrizo was chosen to represent the Flores district as a national congressman.
Elder Ferrizo, 50, is a lifetime resident of Flores. He and his wife, Frieda, are the parents of two children, Eveline and Luis Alberto, Jr. As a local businessman, community worker, and Church leader, Elder Ferrizo has earned the love and respect not only of those who share his political ideas, but also of those of other political parties. As a Regional Representative for the Church and a national representative for the people, he realizes that government and the gospel are both important, each in its own way.
“Partisan political activity and Church activity are two different things,” he says. “The Church is not political. It has no political affiliation. Members are taught to be good citizens and to fulfill their duties. At Church meetings, we talk exclusively about gospel subjects and not about those things that have to do with individual political preferences and activities.”
Uruguay has long been a land of religious and political freedom. Since early in its history, there has been a separation of church and state. Missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first arrived in the country in 1947, and the Church enjoyed a slow but steady growth throughout the 1950s. By the 1960s, it had become one of the strongest and most active churches in the country. Today, there are more than 50,000 members in a population of 3,300,000.
With the Church more and more in the public eye in Uruguay, the accomplishments of Elder Ferrizo and others like him have helped bring down barriers of misinformation about the activities and purposes of the Church. Their example has contributed to the progress of the Church and the spreading of the gospel message.
“The opinion of my colleagues regarding my beliefs and religious life is one of respect and even of certain admiration,” says Elder Ferrizo. “It is a very favorable image because so many people here believe that members of the Church cannot participate in public callings. In all my community and political activity, I have never faced any obstacles for being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, I have been respected because of my principles.”
Elder Ferrizo began his community service as a party delegate in 1966. He was elected to the Flores Departmental Council in 1971, was chosen as a national delegate and ran for Flores deputy mayor in 1985, and was elected congressman in 1989. He has worked in other areas of the community as well. In athletics, he served on local sports committees and was president of the Penarol Soccer Club for fifteen years. In education, he served on the parents’ committee at his children’s school, first as secretary and then as president. In business, he operates his own auctioning service.
His work in the Church has been just as active. Elder Ferrizo was baptized in 1963. In 1967, he was called as president of the Flores Branch. He then served as president of the Durazno District for nine years, and president of the Durazno Stake for nine more. Since 1989 he has served as a Regional Representative.
Elder Ferrizo says he tries to incorporate the teachings of the gospel into his daily decisions as a lawmaker. “When topics come up that may compromise the principles of the gospel, I base myself on and defend those principles, even though the final decisions are almost always made through partisan politics.”
Despite his interest in many different activities, his primary interest remains the gospel of Jesus Christ. It helps him keep things in perspective.
“The goal of our Heavenly Father is for us to achieve eternal life,” he says. “In order to achieve it, we must learn the principles of the gospel; keep the commandments; and develop physically, intellectually, and socially. We should also do well in our secular studies. But the gospel must be the foundation.”
Elder Ferrizo urges members of the Church, especially the youth, to prepare now to be happy and productive in the future. “Serving missions and marrying in the temple are important steps for young people,” he says. “Then, as they organize their personal lives, they will be able to participate in the community in diverse ways. Others will see not only how the principles of the gospel govern their lives, but also the results of living those principles. Through their examples, they will be effective in spreading the gospel.”
The Church’s declaration of belief regarding governments and laws, put forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, states, “We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments” (D&C 134:5).
As Elder Ferrizo works from day to day for the Uruguayan people, he confirms the importance of this scriptural mandate. “It is the responsibility of all members to keep themselves informed of the political matters in their country, so that they can be prepared to choose the best people to lead them.”