This story is true, and it is beautiful—but it is not unique. It happens over and over again, anywhere there are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This particular version took place in Temuco, a city in south central Chile, from about 1985 to 1991. It is the record of three young men who made the decision to share their testimonies—and describes the heartwarming conversions that followed, which multiplied beyond their expectations.
Unlike most of the students at the Catholic University of Temuco, Heraldo Torres, originally of the city of Lajas, was a Latter-day Saint. His classmates observed that he was courageous in sharing his views on moral questions—even in the mandatory theology classes, where his opinions sometimes lowered his grades. But eventually he won the respect of many of his professors and fellow students.
Heraldo’s roommate and longtime friend, Roberto Jiménez, was also a Church member and had just come back to school after serving a mission. Like many converts, he was the only Latter-day Saint in his family. His successful return to the university laid to rest the concerns of many friends and relatives, who had tried to convince him not to interrupt his studies for a mission.
“When are you going on your mission?” Roberto sometimes teased Heraldo.
“Soon. When I graduate,” was the usual reply.
“Oh, you mean in ten more years?” Roberto would joke.
Before long the two roommates, both students of English, met another young man with the same major. His name was Luis (“Luchito”) Cornejo, and he was from the capital, Santiago. Although he was thought to be shy, Luchito accepted an invitation from Roberto and Heraldo to attend ward meetings and institute classes, and he found the gospel message very agreeable. At about the same time, he began boarding with the Hernández family, who were Latter-day Saints. His heart was softened by their many tender acts of kindness, and he decided to be baptized.
Luchito was only the first in a series of conversions—the first in this particular story of links of love. On one of his trips home to Santiago, he persuaded his mother and his sister to start learning about the Church. Both were baptized. He extended the same invitation to another classmate, Luis Soto, who also followed his footsteps into the waters of baptism.
At the time he joined the Church, Luis Soto lived at the same boardinghouse as Richard Spichiger, a student of auto mechanics who was a descendant of Swiss immigrants. Richard was very impressed by his neighbor’s manner and conduct. His favorable opinion opened the way for the full-time missionaries—who also lived in the boardinghouse—to teach him the discussions. After Richard was baptized, he accepted a call to the Chile Osorno Mission, where he, in turn, baptized dozens of people.
But back to Luchito. Even before Luis Soto and Richard Spichiger joined the Church, he had shared his new testimony with another friend—a young woman named Liliana Salazar. Like Heraldo, Roberto, Luchito, and Luis, Liliana was an English major. She would be honored that year as the top student in her class. But more important, the changes she was observing in Luchito’s life prompted her to study his beliefs. After a few months, she, too became a Latter-day Saint. Then, at her invitation, her father, mother, and sister Patricia heard and accepted the message of the Restoration. And then Liliana introduced a sixth student—her friend Guillermo Rosales—to the Church, and he also joined.
Through her activity in the Church, Liliana met another recent convert, Néstor Bravo, whom she later married in the temple.
Long before he joined the Church, Néstor had had a strong desire to succeed in his chosen field—dramatic arts. He had a job organizing theater workshops for university students in the southern city of Valdivia. His conversion began when he met Alejandro Arangua, a student of veterinary medicine and a faithful Church member. A beautiful rapport developed. Néstor recognized at once that his new friend was different from other young people. Guided by the Spirit, Alejandro shared his testimony with him.
After Néstor was baptized, the two began traveling throughout Chile together, giving mime presentations at Chilean seminaries and institutes. They found beautiful and artistic ways to incorporate principles of the gospel into their productions. In addition, both men bore their powerful testimonies to all who came to see them.
Eventually Alejandro moved away to accept employment. Néstor remained and was called to serve as stake clerk and then as a teacher of early-morning seminary. He created dramatizations of the lives of Nephi, Mormon, Alma, and Jesus Christ that left an indelible imprint on the minds of his young pupils. Professionally, Néstor became well known as a rising talent in the theater—and his mime group, Antumimik, toured several cities in Chile and Argentina. He was liked and admired as an educator as well, and in time he accepted a post at Universidad de la Frontera in Temuco.
One of Néstor’s students there, Carolina Urrutia, was particularly impressed by him. She felt that he was different, somehow, from other gifted people—so much so that she decided to find out why. Néstor was very willing to tell her about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as a result, he had the privilege of baptizing her. Subsequently, she and Néstor were influential in the conversion of another of his students, an actress and teacher named María Reiñanco.
Carolina affirms that the gospel has increased her love for her Heavenly Father and for other people. One Sunday while she was taking a taxi to church, the driver became interested in the books she was carrying—her standard works. Their polite conversation grew cordial, and after arriving at the meetinghouse, Carolina invited him to attend services with her and to meet the missionaries. As he learned about the Church, the taxi driver, Luis Campos, was deeply impressed with the importance given to the law of chastity and with the idea of a living prophet. Two months later he was baptized.
Meanwhile, Carolina’s mother, living in the city of Chillán, joined the Church after hearing her daughter’s testimony during a visit at home.
How many people have been baptized because of Heraldo Torres, Roberto Jiménez, Néstor Bravo, and the others in this beautiful chain? Each year the question becomes more difficult to answer. More and more family members are being baptized. And many of the new converts are serving full-time missions and sharing the gospel with their friends—who, in turn, share it with other friends. It is a never-ending circle.
Little by little, member by member, links of love continue to be forged in the hearts of thousands of converts throughout Chile—as they are throughout the world.
And what happened to that university student, Heraldo Torres, who promised his friend that he would serve a mission when he graduated? He kept his promise. After receiving his degree, Heraldo accepted a call to the Chile Santiago South Mission. His letters home bore ample witness of the joy he felt as he continued to share his light with others.
It is interesting to note that this phenomenal growth of the Church in Chile took place even as Latter-day Saints were suffering heavy persecution and were being harassed by anti-Mormon attention in the media. But nothing succeeded in weakening the faith of the people. Like links in an ever-extending chain, members old and new have been united in love, in testimony, and in appreciation for the blessings of the gospel.
As the people of Chile have accepted the restored gospel, the Lord has blessed our land with peace and prosperity. Each day we come closer to seeing the fulfillment of the prophetic vision of President Spencer W. Kimball, who had such great love for this people and who promised that the Lamanites would blossom as the rose.
Of these people the prophet Nephi wrote, “The gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers” (2 Ne. 30:5).
The links of love that unite us—that unite all of us as members of the Lord’s Church—are only the beginning of our Heavenly Father’s work to bring about the immortality and eternal life of man.