After All Was Said and Done, It Was True

By Mayra Mercedes Pérez Román

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    “All right, I’ll listen to your message,” I told the young missionaries when they asked if they could visit me in my home in Mexico City. “But just to share ideas. I already know what I believe, and I don’t want to be a member of your church.” I had met them when the Flores family invited me to their family home evening. I never imagined that the evening would end with my allowing them to come to my house. Oh, well, it’s only an hour, I told myself. Then I can forget about them.

    The following week, at exactly the appointed hour, I heard their knock. At least they’re punctual, I thought, and opened the door to see two fresh faces, eager to begin.

    At first I was defensive, expecting them to attack my beliefs. But instead they talked about our Father in Heaven, who has a body like me; about his Son, who had died for me and then was resurrected; and about the Holy Ghost, who can communicate with me. It was all very logical.

    Then they went on to say that Jesus Christ had visited the American continent; his visit was recorded in a book—the Book of Mormon.

    If they think they’re going to sell me their little book, I thought, they are mistaken. To my surprise, they said that someone had already purchased the book for me and that the only price was to read it. For that reason I accepted it, although I felt that only the Bible contained God’s word.

    When the elders came a second time, they asked me if I would be baptized. “I’m already baptized,” I replied. “I was baptized when I was a baby, and it was good for life.” The missionaries stated that baptism had to be done by immersion and that it was for the remission of sins at the age of eight, when a child was old enough to be responsible for his actions. In my heart I knew that I had been sinless when I was baptized. And I hadn’t been submerged. I decided to take a closer look at their beliefs.

    I began to visit their church, although I would leave the meetings early to attend my own services. I found that everyone there smiled and greeted me as if they had known me for a long time. They just want to convert me, I told myself. The atmosphere is nice, and the classes are interesting, but that is all.

    Although I didn’t touch the Book of Mormon, I continued with the discussions. I learned about a young man named Joseph Smith who, in the year 1820, saw God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. At that moment, a new era had begun—lost truth had again illuminated the world. Could this possibly be true? There was only one way to find out, the missionaries said, and that was to pray. They taught me how to pray in a very simple way. They said God would answer me if I would only ask him this question, with sincere faith. My heart softened for a moment, but then I was afraid. What if he did answer? What if it were true?

    The next time they came, they explained that before we were born, we had all lived with our Heavenly Father in a spirit world (could it really exist? I wondered) and that we came to this earth to get bodies and to learn to choose between good and evil. If we chose the good, we began to become like God. Isn’t this blasphemy? I asked myself. How can I become like God, who is perfect? The missionaries also explained that I should take care of my body. They asked me if I would keep the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity. I surprised myself when I agreed to live by these standards, even though I did not believe in their church.

    This is too much, I thought, when during the fifth discussion they told me about tithing, about fasting, and about the offering I should give for the poor. Why should I help others when I am the one who needs help? But the missionaries explained that Latter-day Saints consider it a privilege to pay their tithing and fast offering. “The Lord gives you ten apples and asks for only one back,” they explained. “How generous he is!”

    Well, I said to myself, if he’s going to give me ten apples and then want one back, let him just give me nine in the first place! But I had always had financial problems. Was it because I was unfair with the Lord?

    At the last discussion, the missionaries reviewed everything they had taught and explained the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Again they spoke of baptism, and again I told myself that they would not succeed in baptizing me. I began to argue vigorously with them. The evening ended with my assuring them that they were wrong about everything. They listened sadly, then tried to respond with readings from the scriptures. But I refused to listen and asked them to leave.

    At last I was free of the missionaries. Certainly, they were pleasing enough as people, but I wanted no more to do with them as representatives of their church. So why did I feel such an emptiness inside?

    One Sunday afternoon, about six weeks later, the missionaries came again. This time, one of the elders suggested that I would have a difficult time reading the Book of Mormon in a week. I felt a challenge in his words. Did he think I wasn’t capable of reading his little book? I will read it in even less time! I also accepted their suggestion that the three of us fast together the following Tuesday while I came to a decision about the book.

    That night when I began to read the Book of Mormon, I found that despite my former reluctance, I could not put it down. I read steadily, with no desire to sleep, until three o’clock in the morning. Although I had to work the next day, I found myself reading the book at each free moment. And as soon as I came home in the afternoon, I went back to it like steel drawn to a magnet.

    That very evening, I visited the Flores family, who had introduced me to the missionaries. I told them that I was considering baptism. Brother Flores questioned me, wanting to know if I were serious. I answered that I was. Then the Flores family said that they wanted to fast with me and the missionaries the next day. That night I read until the early hours a second time.

    On Tuesday morning, each of us, in our own homes, began to fast. I was in good spirits all day and was not hungry or thirsty. In the afternoon, I read a scripture that shook me: “For after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, … then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed” (Alma 34:33). I knelt and asked my Father in Heaven if the church I was investigating was true and if I should join it. As I listened, I knew deep within my soul that this really was the church of Jesus Christ. I should wait no longer. That night when I ended my fast, I told the missionaries of my decision to be baptized. Happiness filled their faces.

    Day and night I continued my reading of the Book of Mormon until, six and a half days after I started, I finished it. I had done it! I had met the missionaries’ challenge. I knew that I would never again refer to the Book of Mormon as the “little book.” It was now a great book, another testament of Jesus Christ. And although Satan tried to put obstacles in my path, on 19 February 1990 I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    After all was said and done, it was true! God loved us so much that he designed a plan of salvation for us and gave his Only Begotten Son as a sacrifice so that we could return to his presence. Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son and was chosen by God to restore the truth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds the authority of God to perform those ordinances and offer those covenants that help us obtain a celestial home, if we are faithful and true to those covenants.

    Each night I thank God for the opportunity I had to meet the Flores family and the missionaries. They all served as instruments in the hand of the Lord so that I could receive and accept his precious gospel.

    Photography by Sergio Maldonado

    Sister Mayra Pérez, left, served in the Mexico Leon Mission from August 1992 to March 1994. Above, she stands by a hometown monument to the creation of Mexico’s flag.

    Sister Pérez, center, with the Flores family, who introduced her to the missionaries at a family home evening.