In the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, the First Presidency offers a challenge to the youth of the Church: “You are not just ordinary young men and women. You are choice spirits who have been held in reserve to come forth in this day when the temptations, responsibilities, and opportunities are the very greatest. … This is a time for you not only to live righteously but also to set an example for your peers.”
In Church and seminary classes, in school activities, and in their own homes, the Latter-day Saint youth in Argentina are taking this challenge to heart.
In Buenos Aires
As visitors to Argentina travel from the airport to downtown Buenos Aires, many are awestruck as they drive by the beautiful Buenos Aires temple. Located just off this busy thoroughfare, the temple seems to stand as a sentinel watching over the city. What most visitors don’t understand, however, is that, since 1986 when it was dedicated, it has been a sentinel to the Latter-day Saint people in Argentina. It is a symbol of all that is sacred and beautiful to members of the Church—young and old alike.
Youth groups from the surrounding area often come to the temple on Saturday mornings to do baptisms for the dead. It is not always easy for them to get there—even when they live in the city—because the distances are so great in this huge metropolis. But the young men and women from the Castelar Ward, Buenos Aires Argentina Castelar Stake, feel that they are very lucky—they live close to the temple, and they try to come for baptisms once a month. They speak of some of the experiences they have had and of their growing testimonies.
“I will always remember the first time I came to the temple. It was at night, and when we came from the highway and saw the lights and everything, it was so beautiful. When I entered the temple, I could feel the Spirit so strongly. I knew that the Church was true. Every time I come to the temple, it helps my testimony grow.”—Victor Gorosito
“Coming to the temple is wonderful, because I can be baptized in the name of people who have died. They can receive the blessings of the gospel because of me. I can feel the Spirit because I know I am doing something good for the work, and I know my Father in Heaven is going to be happy about it.”—Vanesa Rey
“The first time I came to the temple was six months ago. I thought it was so beautiful. I try to come back and do baptisms as often as I can.”—Enzo Comerci
“When President Hinckley came to Buenos Aires, I was able to go to the conference that was held in the soccer stadium and hear him speak. I will never forget the wonderful feeling I had when, at the end of the meeting, President Hinckley and all the people waved good-bye with white handkerchiefs.”—Juan Gabriel Barrisnuevo
Seminary students from four wards slip quietly from their homes in the dark stillness of the hour before dawn. The chill of fall in the air encourages them to run quickly to the warmth of a waiting car, already half-filled with other sleepy teens and leaders. The city will not wake for another two hours, and only a few delivery trucks and early commuters compete with the caravan of trucks and cars carrying the Latter-day Saint youth out of the city and up the serpentine road to Cerro de la Gloria.
By the time the group arrives at the top of the mountain, a faint, orange-pink glow is visible above the horizon in the east; but the “Hill of Glory” is still guarding its treasure. In the gray light of predawn, a hymn is sung, a prayer is offered, and the students begin this day’s study of the gospel. Only then does the darkness give up its secret—streaks of red and orange fill the sky as the sun reveals the glory of the panorama surrounding today’s mountaintop classroom. The majestic peaks of the Andes Mountains on the west and the sweeping plains surrounding the city on the east display the glorious work of the Creator.
In this idyllic setting—much different from their ordinary classroom—these young men and young women in Mendoza, Argentina, are spiritually fed and fortified to face the challenges of another day. As the sun rises higher, the spirit of the morning begins to transform to the concerns of the day, but the students linger a moment and talk about the blessings of having the gospel in their lives.
“I was baptized when I was nine years old, but I was not active for three years. When I started to come to Church, it was like my second baptism! Seminary has helped me to really understand the gospel for the first time!”—Sofia Carreño
“It is sometimes difficult for me in school. Yesterday, one of my friends offered me coffee. It was hard to say no, but I told my friend I am a member of the Church and that my body is a temple—I have to take care of my body.”—Miriam Mendoza
“In the church I was in before, they never talked about the Savior. When the missionaries came to our house last year, they taught us about Jesus Christ. That is why I decided to join the Church—I wanted to learn about him.”—Stella Lucero
“I will never forget when I traveled with our ward to hear President Gordon B. Hinckley speak in Buenos Aires. The bus trip took two whole days—16 hours each way. When the prophet spoke, I knew his words were from Jesus Christ. I felt something very strong in my heart—I knew the Church was true.”—Maria Eugenia Rossi
“I heard President Hinckley speak in Santiago, Chile, the day before he was in Buenos Aires. I was so touched by the Spirit when I heard the prophet speak, it brought tears to my eyes. I knew that what he was saying was true.”—Leandro Lommatzsch
“I am so glad that I have seminary because it helps me to be strong and stand ‘out of the world’ and fight the bad things in the world. I wanted to learn Italian this year, but the class was at the same time as seminary. I was sad I couldn’t take Italian, but I know I am learning better things in seminary.”—Yemina Rastelli
“I met my friend Ariel six years ago. One of the first things I told him was that I am a member of the Church. He was very interested, and now he goes to Church and to seminary with me. I know that seminary has helped me to learn more about the scriptures and to share the gospel with my friends.”—Karen Nuñez
“When I was in junior high school, some of my friends made fun of me because I was a member of the Church. I tried to tell them about my testimony, but I was kind of ashamed. I decided to pray about it, and after my prayer I was able to express my testimony to them. Later one of my friends asked me questions about the Church, and others started to listen. From that day on, my friends have shown more respect to me and to the Church.”—Andrés Navarro
Nestled in the northwest tip of Argentina, close to the Bolivian border, lies the city of Salta. In this beautiful, somewhat remote part of the country, life is typically busy and not always easy for Latter-day Saint youth. Many new members have had to make difficult changes in their lifestyles and have had to explain to friends and schoolmates why they believe as they do. Some are struggling to make nonmember parents and families understand their commitment to the gospel.
When an LDS chapel in Salta was destroyed by fire a few years ago, the Saints responded in a spirit of faith and hope. After much work and sacrifice, a beautiful new chapel stood in its place only 18 months after the tragedy. Many of the LDS youth in Salta show this same faith, hope, and enthusiasm for “building.” “How are we building?” they may ask. The answer is easy: by getting out of bed at 5:00 A.M. to attend a seminary class, by reading the scriptures daily, by setting a good example for friends, by finding the courage to bear their testimonies—all this is building the future of the Church.
“I didn’t join the Church until I was 12 years old, but my testimony has really grown since then. I love to go to seminary and learn about Jesus Christ and what he did for us. I usually take my notebooks from seminary to school so I can show them to my friends and explain about the Church.”—Natalia Virginia Chaile
“When I started seminary, I didn’t have a very strong testimony. But after reading the scriptures, I felt the love of Christ bless my family and strengthen us.”—Nelida Ivana Gonzalez
“I want to be a missionary. I always tell my friends about the Church, and I tell them that I know it is the true Church. I have been helping the missionaries by finding youth to teach and setting up appointments for them.”—Andrea Lorena Bernel
“When I was baptized, I really didn’t understand as I do now. I have never borne my testimony in Church, but now I want to do that.”—Paola Ramina Martinez
“One time in seminary we prayed together that more students would come. After this prayer, three more of our friends came—we knew it was an answer to our prayer!”—Eva Analia Arce
“When my friends ask me questions like ‘Why don’t you say bad words?’ and ‘Why won’t you drink coffee?’ I tell them what I believe. I tell them we learn to be good examples inside and outside the church.”—Maria Saavedra
“I was baptized just two years ago. When I left the waters of baptism, I felt that Someone was by my side.”—José Arnaldo Chaile
Setting an Example
Elder John B. Dickson, former President of the South America South Area, tells of an area-wide youth service activity that was held several years ago: “The youth of the Comodoro Rivadavia Argentina Stake, in the extreme southern part of Argentina, prepared to paint a 1.25-kilometer beach wall fence. One hundred and fifty youth and their leaders with white paint, buckets, and brushes must have created quite a sight, because when the local radio station heard about the event, they came to investigate. ‘Who are these young people?’ they asked. ‘They are youth from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ ‘Why are they doing this?’ ‘Well, they just love their community and want to give some voluntary service.’ This information went out to all the radio stations and newspapers in the community.
“These kids knew they were doing something for someone else—taking their minds off themselves as they served others,” says Elder Dickson. “If you multiply that kind of example time and time again—in about 160 stakes throughout the area—all giving service to their communities on the same day, the effect is staggering!”
And on a daily basis, and without any press coverage, young men and young women in the 62 stakes in Argentina continue to give of themselves as they face their individual challenges. They are setting a different, more personal example for their friends and families as they study the gospel, help others, and build their own testimonies. The effect of this effort is no less remarkable.