When I finished high school, I signed up for a year’s service in the Ecuadorian army. As I packed my belongings, I included a copy of the Book of Mormon and the hymnbook. At that time, I didn’t realize how much that Book of Mormon was going to affect my life.
I was assigned to a company of 104 young men, and after watching their behavior, I guessed I was the only Latter-day Saint. I wanted to be a good example, so I tried to give my best effort to any task I was assigned.
It was almost impossible to find time to read the scriptures. We had only 15 minutes to get ready for lunch and half an hour at night for free time. I spent that time reading the Book of Mormon.
I didn’t realize people were watching me, but they soon found out I was a member of the Church. At first they made fun of me, but I knew their words couldn’t hurt me. Each day I tried to apply what I had read in the Book of Mormon.
One day as I was reading, I was impressed by 3 Nephi 12:16 [3 Ne. 12:16]: “Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” I asked Heavenly Father to help me be an example to others. In time, I gained the respect of the men in my company and the officers.
My service in the army went fine until one day my friend discovered the feed to his automatic rifle was missing. In my country, stealing such an item is a serious crime against the government and is punishable with jail time. Our entire company looked for the missing part for three days, which was the time we had been given to find it. I didn’t look in my own footlocker because I knew I hadn’t taken it.
The captain of the company, a member of an evangelical church, authorized a search of all footlockers. All members of the company were present when my footlocker was inspected. I was astonished when the searchers found the missing rifle feed in it. I had no idea how it had gotten there.
It was a painful moment for me; I knew the captain could send me to jail. Members of my company stood around watching, concerned with what was going to happen to me. The room was quiet as we waited to hear what the captain would say.
He called me over to him, and in a low voice asked for my explanation. All I could say was, “I don’t know.” He looked at me, and then he said these words: “I know what your conduct has been all this time, and I know you didn’t do it.” Then another officer said to the captain, “I, too, believe that this soldier did not do it.” One by one, all the other officers came up to me and offered their support.
Until that moment I hadn’t fully realized the blessing of obedience or the power of example. Tears began to run down my cheeks. I recognized the protecting power of my Savior. I knew He was at my side. Because of this experience, the verse in 3 Nephi that had impressed me earlier will always be engraved on my mind. I am grateful the Book of Mormon taught me to be a light and an example.
A few days later, one of my friends in the company came to me and told me he had met two missionaries and was going to be baptized the following week in the city of Guayaquil. My happiness was complete as I saw him join the true Church.
I later served full time as a soldier for the Lord—sharing the gospel as a missionary in the Ecuador Quito Mission. I know Jesus Christ lives and is our perfect example.