The Treasure of El Dorado


These young men in Argentina know what is of greatest worth.
“If ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity” (D&C 38:39).

In legend, El Dorado was a place of great treasure, with cities of gold. It was so sought after that a man named Coronado spent his life searching for but never finding it. Others have fought and died over treasure too, giving their lives in pursuit of riches.

But others, including four young Latter-day Saints in Buenos Aires, Argentina, know about treasure of another kind. It is not treasure of this earth but of eternity. It is the treasure of the restored gospel, a treasure that was literally brought to their doorsteps.

One afternoon in April 1999, in a Buenos Aires suburb known as El Dorado, two young men wearing white shirts and ties knocked at the door of the Vallejos family. The young men introduced themselves as missionaries spreading the word of God throughout the world. Their message, they said, included an invitation for all to find Jesus Christ and the true path that will lead us back to God the Father.

Such a message would be treasure indeed! The father of the family, Don Rubén Orlando Vallejos, felt he must hear what these young men had to say. He started meeting with them and discussing the gospel. Although his wife was not interested, his sons, Matías, age 12, and Elías, age 11, would sometimes listen in.

At first the boys did not comprehend all this talk about a restoration of the true Church. But as time went by they became increasingly convinced of the value of what the missionaries were saying. They asked to be taught the discussions too.

“When we had our first official lesson with the missionaries,” Elías explains, “they told us to pray and ask if the Book of Mormon and the Church were true. That night I prayed, and when I woke up the next day, I had a desire to do all the things the missionaries asked us to do. I learned that when we say our prayers with a sincere heart, those prayers are always answered.”

An understanding of the power of prayer. The beginnings of a testimony of the truth. These were treasure indeed.

Matías also began to find treasure. “The scriptures and publications of the Church helped me a lot,” he says. One particular scripture from the Book of Mormon made a deep impression on him: “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God” (Alma 37:35).

The brothers started attending the meetings of El Dorado Ward, Florencio Varela Argentina Stake. On 29 September 1999, with their parents’ permission, Matías and Elías were baptized.

They continued to learn just how spiritually rich they could become. Two weeks after his baptism, for example, Matías received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained a deacon. “I immediately felt that I had received power from heaven,” he says. He also felt the influence of the Holy Ghost, a gift he had received when he was confirmed a member of the Church.

“I had been tempted to start wearing an earring,” he says. “Then I received a booklet that told me how to dress for church and activities. After I read that, I repented. My mother asked me if I was going to put the earring in again. I told her I didn’t feel right about wearing it anymore. That was it. I felt strength in being able to overcome temptation. I felt the Spirit whispering to me and telling me to do what was right.”

Power in the priesthood. Guidance from the Holy Ghost. Surely these were treasure too.

Matías and Elías were so impressed with the things they were learning that they wanted to share their newfound understanding. They began talking with some neighborhood friends, the Anríquez brothers. Juan Carlos was age 12, Esteban, age 11. Juan Carlos seemed particularly interested, and he soon began to listen to the missionary discussions and attend Church meetings. Several months later he was baptized, and shortly afterward he was ordained a deacon.

Matías and Juan Carlos continued to progress in the priesthood. At age 13, Matías was called as president of the deacons quorum. Elías turned 12 and became a deacon. A year later Matías turned 14, became a teacher, and was soon called as president of the teachers quorum. Juan Carlos also turned 14 and was ordained a teacher.

Then something wonderful happened. Don Rubén Orlando Vallejos, the father of Matías and Elías, was finally baptized. Brother Vallejos is a butcher by profession, and his work schedule made it difficult for him to attend church. But watching his sons progress and serve others had inspired him. There was a great celebration on his baptism day, with asado (grilled beef) to top it off! Even more impressive, however, were the spiritual feelings of those who attended.

Matías and Elías asked their friend Esteban what he thought about the baptism. “I answered that I had felt something special and I liked it very much,” Esteban recalls. They asked if he would like to listen to the discussions. “I said that I would. ‘In fact,’ I said, ‘I’d like to be baptized.’” A few weeks later, having been taught the gospel, Esteban was baptized. And soon he was ordained a deacon.

Service in the priesthood, a treasure of fellowship. The thrill of seeing others accept the gospel, a treasure of joy. Such riches are beyond measure, for they are treasure of eternal wealth.

Visit the Aaronic Priesthood of El Dorado Ward today, and you will see the Vallejos and Anríquez brothers in action. Elías is deacons quorum president, with Esteban as a counselor. Matías is teachers quorum president, with Juan Carlos as a counselor. They spend time each week visiting quorum members who do not attend church. They have succeeded in bringing back several young men who might otherwise have fallen away. Matías and Juan Carlos are old enough now to attend early-morning seminary. On Sundays all four of these friends participate together in preparing and passing the sacrament. And the Vallejos brothers will tell you that their father has shared his testimony with some of his customers, and several of them are currently taking the discussions.

The boys’ own testimonies have grown as they have shared them with others. Matías talks about one of his recent testimony-building experiences: “A little while ago, on Saturday before I went to bed, I was praying and asking that more people would come to church. That Sunday there were a lot of people there. I felt good about it. Things like that strengthen my testimony. Reading in the Doctrine and Covenants about Joseph Smith strengthens my testimony. I want to pray like he did—he was my age!”

Elías also knows the power of prayer: “I know from my prayers that the Book of Mormon is true. I know from my prayers that the Church is true. I know that I will continue progressing toward the goals I have for myself. I’ll continue progressing until I leave on my mission.” And then he will progress even more.

Juan Carlos is thankful for the progress he has made so far. “I am grateful to Matías and Elías for talking to my brother and me about the Church,” he says. Esteban agrees. “They helped us find the greatest treasure of all,” he declares. “They helped us find the truth.”

Testimony upon testimony. Eternal perspective. Riches of the heart and of the soul. Yes, one can find treasure in El Dorado. It is a pearl of great price, a spiritual treasure of infinite worth.

Photographs of young men by Richard M. Romney, except as noted

When Matías and Elías Vallejos first heard the missionaries speak about a restoration of the true Church, it seemed strange to them. But as they studied and prayed about the Book of Mormon, they realized they had been offered a great treasure.

Background photograph by John Luke

Discovery of one treasure led to another. Elías learned about the rich experience of prayer.

Matías discovered that a testimony of the truth grows more valuable when shared.

Esteban found that priesthood power increases as it is used to bless and serve as the Savior would.

And Juan Carlos (right) found a never-ending source of inspirational gems by studying the scriptures. (Photograph by Nestor Curbelo.)

Background photograph by John Luke

Today Juan Carlos and Esteban Anríquez are grateful to Matías and Elías for guiding them to the gospel. “They helped us find the greatest treasure of all,” Esteban says. “They helped us find the truth.”