He was 16 when he first caught the vision of the gospel of Jesus Christ. From that time on, Daniel Choc’s main goal was to be engaged in the service of his fellowmen. This desire was fulfilled only months later when he was called to serve as a part-time missionary. He was later called as the first full-time Cachiquel missionary in Guatemala. And finally, on March 29, 1976, his earthly mission came to an end.
At the time the gospel opened his mind, Daniel had received only three years of schooling. He was needed at home to take care of the family cow. His father, Pablo, now branch president at Patzicia, didn’t have a pasture, so the cow had to be grazed along the sides of the roads. Until he was 16, it appeared that Daniel would join the countless other Indians of Central America who had little or no employable skills. Fortunately, he and his sister Carmela, then 14, were invited to spend two years in Paradise Valley at the Foundation for Indian Development, a laboratory farm school directed by Brother Cordell Andersen.
Although a member of the Church, Daniel had never had an opportunity to give a speech, bear his testimony, be advanced in the priesthood, or have a calling or position.
At Paradise Valley, Daniel responded to Church opportunities and to educational experiences. He was almost immediately advanced in the priesthood and was called to be Sunday School president. He also took the lead in directing family home evenings for one of the family groups of the school. He then confided to Brother Andersen that in spite of the Cachiquel reputation as a family-oriented people, they weren’t happy in their homes and families. He determined he would be the stimulus to change this upon his return to Patzicia.
Daniel quickly learned the various agricultural and health care skills taught at the laboratory school and soon became a tractor instructor. In September 1971, he was called to be a local missionary to the Pokomchi Indians. During his 16-month mission he and a companion taught and baptized 26 Pokomchis.
Brother Andersen wrote, “Our family thrilled as we witnessed his first speech in church and his first spoken testimony. Progress was rapid for this humble Indian boy who responded eagerly to the previously undreamed of opportunities to improve himself and learn to help his people. He worked hard, played hard, and in his quiet way influenced a whole community of Pokomchi Indians for good.”
After completing two years of training at the school, he returned to his hometown. The branch members there were amazed at his growth. In a later discussion with Brother Andersen, he outlined a plan, which has since been used for creating the first all-Indian cooperative in Guatemala, the Center for Indian Development. Daniel was keeping a personal promise to do what he could to benefit his people and help them break the cycle of poverty.
Shortly after returning home he was called as the first full-time, LDS, Cachiquel Indian missionary. On February 4, 1976, an earthquake devastated the country. He lost his mother and two brothers in the disaster.
Elder Choc did not abandon his mission, but like other missionaries, he spent his preparation days helping to rebuild the damaged areas. He and several other missionaries were on such a project on March 29, 1976, at Patzun when a wall toppled, crushing him. Elder Choc was rushed to a nearby field hospital, but he was already dead.
He was taken home where a makeshift roof was constructed on the site where his home had once stood. Curtains from the destroyed chapel were used for shade as members, neighbors, and missionaries gathered to pay tribute to Elder Choc.
Two former companions spoke at the funeral. “He was my junior companion, but he taught me so much that I always knew that he was the leader,” one of them commented.
Many will remember Daniel Choc because he was the first of his people to serve on a full-time mission. Others will remember him because he gave his life while in the service of his fellowmen.