Where’s José Luis?

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    Energy and inspiration shoot this lively convert to the exact spot where the most work needs to be done.

    Where’s José Luis?

    That’s what I wanted to know. I’d heard so much about the energetic 18-year-old, and I only had a few minutes to interview him on that hot Sunday in Seville, Spain.

    “I think he’s in Sunday School with one of our investigators,” said a tall, North American missionary as he hurried his way through the crowd in the halls of the Nervion meetinghouse.

    “He’s always with our investigators,” said the missionary’s shorter companion, trotting to keep up. “That guy is one sharp mission leader. He keeps all the full-time missionaries on the ball. He just goes crazy over missionary work.”

    Before I could ask which class José Luis might be in, the missionaries had disappeared into the colorful throng. The church was packed, and everyone seemed excited to be there.

    Across the foyer I spotted Marcos Camacho. Marcos is José Luis’s home teaching companion. “Marcos, where’s José Luis?” I called.

    “He might be preparing our home teaching lesson,” Marcos told me as he threaded his way through the large group of people between us. “He’s very good about it. We always get our home teaching done, and the people we visit really like him. Oh look—here comes his mother. Maybe she knows where he is. Ask her,” he said as he ran off to teach the Young Men.

    His mother? What was she doing here? I’d heard she was against his church activity and had prohibited him from coming to the chapel. Now here was this lady, all smiles, soft curls, and a perky pink dress, coming toward me.

    “Hi there,” I said as she approached me. “I’m looking for your son, but I’m really happy to see you. I’d heard you were not excited about your son’s coming to church. It looks like your attitude has changed?”

    “Of course,” she told me, kissing me on both cheeks, which is the Spanish custom. “You know, the first time I came to this church, I came to tell them that they couldn’t baptize José Luis. I wasn’t about to let them make a Mormon of him. But once I got here and talked to the people,” she said, waving a hand at all the smiling, laughing people milling about us, “I thought maybe it wasn’t so bad that he come after all.”

    “And now you’re coming as well?” I asked. “How did that happen?”

    “One night, very late, about one in the morning, my friend came running to me. Her son was very sick. José Luis and I went to help, but he called the elders to come and give a blessing first. I was very impressed that two young boys would get up at that hour to help us. So later, when José Luis introduced me to the missionaries, I was willing to listen to them. I was baptized three months after he was.”

    “But it wasn’t quite that easy, Mom,” said José Luis, popping up behind her, seemingly out of nowhere and putting his arm around her shoulder.

    So finally I got to meet this legendary guy. He’s taller than his mother, medium height, with thick, straight dark hair and a perpetual smile. You can tell he’s from southern Spain, Andalucia, by his accent and his vocabulary. Even though he’s famous here for being a gospel dynamo, there is absolutely nothing intimidating about him. He’s about as humble as you can get.

    “I started coming to church when I was 16,” he explained. “I met the missionaries on the street. I thought they were lawyers or executives by the way they were dressed. Then I realized they were foreigners. I was curious about them, so I started hanging around them, asking questions.

    “In my first discussion, they told me about the Book of Mormon and about Joseph Smith, and I thought, What a great experience to have. I believed it all.”

    “Mom didn’t like that and didn’t want me to come to church at first, but she finally said it was all right. Still, when I asked her if I could get baptized, she said no way. So I continued going to church for about seven months, not being a member.”

    “What finally changed her mind?” I asked.

    “Well, I fasted and prayed, of course, and my birthday was coming up, so I told her that the best gift she could give me would be permission to be baptized. I guess I bugged her so much about it, she finally said to go ahead. You know the rest of the story.”

    “But the story isn’t finished yet,” I said. “How would you write the rest?”

    The foyer had cleared out by this time. Most of the people had gone into their classes. I was alone with José Luis and his mother, who was gazing at her son with admiration.

    “I’ll go on a mission for sure, just as soon as I’m 19; then I’ll have to serve in the mili.” Every healthy Spanish male, when he turns 19, serves an obligatory nine months of military service. “After that, I’d like to study to be a teacher.”

    “You already are,” I replied, thinking how much his enthusiasm, his faith, his warmth, his friendliness, had already taught me—how much it could teach New Era readers—how much it had taught his mother, the missionaries, and other members of the ward.

    I know that Christ lives and that Heavenly Father always listens to us and loves us,” José Luis said, simply and sincerely. “I want everyone else to know that too. Will you excuse me for just a minute? I’m supposed to be helping a friend with a lesson,” he said, and he was off.

    So for all of about five minutes, I could have answered the question, “Where’s José Luis?” But if you asked me right now, I could probably make an educated guess.

    “Where’s José Luis?”

    He’s out doing what he can to build the kingdom. And that’s a great place to be.

    [photos] Photography by Lisa A. Johnson

    [photo] There he is! José Luis and his companion, Marcos Camacho, sit in a park near the chapel in Seville, Spain, preparing their home teaching lesson. “I know that Christ lives and that Heavenly Father always listens to us and loves us,” says José Luis. And then he’s gone again, on his way to help someone else.