María Coj was a 17-year-old member of the Church in Guatemala, the oldest of eight children. She was sick with cysticercosis, a parasitic infection that comes from eating contaminated food, that with time spread to her brain, causing terrible headaches and then blindness. To give her relief from the pain, it was necessary to move her from her home in Sololá to Guatemala City. Because of convulsions caused by the advances of the illness, her condition worsened, and it was only with life-support systems that she was kept alive. It was evident that she could not live long under those conditions.
At this same time, Erika Alonzo, 12, a partially blind member of the Church, traveled 22 hours by bus from Honduras to Guatemala City to receive an eye operation. For two weeks she waited for a cornea from the United States to be transplanted to her eye, but none was available.
At this same time María died. Because her blindness was caused by pressure on her brain, her corneas were healthy. María’s father and mother authorized the cornea donation. The operation was a success.
On the 12th of July 1993, Erika traveled to Sololá to meet the Coj family for the first time. The surprised family asked her, “Can you see?” She answered, “I see everything clearly.” It was a spiritual meeting. Sister Coj, who did not understand much Spanish, because her native language is Cakchiqúel, felt the love and the spirit of the conversation. Because of the donation of María’s eyes, Erika can now see and enjoy everything around her. The death of one person and the love of her parents blessed the life of another. The medical miracle of one person being able to look through eyes of another is a surprising reality.
Spiritually speaking, as you young people contemplate the blessings of this life and of eternity through the eyes of your faithful parents, teachers, bishops, Apostles, and prophets, you will discover that, through the small donations of daily time to ponder, pray, and study the scriptures, they will teach you of the divine that is in you.
Expand your vision and recognize that you have ties with God; lift your sights and live worthily. Learn in your youth to control your passions, desires, and appetites. Seriously prepare yourselves to fulfill your glorious responsibility to preach the truths of the Restoration, which are that Jesus is the Christ and that salvation comes only through Him, that Joseph Smith was a prophet who was instructed by divine messengers to restore with power and authority all covenants and ordinances that are found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The atonement of the Son of God opened the possibility that all mankind could return to the presence of the Father. Now He teaches us, “Follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do” (see 2 Ne. 31:21). Some of you will have the privilege to serve as a missionary with an eye single to glorify God and build His kingdom (see D&C 4:5). During that time, Christ will refine your spirit; He will mold your character and plant principles in your heart that will permit you to live in righteousness and joy in this life and for eternity.
I would like to share another experience of faith. Being the only child, Elder Hermelindo Coy said good-bye to his mother and left for the first time in his life his small village in the mountains of Senahú, Guatemala. He entered the Missionary Training Center the 14th of March 1991. Although he had been a member of the Church for only two years and was very timid about talking to people, his determination to serve was great. His formal education was less than five years of elementary school in his native language of Kekchí. Spanish, the official language of Guatemala, was foreign to him.
During his mission he learned to live with pain in his leg. He rarely complained. In August 1992 he noticed, in addition to the increase in the pain, something abnormal about his knee. The diagnosis was bone cancer. A more careful exam revealed cancer in the liver, lungs, and lymphatic system; in other words, his illness was terminal. He did not understand the nature of the illness nor its seriousness. With the help of a translator and using examples from the farm life with which he was familiar, he came to understand that he had little time to live.
He never asked, Why is this happening to me? He did not lament nor express negative feelings. He was obedient to all that was required of him. He was asked if he would like to return home, but he asked to remain in the mission and serve as long as possible, even until his death.
By October he walked with difficulty, requiring the use of a cane. He could only work a few hours each day. By December he was unable to walk. For the first time he was discouraged because he could not proselyte. His worry was always who would take care of his mother after he died.
In one of his visits, the mission president asked him to teach more of the basic doctrine to his mother, who, along with mission nurses, was providing 24-hour care. When he taught the plan of salvation to his mother in his native tongue, his face radiated assurance and light. Elder Coy was understanding with power and conviction what he was teaching.
As his strength declined, he placed his complete trust in the Lord. On one occasion when the pain was very strong, he expressed in prayer, “Heavenly Father, I do not know the day nor the hour that I will die, but I want to know soon from thee about my new assignment.” He died in February 1993. His death blessed all the missionaries, leaders, members, and even nonmembers who learned of his courage to serve and endure to the end. His faith was so simple that it was contagious. He never feared death. He strengthened all who knew him.
I promise you that as you serve with faith as did Elder Coy, and as you look through the eyes of your parents and leaders who love you also, your testimony will be strengthened, your vision will expand, which will illuminate all who are spiritually blind and will help them to return to Christ. Arise and shine; be like the more than 49,000 missionaries who today are taking light, hope, and knowledge to those who need it.