The remarkable story of Guillermo Gonzalez, a Mormon pioneer in Mexico

Published: Thursday, Aug. 11 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

David Richards attends a mission reunion in Sandy in 2009. He was a young missionary when he baptized the Gonzalezes in 1953.

August Miller

MONTERREY, Mexico — A serene, peaceful feeling filled the room as the sister missionary shared her tender testimony in Spanish to conclude the religious discussion.

The young husband and wife seated nearby looked at each other and shared a confirming smile. The message appealed to them and they definitely wanted to know more about this Mormon church.

Knowing it was the husband's day off, one of the sisters pulled out her date book and suggested they meet again in a week.

There was a pause as the couple made eye contact again, then stared back at the missionaries. Without warning the husband stood, moved across the room and locked the door.

"I'm sorry, patience has never been one of my virtues," the man said. "I can't wait another week to know what you will teach me about this church of apostles and prophets, so do you mind if we continue now, please?"

What started out as a 60-minute visit continued for nine hours, including some meal and bathroom breaks. The tireless sisters taught the man and woman everything they could think of, including all seven lessons, the Articles of Faith and the Ten Commandments. When the spiritual marathon ended around 6 p.m., the sisters were shocked again when the husband demanded immediate baptism.

This time he would have to wait, at least a few days.

Despite the brief baptismal delay in May 1953, Guillermo and Gudelia Gonzalez had gained rock-solid testimonies of the gospel and would soon become great missionaries themselves, helping to convert thousands across Northern Mexico over the next three decades. Few know the story of these Hispanic pioneers.

Who is Guillermo Gonzalez?

From 2000 to 2002, Dick Kenney served as executive secretary to Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen, then area president of Northern Mexico. Following a stake conference in La Paz, Mexico, Kenney said Elder Mickelsen dined with some converts who, "with great pride and bravado, stated they were baptized by Guillermo Gonzalez."

Elder Mickelsen, now an emeritus general authority, told his secretary this was the fourth or fifth time someone reported to be a convert of Gonzalez: "He declared that he had to learn more of this man," Kenney said in an email.

Gonzalez died in 1982, but his wife Gudelia still lived in Monterrey, Mexico, and a visit was arranged. They also spoke with Juan Alvaradejo, an assistant to President Gonzalez during the three years he presided over the Mexico Hermosillo Mission. Here are some details they learned:

As a young man, Gonzalez had Antonio-Banderas good looks with thick black hair, a well-groomed mustache and he looked sharp in suit and tie. Alvaradejo said he was very tall with hands like boxing gloves.

"They were tremendously huge hands," Alvaradejo said.

Elder Robert E. Wells, who met Gonzalez in the 1970s, said he was a "big bear of a man with broad, muscular shoulders."

Gonzalez completed his obligatory military service in the Mexican Army and declined a commission. Instead, he started a career as a railroad worker for the Mexican government. He met, courted and married Gudelia in 1952.

Shortly after their marriage, the couple began to feel their spiritual needs were not being satisfied with their current church. They wanted to learn about other religions.

One night in January 1953, the couple conversed as they prepared to go to sleep. Randomly, Guillermo said, "One day two young ladies will bring us the true religion."

"What?" she asked.

"What did I say?" he said. He told her he had no idea why he said that.

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