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

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

Four months later, Gonzalez was out of town when two sister missionaries knocked on the door. Gudelia had never heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so she declined the visit, but accepted a pamphlet with contact information. Later a neighbor dropped by and warned her to stay away from those Mormons and called them "Satan's missionaries."

A few days later, she told her husband about the missionaries and how she felt compelled to invite them back. They tracked the sisters down and an appointment was set for the following day at 8 a.m.

It was the only appointment Guillermo needed.

At the end of that long-lasting day, the sisters turned the Gonzalez family over to zone leader Elder David K. Richards, the son of Elder Franklin D. Richards of the First Quorum of the Seventy. David Richards was worried that if baptized too soon, Guillermo would go inactive. He insisted on teaching the couple the discussions a second time and invited them to church meetings. Guillermo, the golden contact, tried to be patient. He accepted every doctrine and teaching without hesitation. Fine, fine, he said, but I want to be baptized.

Seeing Gonzalez's determination, Richards wrote his father in Salt Lake and explained the situation. His father replied that "if he had a testimony and wanted to be baptized, for heaven sakes, that's what we're there for," recounted Elder Wells.

Finally on May 30, 1953, Elder David Richards recorded in his journal that he baptized Guillermo and Gudelia Gonzalez. The sister missionaries who taught the couple, whose identities are currently unknown, attended the service.

"Knowing his conversion story is essential to understanding him," Elder Wells said. "He thought anyone who really was the elect, anyone who was spiritually in tune, would react the same way he did, and missionaries ought to be looking for people who are ready to be baptized the first day."

Joyful reunions

Roughly 10 years later, Richards and his wife, Sharon, returned to Monterrey and attended church. During a meeting, Sharon Richards noticed a man staring at her husband. She asked him if he knew the man.

"Oh, my, do I ever!" Richards replied.

It was Gonzalez, the same man Richards feared would go inactive because he baptized him too soon.

Gonzalez, then the Monterrey district president, invited Richards to stand next to him while he told the story of his conversion.

"It was quite a reunion," Sister Richards said. "When you are in the mission field and you baptize people, then go back and see they are active and doing good, the joy is so strong. It's almost overwhelming."

In 1970, Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized the first stake in Monterrey. He called Guillermo Gonzalez as president.

In 1974, the Gonzalezes were called to preside over the Mexico Hermosillo Mission. When they attended the mission president seminar, President Gonzalez bumped into the newly called president of the Bogota Colombia Mission: President David Richards.

Once again, hugs and tears were shared.

"I cannot tell you the love that passed between these two men," said Sharon Richards, whose husband died last March at age 79. "To have the missionary and convert going out as mission presidents at the same time was overwhelming to David."

A great harvest

The field was white in Northern Mexico during the mid-1970s, but the Hermosillo missionaries struggled to find converts.

Two months into his mission, President Gonzalez called his young leaders together and told them "they didn't have the least idea on how to bring people into the waters of baptism," Kenney said.

The president formed a zone of young missionaries and zones of experienced missionaries. He said he expected the "green" missionaries would baptize more people over the next month.

One zone leader, Elder Juan Alvaradejo, accepted the challenge. The next month, his zone of experienced missionaries led the mission in baptisms.

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