PIURA, Peru — General conference is an important event for Latter-day Saints around the world.
Such is the case for members living in the desert city of Piura, in northwestern Peru. The town is known for its prime location near some of Peru’s most famous northern beaches, such as Mancora and Colan. The city is in the Peru Piura Mission.
During conference time, many members enjoy the sessions by viewing them at their stake center, so they can be with friends and family.
For many of the "jovenes adultos solteros" members, or JAS (what English-speaking members call young single adults or YSA), affiliated with the Barrio Angamos (Angamos ward), Miraflores Stake, in Piura, Peru, October’s semiannual general conference was a spiritual feast.
Karlo Sauceda grew up in the town of Sullana, about 26 miles (46 kilometers) north of Piura. He attends the University of Piura and studies accounting. He felt inspired by the messages of comfort from general conference.
“I loved general conference because there were so many messages of hope to help us to return to the Lord’s path, and to receive a new heart and to become true disciples,” Sauceda said. “It is not easy but we are not alone, not even we as we are now. We just need to hear the gentle voice and to stand in holy places that will take us back to Heavenly Father.”
Piert Nieves is a convert from Sullana who joined the church a year and a half ago. Nieves also is a student at the University of Piura. For him, watching conference was a good experience because everything was based on impressions of the Holy Spirit.
“I decided to watch conference because something deep inside myself was telling me to get up and go listen. After I knew perfectly why, because something happened that really touched my heart, thanks to the Lord, because for me, it was like pushing the restart button,” Nieves said.
Juana Barrientos attends church in Catacaos, a town known for its pottery and silver jewelry. It is roughly seven miles (12 kilometers) south of Piura. She often attends the Angamos ward’s JAS activities, and she felt that the conference provided revelation for her life.
"Through the Atonement, everything is possible," Barrientos said. "(Jesus) asks us, how much do you love me? This question has stayed in my mind. It made me meditate about another question: How much faith do I have in Jesus Christ? The conference, for me, it was so special for my life. I will never forget the rejoicing that I and my family had during the conference. For me it had meaning full of direction and conviction."
Another choice blessing of general conference is learning from church leaders who follow promptings to speak on topics that church members around the world need to hear.
“One of the great blessings that Heavenly Father has given us these days is to have the privilege of listening to inspired leaders," said Daniel Santos, who attends the Angamos ward in Piura. "Listening to the experiences of the prophets increases my testimony that we are in the true church. It makes me happy and makes me think about the people who do not know the gospel that Jesus Christ restored."
For Santos, general conference is also a time to reflect.
“Each message teaches me what God wants me to do in the next six months until the next conference," he said. "I have also pondered the question more: What kind of Christian am I? It makes me think a lot, and to set goals to improve every day."
Piero Mendiburo, who has submitted his mission papers, was comforted by President Thomas S. Monson’s priesthood session talk, “See Others as They May Become.”
“For me, it is amazing how at each conference, if we look with faith and humility and listen carefully, we can find a way to solve problems that come to us but we thought had no solution. I've received a testimony through a story from President Monson when he said that people can change,” Mendiburo said. “This has made me not lose faith that someday my family can enjoy the blessings of being members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By listening to the prophet, his counselors, the Quorum of the Twelve and other general authorities, my testimony has increased in the truthfulness of this church, and also it makes me eager to try every day to become closer to the Lord and to one day be like him.”
Rafael Asenjo Requejo was in the coastal port city of Paita, Peru, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) from Piura, for work. He watched conference there and was touched by the talk from President Henry B. Eyring, “Where Is the Pavilion?”
"An address that touched me most was the talk by President Henry B. Eyring. I think it's one of the answers my Heavenly Father gave me through one of his servants," Requejo said. "I take it in a personal way that the Lord always keeps his promises even though the timing isn’t always ours. I feel in my heart that we know the truth and that this is the Lord's church that Jesus Christ directs and that he knows us."
Kelly Diaz, a Peru native currently attending Brigham Young University in Provo, felt President Eyring was speaking straight to her heart.
“He talked about how our own wishes sometimes block us from what God wants for us. God is always close, but we just don’t listen because we are so focused on other things, on what we want," Diaz said. "We forget that things happen for a reason, and he said that our time is not the same (as) his time, but his blessings always will come. As of now, I've been struggling to find a job. It's been months now, and I was really stressed because of that.
"When I heard that speech in conference, it made me think of how I was so focused on finding a job. It was the first thing I did in the morning; I would go online on my cellphone even before brushing my teeth. I realized how blinded I was because I was wishing for a job so hard, I haven't really realized what other blessings I have been receiving every day. And the worst part is that I don't really even know what the blessings are because I've been that blinded in hoping for a job.
“God is always there, and sooner or later, I'm going to find my job. It might not be the job that I dream of, but I think that this lateness has a reason. I just have to learn to wait for it patiently and with hope."
Diaz also had a very special experience because not only was she able to attend the Sunday sessions of conference in person, her mother, Myriam Diaz, visiting from Piura, was able to attend, as well.
“Conference was great," Kelly Diaz said. "My mom has been a member of the church for about 26 years for now. I remember, even since I was a little girl, that she would look at the Ensign and would look at the Salt Lake City Temple pictures and she would say to me that she was going to go to Salt Lake City and see the living prophet one day. I was maybe 5 or 6 but I remember she would say that, but she kept saying that year by year. The best part of having her here was that I could actually feel how special it was for her to be here. She literally looked like a little girl on Christmas night. She was so happy I could almost touch her happiness."
While Jorge Diaz’s mother and sister participated in general conference in Salt Lake City, he was inspired watching in Piura. Jorge Diaz, who works as a web designer and programmer, also has attended BYU and hopes to apply for a graduate program at the university.He took inspiration from conference about his purpose in life.
“There are periods in life when we are not sure (of) our purpose, our work or our way," he said. "But once again, it was made it clear to me that I have the responsibility and the honor to serve in the work of bringing the gospel to the world, even to those who do not have it or have forgotten. Here my efforts are not to return to the nets and fishing but, by taking spiritual fishing nets, (bring) men whose souls (are) willing to return to God's presence. Everywhere we are, there is always something we can do for the Lord, and I will be more attentive to what he desires of me."
Emily Johnson earned her Master of Professional Communication degree from Westminster College. Johnson is currently teaching English at the University of Piura in Piura, Peru. Her Peru adventures can be followed at http://peruvianpony.blogspot.com.