My paternal grandfather was a Lithuanian Jew and grandmother a German Jew. My maternal grandparents were both Chilean. I was born and raised in Chile. I studied agriculture at the University of California, Davis, where I met my lovely sweetheart and wife. We have four children: David, Andrea, Miguel and Cristina, as well as a growing number of grandchildren.
I have worked for the University of California as a labor management farm advisor for over thirty years. My work has involved quite a bit of travel. Some years ago I was engaged in a thrilling conversation about the Scriptures and about Christ with a fellow passenger. I was anxious to share with him how it was that I had obtained my love for Jesus the Christ—the Messiah. I felt to share this with him over and over, but was restrained by the Spirit to wait. The conversation about the Scriptures was so engaging and entertaining that my fellow Christian passenger, who was sitting one row in front of me, was kneeling on his seat facing back so that we could talk. To my surprise, it was when the bell ran requiring people to sit down and buckle their seat belts that I was permitted to tell him about my conversion to Christ. “Would you like to know how I got to know Christ?” I asked. His face lit up and he gave a positive and enthusiastic response. “It was while I read the Book of Mormon,” I answered. The man was in shock—I had sensed by the Spirit that he held feelings against that book—and he just turned around, sat down, and buckled his seat belt. I have often wondered what has happened to that man.
My son Miguel asked that I share my conversion story, which I do with great pleasure (I wrote this for him two months ago, in Llanquihue, Chile). It was precisely forty years ago, in December 1973, that I read the Book of Mormon during a four-day period during Christmas vacation. I was baptized a few months later, 9 March 1974. My decision to be baptized has been the most important decision of my life and has brought me untold joy. I believe it has helped me to be a better husband and father—and a better person despite my many weaknesses. But I am getting ahead of myself. I was born in Chile in 1954 and grew up in what was then a Catholic country. I had a number of spiritual experiences as I grew up. I found out that God hears and answers prayers. When I was about thirteen our religion teacher explained that it would be easier to empty the Pacific Ocean into the beach with a pale than to understand the Holy Trinity. On my way home from school I felt the Spirit bear witness to me that there was God the Eternal Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, three distinct beings but one in purpose. This unique view of the Godhead would be the key for me to later recognize the Lord’s restored Church upon the earth.
A couple of years later, shortly before turning sixteen, I had another profound spiritual incident. A religion teacher explained that our school property was being sold to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as our Catholic school would be moving to a different location in Santiago. We were given the assignment of writing a report on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My father told me that I was in luck as one of the Mission Homes for the Church was very close to our home but warned that they would try and convert me. The Elder who answered the door gave me several magazines full of photos and a book, but made no effort to talk to me about the Gospel. I later found out that the Church is very careful not to teach youth without their parent’s consent. I completed the report and got a perfect grade for it (a 7 in Chile). I then began to discard the magazines and was about to throw away the Book of Mormon. I looked at it one more time, and there I found a promise that those who would read the book and ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, would know of its truthfulness. I was overwhelmed by a warm and peaceful feeling from the Holy Ghost testifying of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. This was one of the last things that happened to me before my family left Chile after Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970.
I would not be exposed to the Book of Mormon again for a few years, this time as a student at UC Davis. For Christmas break in 1973, I packed a handbag full of books—some school books and others horse books for fun reading. As I was leaving my dorm room I saw, from the corner of my eye, the Book of Mormon given to me by a fellow student from my dorm. The Spirit said, “Take me.” So I took the book but did not have any intentions of reading it until after finishing my other books—both for school and for fun. Once inside the plane I put my hand into my handbag with the idea of taking out a horse book. But the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and so it was that I pulled out, to my surprise, the Book of Mormon. The Spirit said, “Read me.” I did. It took me four days to complete the Book of Mormon, reading late into the night each day. I am a slow reader. When I finished I gained a strong conviction of its truthfulness. I felt the presence of the Savior as if He had His hands stretched out toward me inviting me to follow Him. Along with the invitation was a warning. If I would follow Him, I would, as it says in the Book of Mormon, in time come to learn the truth of all things; but if I did not endure until the end as a disciple of Christ, that it would have been better if I had never known Him.
A few years later, when I returned to Chile for a visit with my wife, in the very place where I used to play in our school yard, there was built the Santiago, Chile temple. I never searched for religion. God found me, instead. My father often talks of a book by Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. I have never read that book but love the title and testify that God loves each one of us. I have very much felt of His warm embrace and invitation to follow Him and His beloved Son. I testify to the divinity of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have been blessed with so much joy and have felt a continual opening of the windows of heaven.