As the mother of Alfonso Osuna lay dying, she gazed at the face of her son.
“Alfonso,” she said, “find God.”
And with that, she went to meet her maker.
A dutiful soul, Alfonso set out to honor his mother’s last request. He visited one faith after another. But he and his wife, Altimira, always walked away disheartened and hungry.
Then, two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints happened by.
That story is just one of a hundred similar tales I’ve heard while working with the little Spanish-speaking Sycamore Branch in Brigham City.
I was startled, at first, to learn how stark and gritty the tales of Hispanic conversion can be. Many salt-of-the-earth stories involve abuse or abandonment. Others lead through prison, poverty and the violence of government goons.
One member of our branch was planning a homicide when the elders came by his home and their sweetness changed his heart.
Another was driven from his home by a Salvadoran government death squad intent on his demise.
But here's the kicker.
The stories all end up in the same place: In the bright, beaming hope of a newfound faith and in stories filled with tears of gratitude.
After hearing dozens of such stories, I was left shaking my head.
So I've been considering a book that would show the dark nights of the soul that these modern-day Mormon pioneers have weathered and how they were led to the light.
But some I've spoken to aren't so sure it would be received well locally. That the book would sink like a homemade canoe. The immigration controversy would undermine it.
Please don't hear what follows as scolding or righteous indignation.
I find it troubling if we Utahns have become so jaded. I hope we still have the skill and imagination to separate our politics from spirituality when we should.
But are we individual members so insulated that we won't bend across culture barriers and embrace souls who feel the things we feel?
Should challenging a bias send shock waves through our personal faith?
Apparently, it does happen.
I'm convinced that the stories the Spanish-speaking Saints offer can help everyone's spiritual well-being in uncomfortable times.