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A Legacy of Gospel Living in Guatemala

Maria Rosalina Chávez de Alonzo shares how she has seen the Church of Jesus Christ grow in her country

Maria Rosalina de Alonzo poses outside the Antigua, Guatemala, meetinghouse on February 25, 2024. Her late husband crafted the wooden roof above her. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Laurie Williams Sowby, Church News

As longtime Latter-day Saints in Antigua, Guatemala, Maria Rosalina Chávez de Alonzo and her family have witnessed the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the area from a fledgling branch meeting in a rented hall to eight stakes in the Guatemala Antigua Mission, one of seven in the small Central American country.

A member of the Antigua Ward, Antigua Guatemala Stake, Chávez attends church at the white-brick building that now stands two blocks from her home in the cobblestoned colonial capital of Guatemala. Her husband, who was the first branch president and then first bishop of the local congregation when they were raising their five children, was responsible for the carpentry on the underside of the roof that shades a walkway outside the chapel, dedicated in 1984.

Chávez became a widow 26 years ago when her husband, Jorge Alberto Alonzo Hernandez, passed away suddenly at the age of 53. He was the one who was home when missionaries first knocked on the couple’s door in 1979. His wife was away at school, studying accounting, but he told her about the missionaries’ visit when she returned. Once the semester ended, she was eager to listen to their message.

“I never missed a Sunday,” she noted; she attended church every week in the rented hall, from that December until she and her husband were finally baptized in August 1980.

The branch had grown sufficiently by 1984 to warrant becoming a ward with its own meetinghouse. On Sundays now, the parking lot between the chapel and classroom building is filled with a couple of cars and several motorcycles. Ruins exposed by an earthquake years ago lie at one edge of the pavement.

Antigua, the colonial capital of Guatemala, is surrounded by three volcanoes. This one, Agua, pictured in February 2024, is no longer active. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

When President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the Guatemala City Guatemala Temple in 1984 — the same year as the Antigua meetinghouse — the Alonzos were among those filling the temple to capacity in 11 sessions December 14-16. They then received their endowments and were sealed as a family. All five children have also been endowed in the country’s first temple.

A second temple in the city, the Miraflores Guatemala City Guatemala Temple, is under construction. The Cobán Guatemala Temple to the north will be dedicated on Sunday, June 9, joining the Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango Guatemala temples as a third house of the Lord serving the country’s approximately 288,000 members in 51 stakes.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to raise my children in the Church,” Chávez affirmed. “All of them are growing with right principles. For me, that is the greatest blessing.” Three grown children live in Antigua, with another in nearby Jocotenango and one in Retalhuleu, where another temple has been announced in the west. She has eight grandchildren who are also being raised in the gospel.

When her husband died, “the temple gave me hope I’d see him again because of the covenants we’d made,” Chavez said, adding that she feels that same comfort every time she attends, traveling by public bus or with a ward trip or in a car with a son.

“I know the covenants I made with the Lord are sacred,” she concluded. “It has been helpful in life to know that my commitments to the Lord have helped me persevere. Remaining faithful in the Church is the only way to be happy.”

Daniel Gordiano, his wife Ana Beatríz Alonzo, and children Adriana and Santiago pose for a picture on a Sunday after attending the Antigua Ward in Antigua, Guatemala, in early 2024. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Ana Beatríz Alonzo de Gordiano, Young Women president in the Antigua Ward, is one of Sister Chávez’s three daughters. She and her husband, Daniel Franck Gordiano, met as children in Primary and married 14 years ago in the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple, located in the country’s highlands. He currently serves as second counselor in the bishopric.

Ana was 19 when her father died suddenly, many years before she married. The gospel, and especially the temple, she said, “gave me hope and consolation, the hope of an eternal family, the hope of being with parents and children again.”

She is delighted to see growth in Church membership that warrants another temple in Guatemala City. Her husband explained that the Miraflores temple will cut the time and distance significantly for members in Antigua for youth baptism and ward temple trips.

Their ward has been divided several times over the years as new members have joined. The day after Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently visited Guatemala City when he addressed adults and youth in an eight-stake meeting, Daniel Gordiano commented on the remarkable growth he has witnessed from the time members met as a small branch. “We saw old friends we’d known in our youth!” he added.

Although his wife was raised in the Church from an early age, Daniel Gordiano was introduced to it by a cousin when he was 5. When he saw a film about Joseph Smith’s First Vision, “I knew it was true.”

Three older siblings were baptized in 1983. His mother was not a member, and his father wasn’t interested, but by the time Gordiano was 9, in 1986, his older brother Lucas was serving in the Guatemala Quetzaltenango Mission in Sololá, a couple hours away from Antigua. With permission of the mission president, young Daniel and his mother traveled to Sololá, where his older brother baptized them both.

“My life has been protected by keeping the commandments and the Word of Wisdom,” Gordiano said. “The biggest blessing is to have a family — a good wife, daughter and son.”

The dome of the Merced Church is seen through the iconic Santa Catalina arch on one of the cobblestone streets in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

His wife has a strong testimony of prayer. “Knowing that our Father listens and responds has been a great blessing in my life,” Ana Gordiano said. “We can know in our hearts the promise of eternal families.”

Ana and Daniel Gordiano’s two children, 13-year-old Adriana Maria and 9-year-old Santiago, are continuing the legacy of faith started by their grandparents. Daniel Gordiano spoke of feelings he had of inadequacy and fear when Adriana was born. “I worried,” he said. “Life seemed much easier when I was young. I worried about the temptations she will have.”

Yet, “the gospel has been the biggest blessing in my life. Even though the challenges will be different, [my daughter] will be safe in the gospel.”

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