A. MY UPBRINGING, MY PARENTS, MY EARLY EDUCATION, WORK EXPERIENCES AND MY MARRIAGE
I am from the Philippines, born in 1952 from poor rice farmer parents. I belong to an Ilocano tribe, one of the largest among the many tribes in the country. I am married to a woman from a Bicolano tribe. I have six children, three boys and three girls, all married except the youngest. I am the oldest among five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. We were raised in the middle of vast rice field. My parents were very poor, so poor that they could not even afford to buy us jackets and raincoats. We grew in a culture where wearing slippers was not a custom. I had my first slippers and rubber shoes when I entered high school at age thirteen. Affected by poor sanitation and poor nourishment, I suffered polio as a little boy. I was not brought to a clinic because my parents could not afford to pay a doctor. Fortunately, my grandmother from my mother's side patiently took care of me using herbs to treat my polio. I was lucky to walk again. This was a miracle in my life.
Our home situated near a main road. Electricity was not yet available in rural areas in those days so we used gas lamps. We only heard some news and music from a small battery operated transistor radio from the house of my aunt. We seldom saw vehicles passing by the dusty road. The surrounding was so silent that one could hear a cock crow quite a distance away. Many households in our locality lived in poverty like us, almost primitive sort kind of life. It was not unusual to see women like my mother walking around bare breasted like the natives who dwell in the mountains. Except for three parcel of farms my father inherited from his parents, we possessed almost nothing except a wooden house, the few things we wear, two to three pigs, several chicken, a dog, plows, sickles and bolos and two water buffalos my father used in farming. Our house was quite safe because my father was a skilled carpenter. Houses in the place were always elevated and built with strong wooden posts because of frequent typhoons and flooding. We used untidy primitive toilet which was very smelly. We used sticks to clean our bottoms instead of paper or water. We used pots, stoves and jars made of clay in the kitchen. Some utensils were fashioned from coconut shells although ceramic cups and plates were already available at that time. Sometimes my mother would neglect to clean the clay jars we used to store drinking water. This caused us children to experience severe stomach aches and diarrhea. As a result we have developed immunity from stomach and intestine bacteria. We never used spoons and forks in eating. We ate with our hands and sat in folded legs like Chinese who gathered around a short-legged wooden dining table. Potable water was only available from a mountain some distance away. But not long, my father figured a way on how to store rain water for drinking. My parents made improvements to our house but not on the way we lived. Maybe because this was the way majority of people lived here. My father only completed third grade in elementary because he said he preferred to hold the plow than go to school. My mother did not complete first grade because of the cruelty of her step father. But the inability of my mother to read and write never impeded her to be a good story teller. We heard a lot of fantasy stories as children during bed times. Those stories influenced my character a lot in my growing years.
Although my parents were poor with very limited education, they were good parents and good neighbors. They cared for our future. I admired their determination to help us obtain basic education so as not to become like them. As we grew up, we learned about respect, honesty, integrity and hard work through their examples. My father was a principled man and was a respected farmer. He inherited the qualities of his father. One of the stories he told me concerning his father was, one day, a poor woman went asking for some rice in their home but denied by my grandmother. My grandfather chastised her saying, "Those are the kinds of people that you are supposed to help and never think to be paid back when you give something." This story impacted me that I lived that same principle as I grew up. It provided me some kind of fulfillment in my desire to be a good person. Today, my attitude of being too generous to beggars and to those poorer than me always raised disapproval from my wife.
Although my parents were good persons, they stick to primitive traditions in curing illnesses. It was the custom of my parents to consult a faith healer every time one of us got sick. The faith healer would often instruct them to offer something to the spirits like a chicken, a boiled egg and boiled rice depending on the type of illness to be cured. I remember my father making a small altar outside our kitchen and waving his hands calling upon the spirits to partake of his offerings. And when they get well, the more they trusted upon these faith healers. One of my infant brother died because of this ignorance. But I had no faith in these practices as a growing boy because I discovered a kind of trick these healers did to fool people.
Money was perennially hard because my father lived on borrowed money. His harvest was barely sufficient to pay his debts. If there was any grain left from his harvest, it was hardly sufficient for our needs until the next harvest season. So how did we survive for our daily nutrition? My father was also a skilled fisherman. We had fresh fishes everyday because he had fish pens in the field and at a narrow river nearby. I still remember how we tossed fishes alive into the fire to grill them for breakfast. After planting season, my father would bring me with him in a small boat to catch fish at a small lake upstream. Sometimes when catch was plenty, we store these fishes in large clay pots or were sold to acquire some cash to buy basic needs. We had vegetables available at our backyard on summer. Edible water plants were plenty. We had coconut trees and banana plants around. My mother only went to market occasionally to buy sugar and salt. We seldom ate meat, fried foods or dishes cooked with oil. If ever we needed oil, we processed it from coconuts. During dry season when fishes were scarce, we often went to the dry fields and dug snails under dried mud to be cooked for dishes. Small edible plants were also available in the fields including marble-like roots from shrubs which we cooked for snacks. We also drained pockets of trapped water where we could get a variety of small fishes including catfishes. These were simple ways on how we sought foods to provide the nutrients we needed to survive.
The climate in this place was cruel. It was very hot and very humid during summer and too cold during rainy season. I still can't forget when as a young boy helping my father prepare the fields, I pulled weeds and tall grasses in waist deep water under constant drizzle and cold wind. Because we lived in a valley facing the Pacific Ocean, the Siberian wind brought this cold weather during the months of late November to February. Assisting our parents in the rice fields under this weather condition were almost unbearable for young kids like us. My lips would shiver in cold and my hands and legs would also shake under my soaked clothes. When we sleep, we usually protected ourselves from the cold by rolling a woven "buri" mat around our bodies. We usually modified grain sacks to serve as raincoats. We placed our carabaos in enclosures and created fire to warm them. But still there were incidents where beasts from neighbors could not survive the cold. Typhoons and floods usually occur during rainy season. Good harvest was always by chance. Lucky for a farmer if the typhoon was not too strong and the floods not too deep. Fortunately, an abundance of fish occur during this season.
The heat during summer was intense and very humid. The hardship of manually harvesting palay under scorching heat and threshing these by foot were almost unbearable for kids like us. We squeezed the grains from the sheaves with our feet. We literally danced over the sheaves until the grains were separated from the stalks. This caused the soles of our feet to turn pinkish, blood almost oozed out. Another way to separate the grains from the stalks was to smash the sheaves into a flat wood. Sometimes when harvests were plenty, farmers would pile and arrange the sheaves into a big circle and let three or four carabaos to march in line walking in circles over the sheaves to thresh them. Sometimes, we children would ride these carabaos for fun until we became bit dizzy from riding round and round. Carabao manures were used to cement and level the ground before arranging the sheaves for threshing. This was done during the evenings to escape the intense summer heat. Then we dry the grains under the sun the next day. We had to endure the itchy grain dusts as we spread these over mats along the edge of the road and then putting these back into sacks for milling or storing. The hot summer and humid air usually turned our skins dark. The unclean water we usually used for taking baths contributed to the dark hue of our skins. We usually bath in the narrow river where carabaos also swim or cool themselves.
We were taught at an early age to labor in the rice fields. One of my most unforgettable experience as a six year old boy was when I fell from my carabao while my father brought me with him in the fields. I almost drowned under a deep mud full of waste. The carabao was just razored by my father to eradicate the lice, so I had nothing to hold on to when the beast climbed a steep embankment. Good, my father saw me who was also riding the other beast ahead of me.
It was often my job to feed our carabaos. After planting season, I often brought the carabaos into the mountain to feed them because all the rice fields were planted. I needed to let the beasts swim upstream through the narrow river towards the mountain as I stood over one of them. During planting season, I always resented being awakened very early in the morning to feed the carabaos to ready them for field work. The early morning fog and drizzle were cold and I was also afraid of the dark and ghosts. This fear from ghosts was influenced by my parents who told us of their experiences with ghosts and evil apparitions. Until now the psychological effect of those stories still lingers. After eating breakfast, my father would be in the rice fields before 7:00 AM. I still had time before going to school to gather my fishing hooks attached to bamboo sticks that I placed along rice paddies overnight. I usually used small frogs as baits. It was always a delight to see some eels and some fishes attached to my hooks. It was a routine to walk two kilometers over dirt road to school barefooted until I completed my elementary education at age thirteen. I would be very happy if my mother could provide me five centavos for my snacks. At that time two pesos was the equivalent of one dollar. So with five centavos I could buy five candies.
The hardship of rice farming inspired me to dream. I resolved as a kid to escape this kind of life someday. Seeing relatives who became engineers and nurses, I also dreamed to at least become a professional someday. I just did not know how. I envied these relatives whose way of life prospered because their children became successful professionals. I still can't forget those Christmas days as a little boy how I smelled the aroma of apples hanging on the Christmas tree of my prosperous uncle and wished I could taste one.
Perhaps I was not destined to become a rice farmer. There was a kind of feeling that provided me that hope. There were times when I fed my carabaos in the fields that I would talk to them in broken English practicing the expressions taught by my English teacher. I felt I needed the language someday. (I learned later in my life how indispensable English was in my callings in the LDS church.)
I grew up with a belief in God. Even a drop of rain signified that there was a God. And I always feared this God. Although my parents professed to be Catholics, they were not as religious as our aunts. They never taught us about God and never even saw them pray at home although my mother sometimes joined other women who recited the rosary. I still remember as a young boy, my aunt would bring me with her every time their group visited their Virgin Mary to offer oblations and kiss the feet of the image. I was taught Catholic prayers by my teachers when I was in elementary. Until now I still remember those memorized prayers. I have always dreamed as a boy to become a sacristan to the Spanish priest whom I frequently saw riding his old motorcycle and often chased by our dog. In the yard of my aunt, I often observed two old man in their seventies who held their Bibles in their laps and always arguing. One of them was a member of a very popular religion in the place while the other did not believe in religion. They conversed in raised voices because the other one was partially deft. I was curious what that Bible taught about God. One day while playing in the house of my uncle, I stumbled upon a King James Bible from a garbage of books. I was attracted into it that I kept the book. I thought, perhaps it was the same kind of Bible the two old men used in arguing. I wondered why that Bible was in the home of my uncle. Was it possible that some of our ancestors were Bible readers, too? With the little English I learned, I tried to read the book. But I could hardly comprehend the terms and expressions in it. It differed much from the style of English taught by my teachers in school. In time as I studied in high school, I came to understand Old English quite a bit. This book became my spiritual guide as I grew up. I brought the book wherever I stayed until I got married. I read the New Testament from time to time which provided me some knowledge pertaining to the gospel. However, the Old Testament was not appealing to me because I could not comprehend much of its contents.
But in spite of the teachings of Christ I learned, I frequently succumbed to temptations due to the influence of peers and workmates. This made me feel guilty always, because I violated the commandments of Christ. I experienced masturbation at an early age and almost became a habit as I grew up. This often added to my guilt feeling unworthy before Christ. The more I suppressed this feeling, the more I was tempted to do it. Nevertheless, I learned about the great mercies of God which provided me some relief and hope of being forgiven. Although there were two instances where I made sex with cheap girls due to my association with my naughty cousin, I only played with one woman in my life. I left her after five years when I met my wife. But what I did to her pricked my conscience more than any other sins I committed in life.
Now, back to my childhood. After graduating in elementary, my parents enrolled me in a trade school. The high school situated in another town, so I had to board and only returned home on weekends. It was a great relief from working in the rice fields and from feeding the beasts. Because of my desire to escape poverty and to be a professional someday, I studied hard. I became an excellent student. I even became the battalion commander in our Philippine Military Training which made me popular in the school. I dreamed to become an engineer someday. I graduated salutatorian. I was supposed to be the valedictorian but because I was just a poor farm boy and my competitor belonged to a popular clan of valedictorians in the school, the teachers recomputed our ratings and adjusted them. It was no big deal to me because everyone knew I was the best.
Because my parents could not afford to support my college education, I left home after high school and tried my luck in the City of Manila, 600 km from home. I stayed in the house of my benevolent cousin who had a stall in a central market. I volunteered to care for their three children and also to cook for them. I enrolled in a technical school taking up a diesel mechanic course. I went to school only during evenings. I was free from paying tuition fees because of my scholar privilege from high school. After finishing my one year course I left my cousin and apprenticed as an auto electrician in an electrical shop in 1971. Those days were unforgettable. I had to sleep in a junk room in the shop because my salary was barely sufficient to buy me food. I was privileged after one year to be employed to a used car company with a stable salary. Here, I was able to master my skills as an auto electrician. It was also here that I met the first woman I had sexed with many times for five years. She was the woman I mentioned above. Because all the men in this company were womanizers, I was carried by their examples. But deep inside me, I knew it was wrong to play with women and sex. Wish I never had done this because I never intended to marry this woman. My experience with her haunted me for years even after I married my wife because she was sincere and I thought I fooled her and robbed her of her chastity.
During the time that I worked in the said company, I attempted to enroll in a university as a self supporting student. I intended to take up Industrial Engineering. But this plan was never realized because two of my siblings needed to go to college. So, I took them and supported their college education. The other two followed after two years. Sadly, the culture of our clan was for the eldest child to take responsibility for the education of the siblings if the parents could not afford it. It was a hard responsibility. Although my parents extended some help at times, I shouldered much of the burden. Almost all my salary was spent on them. So I needed to transfer to other companies that offered higher pay. In spite of this sacrifice, I felt honored to accomplish a tradition. I enrolled in a university at that time, but I completed only two semesters because I could not cope with college work due to my job. Two of my brothers became engineers. One sister finished commerce and our youngest only secretarial course because she was quite a slow learner.
During our stay in the city, I sometimes discussed the Bible and religion with my two brothers and wondered if there was a true religion. No religion was appealing to us at that time, so we just continued to be guided by the Bible. (We have never encountered a Mormon missionary during those days although I learned later after I married that there were Mormons already in the city.)
After I completed my obligation with my siblings, we separated and I got married in 1978. It was in the last company where I worked that I met my wife. She was in the accounting section while I was the in the service department. It was in this company where I experienced two major vehicular accidents, one of which caused the vehicle I was driving to swerve to the left and crossed over the center isle into the opposite traffic of the highway. I was test driving a new pick up truck while I was still dizzy from drinking with friends the previous night. What surprised me was I was not hurt and my companion only sustained a small cut in his leg. I also found no scratch to the vehicle except for a crumpled wheel, misaligned springs and bent propeller shaft. I considered this accident another miracle in my life. I towed the vehicle making sure that the management would not notice the incident. It was easy for me to replace the damaged parts because I supervised the Pre-delivery Inspection Section of the company. The vehicle was delivered to the buyer the next day unknowing that some under chassis parts were replaced with parts from a used vehicle. This pricked my conscience quite a bit but I knew that the parts I installed were as durable as new parts.
After my wife became pregnant we resigned from the company and decided to live with her parents, 600 km south of Manila. She gave birth to a girl. I almost died of low blood pressure caused by over fatigue and insufficient sleep for taking of our child at night and washing clothes in the morning. To continue my recovery, I decided to stay with my parents for a while in the place where I was born. I needed a lot of rest so I thought my mother could better take care of me. I needed to travel about one thousand two hundred kilometers north by bus. After I felt I could take care of myself, I decided to return to my my family. I dropped to my cousin in Manila before proceeding farther south. This time, my wife and I have been jobless for more than a year. We only depended from her parents who owned rice fields and coconut plantations. Although my wife was the only child and who would inherit these properties, I was ashamed of being dependent from them. Contemplating on this, I suddenly received inspiration to visit the company where I applied for work abroad before we resigned from our jobs. My intention was to submit a new application. But to my great surprise I saw my name listed in the bulletin board as among a group who would fly to Saudi Arabia the following day. One from our group was also very surprised to see me. He told me to get my uniforms and working shoes upstairs and pack my things for the flight the next day. I could not believe this was happening. How could it happen when I have not been following up my papers for more than a year, although I remember signing a contract before I joined my wife to the province. And why the timing of my visit to the company. Also, I never received any communication from the company to report to the Saudi embassy to get a working visa or even about a scheduled flight. I felt that some invisible force may have been guiding me. If this was a miracle or a coincidence, I never knew the answer. I never asked the company.
I remember the sadness of leaving the country without someone you love waving at you in the airport. I was not prepared for all this and I had no money at all. I have not fully recuperated yet. I felt dizzy most of the time and wanted to sleep. I was also bothered how my wife would react with my decision. I knew that my wife was opposed to my plan to work abroad. But thinking I needed to work, I just decided to proceed. I only informed her after I arrived in Riyadh. She never communicated with me the whole year in spite of my letters. It was the loneliest period of my life. Although, she did not communicate with me, the company always sent her remittances deducted from my salary as part of the work contract. In this, I find some solace that I could support her and my child.
My group was hired by a big Dutch company. Even though we lived in comfortable barracks free of many amenities including food, laundry and recreation, life was hard and lonely in the desert because of the heat and the strict laws we were required to observe. Adding to my loneliness was my unfavorable health condition. I endured frequent dizziness the whole duration of my contract. But it was a blessing that I was assigned only in light maintenance job. As long a there was power supplied to the buildings constructed, I could sit in my truck waiting for calls on power failures. I finally finished my contract in the summer of 1980. During my flight back to the country, I was worried where I should go in case my wife no longer welcomed me. But to my surprise, she was there at the airport, smiling and waving at me. I was delighted to see my daughter again. I learned that she never responded to my letters as a punishment for my leaving without her permission. I also learned that she was already employed as a finance officer in a local water district. She never allowed me to leave again. I just took care of our child while she went to the office. My only source of income was driving my tricycle for hire.
B. MY ENCOUNTER WITH THE BOOK OF MORMON AND MY MEMBERSHIP IN THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
A month after I returned to the country in 1980, I accidentally got a copy of the Book of Mormon from Mormon missionaries when my family dropped by the boarding house of my brother in Manila on our way to visit my parents. It was there that I met Mormon missionaries for the first time. I was curious when I saw their name tags, why it differed on how they were called. These missionaries were supposed to teach one of the borders but was unavailable. So my brother and I decided to listen to them. They introduced themselves and taught us the simple steps of prayer. I was surprised when one of them asked me to pray by following the steps. I felt good. It was my first time to pray that way. I was interested to listen but I did not have time for a formal discussion because I needed to leave. I just asked for the blue book that I noticed partly hidden under the arm of the Filipino missionary. I had a strong impression that the book had something to do with their message. They were surprised when I asked for the book. They refused at first but I was insistent. I even raised my right arm and promised to read it. They finally gave the book but only after giving some explanation. But I was no longer listening. My focus was on the Book of Mormon. I felt a strong desire to read it. I had a strong impression that what they would teach me were in the book. It was a big surprise to me that there was such a book.
During our reunion with my parents, my thoughts were always on the book. We stayed a week with my parents. I immediately commenced reading after arriving home. It was hard to describe the wonderful feeling I experienced as I read the book. Only a few pages into the book, I knew it was true and I assumed that the person who wrote it must be a true prophet of God. It took me thirty days to read the book because I kept repeating many verses and also marking those that touched me most. I truly marveled. I never had a more inspired reading moment in my life. Reading the book was also a very emotional experience for me. This time I fully understood the atonement of Christ. I cried many times because I was harrowed up, tormented with guilt from my past sins. But I also rejoiced because I finally found the truth and thought I also found the true church. I sincerely repented from my sins and resolved to be a good person. One of the topics in the Book of Mormon that caught my interest besides the atonement of Christ was the Abrahamic covenant and the gathering of the house of Israel. I did not understand why I highlighted all scriptures related to it.
After reading the book, my earnest desire was to be baptized. My concern was where to find Mormon missionaries. A day after completing the book, something unusual happened to me. About an hour after midnight, a strong earthquake shook our house. The terrible shaking and the squeaking sounds overwhelmed me with fear. One thing that I could not understand was, I knew that another earthquake would follow after the first subsided. This made me more nervous fearing I was going to die not having been baptized yet. And it did. Another strong quake followed that lasted about five seconds. What I could not understand was that my wife and my in-laws were deeply asleep, unaware of the earthquake. It was hard for me to get a sleep the rest of the night. Early the next morning, I told my wife and my in-laws concerning the earthquake that occurred during the night. They did not believe me. They only smiled and said I was only dreaming. I asked myself, was I getting paranoid or was it just a product of my imagination? I wondered because my in-laws were old and easily awakened by any kind of distraction like the barking of a dog. But I knew it was real.
With that fearful experience and my desperate desire to be baptized, I decided to search for Mormon missionaries to baptize me wherever they might be. To my delight, I found Mormon missionaries in the town center. These foreign missionaries, one of them Filipino were new in the area. The town was newly opened for missionary work. They were very surprised when I requested them to baptize me . They did not believe me at first. They thought I was already a member and I was just making a fool of them. They were only convinced when I related to them my experience with the Book of Mormon. I was frustrated when they told that I must listen first to several discussions before I could be baptized.
The visit of the missionaries to our home earned the ire of my wife. She was very offended by my actions because she was a devout Catholic. She hated the foreign missionaries very much that she would find a way to embarrass them. She threatened to separate from me if I joined this church. I did not fear her threat. The truth was more important to me than anything else. I was baptized on a seashore on August 5, 1980. It was a great day in my life because I thought I now belonged to the true church. Good, my wife never carried out her threat to separate from me. But for three years, I suffered much persecution from her. Sometimes she would throw my scriptures under the bed or do anything to stop me from attending church meetings.
After my baptism, I had no other desire than to share the Book of Mormon to others. My two brothers and one of my sisters joined the LDS church. My wife who was my chief persecutor finally joined me after three years. We were sealed as family in the Manila Temple in December 1985. From 1980 to 1982, I studied all the Mormon scriptures thoroughly. I read the Book of Mormon several times and the Bible two times cover to cover. There was a time in September 1981 that I was so inspired to study the Bible. I was so amazed at the inspiration I received. I just wanted to read and read like how I was inspired with the Book of Mormon. At this point I could comprehend much the Old Testament. It opened my understanding like a parachute to many puzzling scriptures especially those in the epistles of Paul. If there was something called mysteries of God, these were opened into my understanding. These two years were the best years of my life because I received a great outpouring of spiritual knowledge. This time I understood much the words of Isaiah with the help of the Book of Mormon. I delighted much in the words of Isaiah that I memorized five chapters from it, my favorites - Isaiah 29, 49, 52, 53 and 54. (The coming forth of the Sealed Book mentioned in Isaiah 29 and 2 Ne 27 has always been in my thoughts since then.) It became my practice to recite these five chapters in my thoughts mostly before I arose from bed or during my travels. They provided me inspiration from day to day. With the many mysteries unfolded unto me in studying the scriptures, I came to realize the truthfulness of D&C 63:23 which states: "But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life." Also the promises in D&C 76:5-10 revealed through Joseph Smith are true.
Two years after my conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I decided to continue my education. I was forced to take up an education course because there was no college nearby that offered an engineering course. I graduated after three and a half years garnering the highest honors. I was lucky to pass two government exams to obtain a license to teach. But I worked in the LDS church for two years as a project supervisor before I finally decided to apply for a teaching job in a government school.
Fortunately, I topped all qualifying examinations, so I was hired as a public elementary school teacher immediately. I taught for twenty years. During this time my wife remained in her office job in the local water district. Through our jobs we were able to support the education of our six children. Four of them became school teachers like me. One became a nurse and the other finished a telecommunication course. All of them have families now except one, and have stable jobs. During the time that I was employed as a school teacher, I was an active church leader, having served in major callings which required a lot of my time and entailed a lot of sacrifice. I sacrificed a lot of opportunities for professional growth because of the attention demanded by my callings in the church.
My family was pioneer and staunched Mormon in our area. I was instrumental in the creation of the first unit of the church here. The nearest ward was 67 km away. I was proud to be a Mormon in spite of the mocking and ridicules from people around. I was strengthened by the thought that I belonged to the only true and living church on earth. I had this mind set because I never studied church history from other sources yet this time. This mind set inspired me to spend half of my life in dedicated service. But in all these years, I have always hoped that the sealed book mentioned in the scriptures would soon be revealed through the president of the church.
All our six children were raised in the LDS Church. Three of them served full time missions. Five have their own families now. I was instrumental in the creation of two districts and several branches of the church. I served in major callings like Branch President and as Seminary and Institute Teacher for about five years until 1987. Then called to serve as District President in two districts for fifteen years until 2002; then as Counselor to five American Mission Presidents that served in the Philippines Naga Mission from 2002 to 2013. It was during this almost eleven year year period of working shoulder to shoulder with Mission Presidents that my English was polished quite a bit. This calling enabled me to travel a lot on weekends by air, land and sea fulfilling errands and joining mission presidents in trainings and conferences. It was not unusual to meet apostles and general authorities during area and regional conferences.
My wife and I needed to retire from government service in 2013 because we were called to serve a full time mission. I was called to serve for three years as Mission President of the Philippines Cagayan de Oro Mission in southern Philippines. I was then sixty years old at that time. I was truly humbled by this call because I never served a full time mission.
My call as mission president provided me and my wife experiences that we never had before. We were privileged to visit Salt Lake City to attend a mission presidents seminar. My wife and I joined 173 newly called mission presidents attending Mission Presidents' Seminar in Provo MTC in June 2013. This group was so far the greatest number of mission presidents called in a single batch in the history of the LDS church. I was set apart by Elder Neil Andersen in his office and at the same time ordained as High Priest because I was still an Elder when the call was extended to me. In Salt Lake City we were able to meet former missionaries assigned in the Philippines and two of my former mission presidents who gladly accommodated us in their homes prior to the seminar and who guided us to visit Welfare Square and other historic sites. We were privileged also to attend a Temple Endowment session in the Salt Lake Temple.
Back in the Philippines, we were provided with a very comfortable home in a prestigious subdivision of the wealthy. We brought with us our thirteen year old granddaughter because she grew with us. Her parents had been working abroad since she was an infant. We were provided with all the comforts that we needed. Little did I know that I would be confronted with the most challenging job in my life as a church leader. Although I had the Mission President's Handbook, I did not know how to begin. I was overwhelmed by the huge number of missionaries to take care, two hundred fifty missionaries on several cycles for three years. Responding to weekly emails from missionaries required several late night sleeps. Besides conducting quarterly individual interviews and trainings for these young missionaries, we had to take care of their health, safety and housing which demanded much of our time. My wife took the responsibility of taking care of the health of missionaries. Meeting the expectations of the Area Presidency always placed pressure on me. I was hospitalized twice due to severe stress, not because of the responsibilities mentioned above but by the headaches brought by some disobedient missionaries, including homesickness and depression which were common among new missionaries. Missionaries breaking mission rules was common. It pained me to send missionaries home who were involved in unchaste activities which were common among those with homosexual inclinations. But some sisters also did things which I knew only lesbians do. One shocking experience was a Sister missionary who gave birth to an abnormal baby boy in the mission field. I learned that she was already pregnant when she arrived in the mission field. She was able to hide her condition because she was quite obese. This brought severe stress to me because I was only about six months in the mission at that time. Another was a zone leader who was converted to Islam after reading the Quran. Other disobediences involved laziness, flirting and committing fornication. So many other concerns that I can say I almost reached my breaking point. I could not believe that these things were happening in the mission field. I was never told. We only received positive feedbacks during our training. But because of my testimony of the Book of Mormon and thinking that I was called of God, I had to overcome my frustrations. I was thankful to my wife that she was always there to assist and give comfort. Work became easier after one year because we became used to these concerns.
But in spite of the many challenges of missionary work, my wife and I enjoyed meeting with new friends and meeting hundtreds of members during conferences in the five districts under my direction including five stakes where we were always invited to speak. We also rejoiced in seeing the physical, emotional and spiritual growth of many of our young missionaries. I think one factor that really developed the spirituality of many of my missionaries was assuring that each of them would gain a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon in three months.Many also accepted the challenge to read all the scriptures in six months except the Old Testament based on a study guide I presented to them. Because of this, many of them expressed their gratitude after returning home for my efforts in helping them obtain much knowledge from the scriptures.
We were released from our mission in July 2016. But it was a very sad day for me because my mother passed away in a road accident a few days before we returned home.
C. HOW I DISCOVERED THE SEALED PORTION; THE INFLUENCE OF THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE
One year after my release from missionary service, about the middle of January 2017, I was browsing the YouTube looking for videos related to religion when I stumbled upon a video of an LDS member who left the LDS church because he was influenced by a book called the Sealed Portion, The Final Testament of Jesus Christ. This not only caught my attention but very much surprised. I wondered if this was the sealed book I have been waiting for. I thought perhaps this was just another literature designed to discredit the LDS Church. Then I came across the video of Ida Smith. I could not believe what I was hearing in the videos. I have never been so surprised and excited in my life ever since my encounter with the Book of Mormon 37 years ago. I could not believe that the Sealed Book mentioned in Isaiah 29 and 2 Nephi 27 had been translated. How in heaven have I not learned of the existence of this book the whole of my life as a Mormon? Why was it not revealed through the president of the LDS church.
I was overwhelmed with excitement to read the book. I was glad that the person in the video had posted the website of the MWAW where I could download the book. I downloaded the TSP including the available books. I immediately looked at the table of contents of the TSP. I was deeply surprised when I saw the Book of Lehi, the 116 pages manuscript allegedly lost by Martin Harris. I started with Christopher's story then the Book of Lehi. Christopher's story amazed me so much as he mentioned the gold plates, the Urim and Thummim and his meeting with the resurrected Joseph Smith in the most holy place in the Salt Lake temple. I greatly marveled at the revelations in the The Book of Lehi. I was immediately convinced I was in the wrong church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not the true church after all. I felt I was deceived. I regretted much of my actions as a leader like disciplining erring members and leading many to believe in a lie.
Reading the Sealed Portion brought to me the most marvelous feeling ever as truth after truth were revealed before my eyes. I read and read until my eyes were tired usually until after midnight. These truths radiated a familiar voice into my soul. No doubt this book was the Sealed Book prophesied by Isaiah to come forth. This book is truly a marvelous work and a wonder. After reading the TSP cover to cover, I decided to read it the second time to familiarize myself with the contents. This time I took notes and highlighted the verses that touched me the most. (I could mark the verses in the first PDF copy I downloaded in my tablet.) I never had a more wonderful experience in reading since my encounter with the Book of Mormon in 1980. With these experience I had no doubt concerning the divine call of Christopher Nemelka as a True Messenger, the same feeling I had with Joseph Smith when I read the Book of Mormon.
One of the unusual experiences I had in reading the Sealed Portion was when Moroni gave a challenge to readers that one could even know the time when the Lord will come in the glory of the Father by understanding the meaning of the Time, Times and Half of Time periods mentioned in the Book of Daniel and John the Beloved in the Book of Revelation.
Moroni wrote in TSP 67:81 And now, I will give unto you my final words conceming the time, and times and half of time. . .
82 For if ye truly had the Spirit to be with you, then ye would know these things. And if ye would listen to the prophets who have been sent unto you, then ye would know these things, . .
68:59 And if ye are wise and follow the Spirit and pray for an understanding of these things, then ye shall know the time that the Lord hath given for all things, even ye can know of the year in which the Lord shall come in the glory that the Father hath given unto him.
Because he gave clues like the birth of Mohammed and the year 1830, I came out with a calculation that the end would be the year 2145. I made this calculation even before completing the book. After I became FB friends with some MWAW followers I saw the year 2145 in a logo and in some posts. I wondered if my computation was correct. I finally confirmed that I was right when I read one from Christopher's blog stating, "What if we started out by saying that the earth on which humanity exists, and the solar system in which planet Earth exists, will be destroyed on June 16, 2145, if the human race does not come together and create peace and harmony among themselves?" I was very much delighted. This experience was very significant to me because I have searched for the meaning of this for years. I came across two interpretations published by major religious sects concerning the said time periods (Time, Times and Half of Time) but I was never convinced. I was happy that this mystery was unfolded at last through the Sealed Portion. This experience added much to my testimony of the Sealed Portion.
I completed reading the first five books of the MWAW after several months. I have never been so fulfilled and contented in my life after knowing much of the Real Truth. I painstakingly took notes from these books and arranged them by topics in my tablet. I feared I might lose the PDF copies. (Indeed these PDFs suddenly disappeared from my IPad after a year. I needed to download again.) I intended to have these files preserved for my posterity as part of my journal.
I shared the Sealed Portion to three of my siblings. Only my youngest sister believed. My two brothers expressed their doubts. One of them remained faithful to the LDS church and the other returned to be a Bible believer because he lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon.
D. PERSECUTION FROM FROM LDS MEMBERS
My encounter with the Sealed Portion became a major turning point in my life. It led me to make a decision that I knew would earn me ridicule, persecution, humiliation and probably excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have decided to leave the LDS church.
Not long after I read the TSP, I shared it to one of my close friends in the church. He downloaded the TSP and also convinced of its truthfulness. He immediately shared the book to other priesthood brothers. But this resulted in contention which prompted the district president to give exaggerated reports to the mission president. The contention became more serious when the district president confiscated the temple recommend of the brother which offended his whole family. The whole family no longer went to church after that.
I was not surprised when an Area Authority accompanied by the Mission President came to interview the brother and his son including another believer of the TSP. I was also among those interviewed because I was the source of the book. Their purpose for the interview was to stop the contention. Like my friend, I frankly told them that I believed in the Sealed Portion. Since they found out that our only fault was sharing a book and never initiated any contention, their focus turned to the district president who in fact initiated the contention. I asked them if there was any letter from the First Presidency prohibiting members from reading the book. Also I asked if they had read the book. They responded in the negative. So I questioned them if it was right for them to judge us and the book. They could not answer. At the end of the interview, the area authority asked me if I could help them stop members from reading the book which I disagreed. Perhaps they still had some respect in me because I was also a former mission president like them. I wondered why they never initiated any disciplinary action against us for believing in the Sealed Portion. Nevertheless, my friend and I never became active in the church again.
Immediately after the interview, a gossip spread like fire that I was disciplined and excommunicated for reading a strange book. The fake news was also posted through the social media. Others spread reports that I was reading a black book and that I erected my own church. I was very upset when I learned that the gossip also reached my returned missionaries. This gossip also spread to members of nearby stakes and districts including members from where I served a mission with my wife. My good reputation was totally wrecked prompting many members to look upon me with scorn and disdain. My wife was so affected by the gossip that she put the blame on me. I understood her feeling because, as pioneer Mormons, we were looked upon as models of faithfulness. My fear was that it would be harder to convince her to believe in me than the effort I exerted in convincing her to embrace the Mormon belief. But in spite of this trouble, I was happy deep inside because I found the Real Truth.
E. COMFORTED BY A KNOWLEDGE OF THE REAL TRUTH; MY PERCEPTION OF CHRISTOPHER AS A TRUE MESSENGER
The effect of this persecution by LDS members adversely affected my children and their families that they no longer attended church like me. Although I was greatly devastated by the effect of false reports ad even lost friends, I was always comforted by the wonderful truths I gained from the books of the MWAW. It was very comforting to know that the Sealed Portion is an instrument of God to gather the elect including the assurance that those who believe the Sealed Portion are marked in their foreheads and become members of the Church of the Lamb. I believed that this book will finally separate the wheat from the tares. I also believe in what is written in the scriptures that the time will come when there will be a great separation between the wicked and the righteous. I think this is it.
I was always comforted by the messages of Christopher Nemelka. I had no doubt he is a True Messenger because I was familiar with the scriptures that testifies of him, of the coming forth of the Sealed Portion and of the marvelous work and a wonder. It was inspiring to watch his videos in Utube. His way of delivering his message is very appealing to me. Maybe there is wisdom in this. His style may determine who is on the Lord's side and who is not and who are the hypocrites. I delight to watch how he confounded his intelligent critics. I see him as more than a prophet. He is a seer because he could translate ancient records through the Urim & Thummim. I admire him as I admire Joseph Smith. I feel I am blessed because I have seen and heard a real prophet speak (though in video only) while I am still alive. I admire the way he testifies and warns the world in boldness. Wish I could shake his hand just to feel him in person. Every time I read his posts as touching the LDS church, I am always reminded of Samuel, the Lamanite who testified in boldness against the wickedness of the Nephites but never hit him with their arrows.
F. FREED FROM GUILT; THE REAL TRUTH BROUGHT CONTENTMENT AND FULFILLMENT IN MY LIFE
Leaving the LDS church was like being freed from prison. I was happy to be relieved from strict church rules and standards, from paying tithing and from stressful priesthood responsibilities. The Real Truth has set me free, indeed! It has freed my conscience from the burden of guilt enabling me to enjoy inner peace. I have never been so contented and fulfilled in my life. All this because of the Real Truth.
Now, I am happy because I am seeing some fruits from my efforts in sharing the Sealed Portion. Besides my friend whom I first shared the book, my two daughters and their husbands including my youngest son are now believers. My youngest sister and her two sons are believers also. Two of my returned missionaries are now reading the Sealed Portion and other books of the MWAW. One of them has stopped paying his tithing and no longer attend church. Just recently a long-time associate has shown interest in reading the MWAW books. My wife also has been showing some positive changes. She has stopped paying her tithing. One time I heard her comment on a subject that Christopher posted. I observed that she was secretly investigating the MWAW. I do hope that she will join me by and by.
These developments make me glad. In spite of my failing health, weakening sight and alertness I do hope that by sharing the TSP and the message of the MWAW and the Humanity Party to those who wish to listen, I can assist a bit in this work.
ALBERTO C. BULSECO