Barbara Morgan Gardner
A Spark of Light in This Great Work”
On December 22, 1885, amidst thirty years of oppressive rule by Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, María Guadalupe
Monroy Mera was born in Tetepango, Hidalgo—a small town north of Mexico City. Nearly twenty-seven years later, in 1912, Guadalupe met missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the thick of the Mexican revolution (1910–20). Recognizing the truth of the Latter-day Saint message, she became a pioneer in her family, community, and adopted church. She de- fended her faith relentlessly despite extreme persecution until her death in 1965.
Guadalupe grew up in a predominantly Catholic community where faith and family were emphasized. During her childhood, however, Protestantism encroached on many communities as citizens rebelled against years of Catholic dominance.1 Guadalupe re-called, “When I was in school I heard it said that the Protestants were the true Christians. Even though I was a child, this saying stuck with me.” Guadalupe never investigated Protestantism, but she did Ma r ía Guadalupe Monroy Mer an (1885–1965) recognize it as a catalyst in her conversion to being a Latter-day Saint. In her diary she reflected, “Just as John, the Baptist came as a precursor to prepare the way for Him [Christ] who would come after . . . so has Protestantism prepared the hearts of men to receive the true restored gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”2
Closely tied to her religious beliefs was Guadalupe’s strong sense of devotion to her family. Of the eleven children born to her parents, José Silvano de Jesús Monroy Vera and María Jesús Mera Pérez, only four children survived childhood: Guadalupe and her three older siblings, Rafael (1878–1915), Natalia (1882–1961), and Jovita (1884–1960). Guadalupe’s father died of lung disease in 1903. With little money and only each other and their faith to depend upon, in 1906 the family moved to nearby San Marcos, Tula, to start a new life. There they opened a small market.3
After the family had lived in San Marcos for several years, Guadalupe met the missionaries. She described the experience: “Two young, well-dressed, very serious and courteous Americans came to the store and asked for directions to the home of a Señor Sánchez, a very good friend of Señor Rafael Monroy [Guadalupe’s brother].” Curious about the relationship between the Americans and Señor Sánchez, Guadalupe and her sister Natalia later asked Sánchez about his visitors. In a formal manner, he responded that W. Ernest Young and Seth E. Serrine were missionaries from the Church of Christ. “Is the Catholic Church not the true Church?” the two girls inquired. “No,” was Sánchez’s simple and direct reply.4
Already questioning their own faith, this experience created a great desire within Guadalupe and Natalia to investigate the teachings of this new faith.
Two months later, the missionaries returned to the family’s store. This time the two sisters asked questions of them directly. The sisters were particularly interested in the topics of baptism and sacrament and in making comparisons between the Roman Catholic church and this new church. Using primarily the Bible to answer these questions, the missionaries and Señor Sanchez responded to the women’s insatiable desire to know the truth for themselves. “After searching the scriptures and investigating the principles,” they became convinced that the missionaries were teaching truth.5
During this time of the honest inquiry, Señor Sánchez became gravely ill and passed away. Guadalupe and Natalia pleaded with their mother, Jesusita, to invite the missionaries to their own home. “My mother’s hospitable character meant that the missionaries came to our house to eat, as she always took it upon herself to give to others. And so it was that we became familiar with the missionaries.”6
Dismayed at her daughters’ “addiction to the Church of Jesus Christ” and their new “opposition to attending mass,” Jesusita in- visited her well-respected eldest son, Rafael Monroy, to join the family when the missionaries came for meals. She hoped that together she and her son could help “reveal the falsehoods of the missionaries’ teachings.”7 Instead, after months of prayer, singing, and doctrinal discussions with the missionaries, both Rafael and Jesusita accepted the missionaries’ teachings. Despite their conviction, however, the Monroy family had not yet received baptism, and there were not yet Latter-day Saints in San Marcos.
A short time later, in May 1913, the president of the Mexican Mission, Rey L. Pratt, was scheduled to hold a conference in the town of San Pedro Mártir, about seventy miles south of Hidalgo, where there was a Latter-day Saint congregation. The Monroy family agreed to attend. Having never been to a Latter-day Saint service before, the Monroys observed for the first time the passing of the sacrament, baptisms, confirmations, and the blessing of children.
“The unity of the congregation” and the “humility of the mis- sionaries” left a strong impression on the siblings.8 “When we were in the San Pedro Mártir Conference, and we witnessed all of the activities of these young missionaries, and when we met with President Rey L. Pratt, and we heard his teachings, we felt the desire to be members of this Church,” Guadalupe recalled.9 “We said our goodbyes and went to the hotel for lodging,” she wrote. “We could not sleep as we contemplated the impressions we had received.”10
Continue… Chapter 12 to Chapter 13
“Guide Their Footsteps Aright”
Annie Marie Woodbury was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 14, 1858, to Orin Nelson and Ann Cannon Woodbury. Three years later, on December 3, 1861, in obedience to the call of Brigham Young to help settle southern Utah’s Dixie, the Woodbury family set up housekeeping in a tent in St. George while Orin built an adobe home. They experienced joy and sorrow as they carved out their niche in the new settlement, contributing to the community they came to love.
Childhood held both pleasant times and trials for Annie. She remembered her father taking her on his knee while they lived in St. George and singing her old, familiar songs. She remembered the lumber shanty where her mother carded and spun yarn to clothe her family. Candy, she remembered, was made from the skimmings of homemade molasses and was a great treat for the children.
One of her saddest childhood memories was watching her fa- ther’s orchard and farmland wash away during a July 24 Pioneer Day celebration. She recalled:
Annie Marie Woodbury Romney (1858–1930) My brother Orin and myself, with a number of other boys and girls, rode down to the field to look at the orchard and the sight that met our gaze I shall never forget. The river was swollen to a raging torrent. Every few minutes we would hear a loud splash, and a large peach tree, loaded with delicious fruit, would fall as a large piece of the bank gave way and go rushing down the stream. Other trees would quickly follow. The entire orchard was completely inundated, and the young trees that were not swept down the river were bent to the ground and many of them were completely covered with mud or wet sand—while the beets, carrots, turnips, etc., that were growing between the rows of trees were buried to the depth of one or two feet.”1
Even with the resulting financial difficulty, Annie’s parents maintained the education of their children as a high priority. “I should like . . . to express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for my parentage, and to my parents,” Annie wrote, “for the way in which they toiled and sacrificed to give their children whatever advantages, in an educational way, that was possible at that time.”2
One of the schools Annie attended was taught by Richard Horne, where her sister Eleanor was an assistant. Mr. Horne, who recognized the quick intelligence of his student and her interest in becoming a teacher, encouraged Annie, at age sixteen, to go to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Deseret and qualify as a teacher, an occupation that would become the hallmark of her life. The following year, Annie began her first teaching assignment in Harrisburg, Utah. Through teaching, Annie influenced the lives of Latter-day Saint children in Utah, Arizona, and especially the Mormon colonies in northern Mexico.
Annie was eighteen when she became the fourth wife of Miles Park Romney in August 1877 in St. George Temple. Miles married five women in all: Hannah Hood Hill, Caroline Lambourne, Catharine Jane Cottam, Annie Marie Woodbury, and Emily “Millie”
Wo m en of Faith in the Latter Days, 1846–1870
Eyring Snow. He was the bishop in St. George and an architect by profession, but he also served in such other diverse capacities as at- tourney, chief of police, actor, newspaper editor, and superintendent of education.3
Two daughters were born to Annie and Miles while they lived in St. George: Ann, on January 15, 1879, and Alice, on April 6, 1881.4 That same year, Miles received a call from the First Presidency to settle St. Johns, Arizona.5 “I offered my property for one-fourth of the cost, but looked for a buyer in vain, and therefore locked the doors and started on my return to this place hoping times of good business will revive in St. George,” Miles wrote in a letter to the Deseret News on November 10, 1881.6
Annie became the first schoolteacher in St. Johns. In June 1882, she went into hiding with sister’s wife Catharine to avoid having to testify in court against their polygamous husband. While in hid- ing, Annie gave birth to her third child and first son, Orin Nelson Romney, on March 28, 1884. A few weeks later, in a letter to Annie’s sister Eleanor, Catharine wrote that Miles had to run off “in the middle of the night” to “avoid the wicked men” seeking his arrest the “night before Annie’s son was born.”7
Two months later, Annie, Catharine, and their respective children were still in hiding: “Catherine and I are staying with Auntie Swapp in Luna Valley,” Annie wrote to her sister Eleanor, as we were obliged to leave home in the night to avoid be- ing subpoenaed to appear as witnesses against Miles. We ar- rived here a week ago today and have not heard a word from home since we left so you can judge how anxious we are to hear The Lord over-rules all things for the best in as much as we put our trust in him. I realize more fully every day the truth of the saying ‘we know not one day what the next will bring forth,’ and it is probably a blessing that we are not permitted to know of the trials which are before A nnie Marie Woodbury Romney (1858–1930) us, as we would no doubt shrink from coming in contact with them.
Continue… Chapter 13 to Chapter 14