Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Desideria Quintanar de Yanez

As I'd mentioned in last year's posts, spiritual gifts in the contemporary Mormon church tend to look differently than they did in the early church, whether in how we practice them (i.e. speaking in tongues) or who administers them (i.e. anointings and healings). But dreams are a different animal. As early as Genesis 20, we have accounts of God communicating with men and women through dreams, and the form hasn't really changed since then.

I was drawn to Desideria Quintanar de Yanez's account not only because her story takes place in Mexico during a time when most of the stories involve gathering with the main bodies of saints, but because of the role a dream plays in her conversion.

In 1880, Desideria had a powerful dream about men in Mexico City publishing a pamphlet called La Voz de Amonestacion (in English, A Voice of Warning). She knew God had sent her this message, and that it was important that she find this pamphlet, but she was a 66 year old widow and too frail to make the 75 mile journey to Mexico City. When she confided in her son, Jose, he agreed to make the trip for her.

He asked around and met the first LDS convert in Mexico, Plotino Rhodakanaty, on the street. Rhodakanaty had been involved in translating Parley P. Pratt's pamphlet, A Voice of Warning, into Spanish, and was able to direct him to the missionaries. One of these missionaries was in the middle of reviewing the printer's proofs when he connected with Jose, and although it was a month until this pamphlet would be ready for publication, Jose was able to return to his mother with news of its existence, as well as other missionary tracts.

Desideria soon received the pamphlet, and the missionaries' invitation to baptism, and in 1880, she became the first Mexican woman baptized.

She would never live with a large body of saints. She would live in the little branch for her remaining 13 years. She had multiple meaningful contacts with missionaries and apostles in her first six years of membership. During this time, she received the first Spanish language copy of the Book of Mormon (she was so eager to receive it that the mission president traveled to her town to give her an unbound copy prior to its wider publication), as well as a blessing of healing and comfort from Elder Erastus Snow after robbers beat her and stole the equivalent of thousands of dollars from her home.

Unfortunately, by 1890 her branch had lost contact with the Mormon missionaries. That said, Desideria stayed true. When the missionaries found Jose in 1903, a decade after Desideria's death, he had given up hope on the church resuming contact and renounced his priesthood. But he reported that his mother had died “in full faith of Mormonism.”

I admire Desideria's enthusiasm and commitment to the gospel. It would have been easy to feel abandoned and isolated, but she stayed true to the revelation God had given her and true to the covenants she made.


Solitary Saint in Mexico: Desideria Quintanar de Yanez (1814-1893),” by Clinton D. Christensen, in Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume 1, 1775-1820, eds. Richard E. Turley jr. and Brittany A. Chapman.

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