Saturday, October 24, 2015

Three Baptisms and a Wedding

February 7, 2008 - February 14, 2008

As I’ve mentioned previously, investigators that live with domestic partners must either separate or get civilly married before they can get baptized. Elder Nájera and I had been teaching a mother and her daughter that lived in one of the apartment buildings near where we lived. The mother, Mariana, had previously been cohabiting with a man that had left to work in the United States. This meant that while they technically were no longer living together, they also couldn’t get married until he came back, which could be a long time. This was a tricky situation for us as missionaries because when we taught the law of chastity, we basically had to give Mariana a choice between getting baptized and telling her partner that she wouldn’t be willing to live with him again until after they got married. Mariana had been very receptive to everything we’d taught her up to this point, and she wanted to get baptized, but this was a real struggle for her.

Despite this, she and her daughter, Arranza, continued to go to church with us. Arranza was eight or nine years old, which is pretty young, but old enough to be able to be baptized if she wanted to and if her parents were supportive. So we taught Mariana and Arranza together. We hoped that Mariana would make the tough choice to be baptized, but in the back of our minds we knew there was a chance that it wouldn’t work out. But there was nothing keeping Arranza from being baptized, so we set a baptismal date for both of them, knowing that it might actually only be Arranza getting baptized in the near term.

This issue was extremely common among our investigators. We’d also been teaching another mother and her teenage daughter that lived in El Mango. However, only the daughter, Victoria, made real progress towards joining the church. Victoria was interested in finding religion and had been studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses prior to meeting us. Her mother was also interested in listening to our lessons, but her neighborhood vigilance duties made it hard for her to go to church regularly, and she had a complicated relationship with Victoria’s father, whom we’d never seen. In the end, Victoria’s mother approved of Victoria’s decision to get baptized, but was unable to get baptized herself.

Meanwhile, we had had a breakthrough with the Martínez family. They were the young family of four that I’d met my very first week with Elder Guerra that also couldn’t get baptized because they weren’t civilly married. Since our first few lessons with them, we’d visited them occasionally to try to find the father, Bonifacio, at home. Finally, there was a period where his job wasn’t taking him out of town all the time, and we were able to teach him as well. We were ecstatic to find that was just as receptive as Ana was.

Each February, the Veracruz state government offered civil weddings in front of a judge for free, as part of a campaign to get more domestic couples married. The Martínezes didn’t have a lot of money, so we took advantage of this opportunity to get them married. Elder Nájera and I went to the civil register at the state capitol building to help Bonifacio and Ana get official copies of their birth certificates, which they didn’t have before, and then on February 13th, we went with them to get them married.

It arguably wasn’t much of a “wedding” in the traditional sense. Bonifacio and Ana had already lived together for years and had two kids, so it didn’t really mark the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. There wasn’t a fancy ceremony, either, just some members of the ward that came to show support and sign as witnesses. There were lots of other couples taking advantage of the free marriages, too, so the whole process was crowded and felt a bit rushed.

Ana and Bonifacio marking their marriage license with their thumbprints.

And yet, it was a big deal. Now that they were civilly married, the Martínezes could finally get baptized. We had their baptism set for the next day. We had also scheduled Mariana, Arranza, and Victoria’s baptisms for the same occasion. Unfortunately, Mariana was not able to get baptized at this time because she was still deciding what to do with respect to her partner. And actually, Victoria told us she wouldn’t be able to get baptized that day either because she was “en sus días” (literally, “in her days”), which I then learned meant she was on her period. We postponed her baptism until the following week. So in the end, it was just Bonifacio, Ana, and Arranza getting baptized that day. Since both of the Martínezes got baptized, they had the potential to work towards getting sealed in the temple, so it was very exciting for us.

Elder Nájera, the Martínez family, and myself at the civil register after the Martínezes’ civil wedding.

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