Monday, August 5, 2013

How the LDS Missionaries first got into Panama (story Alyssa told at her Farewell)

When Elder Spencer W. Kimball opened up the Central American Mission, he said firmly to new mission president, Gordon M. Romney, "Do not forget the San Blas Indians." These Indians live on islands off the east coast of mainland Panama. President Romney said: "I do not know whether he had ever seen the San Blas Indians before or not. I doubt it. But I know that he was inspired to tell me, 'Do not forget the San Blas Indians.'" The only problem was that missionaries were not allowed in Panama at the time.

On one occasion when transfers were about to be made, a white missionary asked President Romney to send him to Panama. President Romney replied "You know they don't let missionaries into the country." The young man's response was "I can get into the country". President Romney asked him "If they won't let a Hispanic missionary into Panama, what makes you think they will let you in?" He replied "They will let me in because the President of Panama is my Uncle."

A meeting was set up with the President of Panama and at that meeting he asked his Nephew what he was doing there. He explained to him that he was serving a mission for his church and wanted to preach to the Panamanian people. The President told him that the people would be angry so he could not let him into mainland Panama but... I could probably send you to the San Blas Islands. There are a tribe of Indians called the Kuna over there and they probably would not care.

The San Blas Islands were first visited on September 21, 1953 by Huish Yates and two missionaries. A chief on one of the islands was not surprised to see them. He told them that, "as he lay in his hammock, a voice came to him saying, that white men from the north would come with a book containing the history of his people."   As the missionaries were teaching the people and telling the stories of the Book of Mormon, the people of the tribe would stop them and tell them that they can finish the story for them and proceeded to do so. The traditions and history of their people that they have been taught and handed down from generation to generation are the same as the stories in the Book of Mormon. This is because the Kuna at direct descendants of the Lamanites.

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