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Testimonies built among the ruins

Conversion brought about by the Spirit, not archeological research

TEOTIHUACAN, Mexico — How's this for a Book of Mormon conversion story: A husband-wife team of archeologists spend years plying their trade at the ancient pyramids and ruins of Teotihuacan, Mexico. A colleague gives them a copy of the Book of Mormon. The couple reads the book. Their lifelong, professional questions about the long-lost cultures of Mesoamerica are answered. Conversion and baptism soon follow.

Alejandro Sarabia points out field work at the archeological zone of Teotihuacan, Mexico. The Pyramid of the Sun can be seen in the background.
Alejandro Sarabia points out field work at the archeological zone of Teotihuacan, Mexico. The Pyramid of the Sun can be seen in the background. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

A nice story — but not entirely true.

Yes, Alejandro and Kim Sarabia have spent a good chunk of their lives researching Teotihuacan, a remarkable archeological zone located about 40 miles northeast of Mexico City. And yes, Sister Sarabia first copy of the Book of Mormon was a gift from a fellow researcher. Later, she and Brother Sarabia would even join the Church.

But the couple still goes to work each morning at Teotihuacan searching for answers. Their decision to join the Church, they say, was prompted by the Spirit — not their scientific sensibilities.

"Our professional background had little to do with our conversion. . . . We don't mix Mormonism with archaeology," said Sister Sarabia.

The Sarabias were brought together thanks to their common interest in archaeology. Sister Sarabia was raised in the Los Angeles area, where she began her professional studies. She remembers hearing bits and pieces about the Church growing up, including something about a sacred collection of golden plates. Later she moved to Teotihuacan to conduct research at the sprawling archeological zone that is believed to have once been the sixth-largest city in the world.

Brother Sarabia, meanwhile, had deep roots running through Teotihuacan. His family has lived in the area for generations and beyond. The couple met at as colleagues and later married. A doctoral candidate, Brother Sarabia specializes in ancient settlement patterns and directs the museum at Teotihuacan. Sister Sarabia holds a Ph.D. and is an expert on clay figurines.

About six years ago, Sister Sarabia was given a copy of the Book of Mormon by a Mexican student working at the archeological zone. Sister Sarabia was intrigued after learning the book was a translation of the golden plates she had heard of years earlier.

Only about 10 percent of the centuries-old Teotihuacan archeological zone has been researched. The area is still an active area of study and discovery. Teotihuacan is believed to have once been the sixth largest city in the world.
Only about 10 percent of the centuries-old Teotihuacan archeological zone has been researched. The area is still an active area of study and discovery. Teotihuacan is believed to have once been the sixth largest city in the world. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

Later, she became acquainted with a few other LDS women. She began giving tours of Teotihuacan to Relief Society groups. They talked about the Church and its beliefs. Many of the gospel principles just seemed to make sense, Sister Sarabia recalled.

"Then they asked, 'Would you mind if we send the missionaries to your home?' "

Eventually, the couple was baptized, along with Sister Sarabia's two children, Jessica, 15, and Aurelio, 13.

The Church has offered the family "a method of living," said Brother Sarabia. The Sarabias time away from the archeological zone is often spent serving in the Teotihuacan Ward, Mexico City Mexico Tecamac Stake. Brother Sarabia enjoys the time he has spent as an institute teacher, while his wife has served as ward Relief Society president. Jessica has attended Benemerito, the Church-owned boarding school in Mexico City.

They look forward to soon making their first trip to the temple.

The Sarabia still have questions about Teotihuacan's people and its past. Other queries have been answered. "We know where we are going and how we are going to get there," Sister Sarabia said.

An LDS mother and her son visit Teotihuacan.
An LDS mother and her son visit Teotihuacan. Photo: Photo by Jason Swensen

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