On January 24, 2007, Margaret Blair Young wrote: “Fulgencio Choy said that many people—in and out of the Church—watched Pablo Choc to see how he would respond to his tragedy [losing his wife and several children in the earthquake], and that his example of strength was one of main reasons the Church grew so beautifully in Patzicía. (10% of Patzicians are Latter-day Saints now—five wards, one stake, two additional branches in the aldeas.)”
Below are the slides and text from the video tribute.
Daniel Choc was born December 11, 1952 in Patzicía, a little town of 5,000 people in the mountains of Guatemala.
This is the passport photo of Daniel Choc’s family when they went to the Mesa temple to be sealed.
This is a picture of Daniel and his family the day he left on his mission. He was the first missionary to serve from the town of Patzicía, in fact, from any of the Cakchiquel-speaking towns.
I was Elder Choc’s missionary companion for 5 five weeks in the town of Comalapa. During those 5 weeks, he taught me things that I thought I already knew—like what dedication and commitment are all about. Elder Choc was an especially effective missionary ̶ not only because he was a native speaker of Cakchiquel, but because he was humble, and had a way of explaining the gospel in a simple way that the Spirit could touch the hearts of the people. The most productive day of my entire mission was during those 5 weeks with Elder Choc. We taught 10 discussions that day. As we knocked on doors to find those 10 people to teach, and after being turned away at a door, Elder Choc would often run—not walk—to knock on the next door.
We had a somewhat unorthodox mission. In the Indian towns, all the men would go to work in the fields, and only women and children were at home during the day, so we would follow the men into the fields where we could teach them.
This is a picture of Elder Choc teaching a man and his son during a lunch break.
When the rains came, it didn’t stop the work. The people still went to work in the fields, and so did we.
On February 4, 1976, at 3:00am, an earthquake hit Guatemala. The quake measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and lasted 45 seconds. As you can see in this picture, adobe homes became rubble. The earthquake was 90 times stronger than the earthquake that leveled Managua, Nicaragua in 1972. That night, about 25,000 people died, 80,000 were injured, 250,000 homes were destroyed, and nearly 1.5 million people were left without shelter.
Even homes built of brick came tumbling down.
This is the Church building in the town of Patzicía before the earthquake.
And after. Even the reinforced concrete beams weren’t sufficient to withstand….
the force and shaking of the earthquake.
This is the inside of the cultural hall.
These are the remains of Daniel’s family’s home. The collapsed home killed his mother (who was pregnant at the time) and two of his brothers. Daniel’s father was also the president of the Patzicía Branch. So not only did he have to deal with the death of his wife and three children, he was responsible for the members in the town who also had lost their homes.
In total, we buried 15 members who died in the town of Patzicia that night.
Elder Choc soon returned from the town of Sumpango where he was serving at the time of the earthquake to comfort his father and remaining family. This is a picture of his father, Pablo Choc on the left, then you see Elder Choc, his younger brother, and another missionary behind the fallen church in Patzicía after most of the rubble was removed.
In spite of the fact that Daniel had lost his mother and 3 siblings, he was on a mission. And he was undaunted in his commitment as a missionary. This is a picture taken days after the earthquake. Daniel (on the left) and another elder are teaching the nonmember husband of the Relief Society president who also died in the earthquake.
This is a picture of the baptism a few days later.
Elder Choc worked alongside the other missionaries for 2 months after the earthquake helping people shovel their way out of all the debris left by the devastating earthquake.
The few walls that remained standing were unsafe and had to be brought down. So we would pick away that the cement coating of the adobe or brick….
And then push the wall over.
Or pull it over. Two months after the earthquake, on March 29, 1976, we were working in the town of Patzún tearing down walls, when a wall similar to this gave way prematurely and fell. Everyone scrambled to safety, except for Elder Choc who was crushed by a four-foot section of brick and cement. A fellow missionary gave him artificial respiration while he was rushed to a nearby school that had been converted into a hospital.
But the Lord soon called him home. We thought we had seen the end of death from the earthquake two months before that, but now it took another life that was dear to us. All we could do was ask ourselves was “Why was it him under that wall and not me?“ In spite of the difficulties he had in his life, Elder Choc was always happy and was a good friend to us. He was also an asset to the mission, being the only native Cakchiquel-speaking missionary. He patiently taught us to understand his people and to speak their language.
The mission president and I prepared Daniel’s body and placed it in the casket. He was only about 5′ 2″, but he was a giant of a man in my eyes. We left on the lapel of his suit the button he wore which read “Por sacrificio se dan bendiciones” (Blessings come through sacrifice).
Missionaries and members at Elder Choc’s funeral services.
This is a picture of our mission president and Elder Choc’s father, Pablo Choc at the funeral. In his remarks, the mission president said, “I have had the privilege to interview Elder Choc and to know the intimate details of his life. I assure you that Elder Choc left this world completely dedicated and completely pure.” “…I just hope I’m in as good a shape when I die as Elder Choc was.”
Elder Choc was deserving of two honors. He was the world’s first Cakchiquel missionary, and then he became the first Cakchiquel missionary in the spirit world. In D&C 138:57, we read of the vision given to President Joseph F. Smith about the spirit world: “I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead.”
Elder Choc’s casket was placed in a tomb which was built over the grave of his mother, two brothers, and the twelve other members of the branch that we buried two months before that.
On the front of his tomb is a marble headstone with the following inscription: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Mosiah 2:17. Daniel Choc (Xicay). Born December 11, 1953. Died March 29, 1976. The first Cakchiquel missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who died serving his people.”
I love you, Elder Choc I look forward to the day when I cross the veil and meet you again with open arms, and I can have the chance to thank you like I never really did in this life, for your friendship, and for the example you showed me.