01 March 2016

Olivas Vila Aoy

A lot of what is available on lds.org is your fairly typical and expected LDS-related stuff like church lessons, stories about people helping each other, etc.  It's also common to find fairly conservative resources there (not necessarily politically, but culturally and socially).  But not everything is typical or conservative so I want to try to highlight some of those stories here so people can use these more progressive examples in lessons and talks since anything on lds.org is automatically approved (also, I want to do stories about women in the scriptures since the scriptures are also automatically approved).

One of those items is this video and article about Olivas Vila Aoy, a Spanish man with a fascinating life history in Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and the US in the 1800s.  He did a wide variety of things including joining the LDS church in around 1880 and working on the Spanish translation of the Book of Mormon, but more importantly (and this is what the video focuses on), he made a huge difference in increasing Spanish-speaking children's access to public education in El Paso in the late 1800s.

Despite what is presented in the video, there is disagreement over Aoy's membership in the LDS Church after he left Utah and his reasons for leaving Utah.  The video implies that he never left the church, but there isn't clear evidence for that since there were no branches of the church in El Paso at the time.  This article gives a balanced interpretation (as opposed to sources that definitively state that Aoy left the church and this video that states that he didn't).

If you're looking for a typical story about someone who had a significant connection to the LDS Church or whose actions were clearly inspired by their membership in the LDS Church, then this is not your story because Aoy may only have been a member for a few years and may have had a rather tenuous connection to the church.  Instead, it's a very worthwhile story about a man, whether he was LDS at the time or not, who was committed to finding way to educate as many people as possible, especially those who didn't have access to standard educational institutions because of language and/or financial difficulties.

This story could be used in lessons or talks about the important of education, serving others, working hard despite significant difficulties and no support, consecrating your time and talents to good causes, non-native-English speaking people, positive ways to change local government policies, helping refugees and/or undocumented residents, and many more things (feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments).

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