News Release

"I Am Not Ashamed"

A man from Yap finds joy in the gospel and studying the scriptures in spite of his physical limitations. He is not ashamed to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he continues learning more everyday.


On the beautiful island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), lives a humble man and his wife, Matthew Yarofalmal and Margarita Lemaifil. They are from one of the outer islands of Yap called Farualep and speak Woliean. They were both raised in Roman Catholic homes.  When Matthew was a junior in high school, he was one of two students who received an AFS (American Field Service) scholarship. (According to the AFS website: AFS Intercultural Programs is an international, voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.) His scholarship took him to Oregon to finish his last year of high school.  From there, he was able to travel to New Jersey, New York, San Francisco California, and Honolulu Hawaii before returning to Yap.  When he returned to Yap, his relatives would not let him continue his education.  They took him back to their island of Farualep.  He felt like he had been tricked. He learned that things have a way of working out. When one of his aunties got sick, his family asked him to accompany her to the hospital on the main island.  He did so and while there thought to himself: “Okay, now is the time for me to go to school!” He filled out an application to go to college in Palau at the Micronesia Occupational College. (It’s now called Palau Community College or PCC) He got accepted and in 1981 he completed two years of schooling.  Wanting more education, he switched his major and ended up going for two more years.  In was in Palau where he met Aaron Bamlul who became his best friend.  Aaron was also from Yap. Matthew returned to Yap in 1985.

One day Matthew was at his brother in-law’s house when two missionaries rode up on their bicycles.  They asked him if he would look after their bikes for a little while and he agreed. They didn’t tell him where they were going, but they returned thirty to forty minutes later.  The missionaries asked Matthew if they could come to his house and visit with him.  Matthew told them, “Sure!”  They came to his house with their Bible and Book of Mormon. After sitting down, one of the missionaries said: “We want to share the good news with you.” Matthew remembered hearing stories about “the Mormons” and how they prayed to Joseph Smith. He thought: “Now what?” The missionaries wanted to start with prayer.  They asked him if he would like to give the prayer. He told them that he’d rather one of them say the prayer.  He did not care which one.  Matthew was surprised when the missionary prayed to God in the name of Jesus Christ!  He thought: “Now what? He did not pray to Joseph Smith." He thought that maybe they would do that the next time they came over.  They taught him a lesson and gave him an assignment to read the passages they had marked in the Book of Mormon.  He accepted the assignment.  The missionaries asked if they could return the next day and Matthew told them it would be alright.  In his mind, he thought: “Yeah, you come back and see if you can convert this Catholic.” This was a silent challenge that he made to himself.  He did not tell the missionaries what was in his heart and mind at that time.  That evening, he couldn’t remember his exact assignment.  He wondered if he would learn more by reading in the middle of the book but decided to start with the cover page.  He started there and then continued to read until midnight.  Suddenly, he thought: “Now what?  I’ve committed a sin! I didn’t ask permission from the owner to read the book. I only had permission to read my assignments.” He stopped reading and when the missionaries returned the next night, he asked for their forgiveness. They asked him why and he told them that he did not get permission to read the book from the beginning clear until midnight. Smiling, the missionaries assured him that he did not commit a sin.  This made him feel so much better.  He still felt that silent challenge within himself about them trying to convert a Catholic.  When they came back to teach him, his wife, Margarita, left the house and went into their garden.  She did not return to the house until after they left. She wanted to know what they had taught him.  He told her: “If you want to know what they taught me, please stay.  Don’t run away.”  Margarita told him that she didn’t really want the “Mormons” to come and teach them. She said: “We are Catholic.”  He replied: “I know that, but you should listen to them first.”  When the missionaries returned, she ran away again. After they left, she once again asked her husband: “What did they teach you?”  Again, he responded: “If you really want to know, please stay.”  This time she asked Matthew to ask the missionaries if it would be okay if she was chewing Betel nut to stay. He did and the missionaries assured her that she could stay.  She came and listened to the lesson the next time the missionaries came to the house.  Because of her lack of English, she had Matthew explain to her what the missionaries taught.  Her heart was touched.  She decided to continue staying and learning from them.  They asked Margarita if she could try and reduce the amount of the Betel nut she was chewing a little each day. She said: “It was hard to stop chewing Betel nut, but I followed what the missionaries asked me to do by reducing it a little at a time.  Eventually, I realized that I didn’t want or need it anymore!”

After some time, Matthew and Margarita decided to get baptized.  Their young son was about twelve years old. When they told him about their decision to get baptized, he asked them to wait.  He wanted to be taught so he could get baptized with them.  The missionaries returned to teach their son and on April 10, 2010, all of them were baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Matthew suffered a stroke in 2008.  He was flown to a hospital in the Philippines. The stroke affected his ability to walk very well.  It would take several people to help him walk.  The doctors wanted him to take physical therapy to help him walk again.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have insurance to cover the therapy that he needed. After one week in the hospital, he was flown back to Yap. 

He is not bitter from the stroke even though he cannot walk very well.  He said: “I know that there is a higher purpose in all of this.  When I was a Catholic, I rarely went to church. My stroke allowed me to be home when the missionaries came to teach me the gospel and has led me to where I am today.  The stroke humbled me and allowed me to become closer to the Lord through it all.” Matthew’s best friend, Aaron Bamlul, baptized him. Because of his stroke, it was hard to get into the water to be baptized.  When I saw Aaron in the water, I felt the Spirit say to me ‘Go. Be baptized by your best friend.’” Matthew said that the Lord gave him strength to go down the stairs into the font.  After he was baptized, he asked Aaron why he hadn’t told him about the gospel when he was converted.  Aaron told him: “I didn’t think that you would listen.”  Matthew replied: “Well, you never know.  Just look at us now!”  Today he only uses a walking stick and he’s able to walk without help. “I don’t think it’s because of my own strength,” he says pointing to heaven, “I know it is His doing.”

After all of these years, the gospel is still very important to him.  He said that when he was a Catholic, he didn’t know how to find things in the Bible.  He says: “It would have taken me all day!  Now that I am a member of this Church, I can find scriptures way, way faster! I feel like the Book of Mormon has helped me understand the Bible so much more.”  Matthew continues to read all of the standard works of scripture. (The Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price) As soon as he completes them, he begins again.  He has completed this cycle of reading for several years.  Chuckling, he said: “Now, I don’t know what the word S.T.O.P means when it comes to scripture reading! It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, whether it’s in the middle of the night or not.  If I am awake, I read these books.  I feel joy when I read the scriptures.”  He feels like the more he reads, the more he understands. “This is why,” he explained, “I try to encourage those in Sunday school to read the scriptures and the Come Follow Me lessons.  When we gather together and share, we all learn.” His heart was really touched one day as he was reading in 2 Nephi 3 about Joseph in Egypt and how it referred to Joseph Smith.  He said that he learned from that chapter that truth has been and continues to be revealed to our prophets.  He testified: "The Book of Mormon brings clarity that the other religions don’t have.” 

Matthew and Margarita from Yap 2024
Matthew and Margarita from Yap 2024
Matthew's well-worn scriptures© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

He suffered a lot of persecution when he first joined the Church.  “Sometimes,” he said, “I am surprised that I survived.  It was a very difficult time, but I have no regrets of my conversion to the gospel.”  His wife added: “In the beginning, it was difficult to overcome our hardships from our family, friends and other islanders because we joined the Church. But now, it is easier.”  Matthew feels like the Lord is giving them a rest from the persecutions.  He feels like they are receiving ‘the fruits’ of His will, especially His love.  He said: “We know that He loves us first and His blessings have followed."

Margarita said that when she was being taught the gospel, she felt the Spirit.  She continued by explaining: “I had a tough time reading.  When the missionaries started teaching us, they also taught me how to read. I now read so much better even though I never finished school.” 

Matthew remembers before Russell M. Nelson was the prophet, he came to Guam.  Matthew had the opportunity to meet him then as Elder Nelson after a meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, people came up to the stand to shake Elder Nelson’s hand.  Though Matthew wanted to join them.  Because of his stroke, it was too difficult for him to get up, so he remained seated.  He happened to see Elder Nelson talking with the mission president.  The mission president pointed toward him.  “Before long,” he said, “Elder Nelson walked down the steps and all the way to where I was seated just to shake my hand! I knew that he was guided by the Spirit. And again,” Matthew continued as he pointed toward heaven, “It was His doing.  I trust and believe that it really was His doing.”   

Matthew said that he wants people to seek the truth.  He testified: “The truth is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” In 2012, Matthew, Margarita and their son were sealed in the Manila Philippines temple. Some people have asked him why he goes to church and why he is not ashamed to walk into the church struggling to walk.  With emotion, he says: “I am not ashamed.  I am seeking the Lord there.  I am not sick anymore because I feel healed.  When I was called to be the first counselor in the branch presidency, a lot of people asked me again if I was not ashamed and embarrassed to go all the way up on the stand like that. I tell them straight up, ‘nope'! If I have the strength to walk, then I am not ashamed.  If I need to crawl, by all means, I will crawl up there and be seated.  I am not ashamed to crawl. I am needed there.”  He enjoys going with the missionaries to help teach others and visit the members.  They often ask him if he can do it.  He tells them: “Yes!  If I have to crawl, as long as it doesn’t rain on me, I will go.”

Matthew and Margarita know that the Lord has helped them.  Through their obedience, He has blessed their lives.

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