News Release

Trusting the Lord's Plan

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thy own understanding and he will direct thy paths" describes the Rodriguez family on Pohnpei.

Rodriguez 2024 in Pohnpei
Rodriguez 2024 in Pohnpei
President Williamson and Sister Aerahn Rodriguez© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Williamson Rodriguez was nicknamed “monkey” when he was a young boy growing up on the island of Pohnpei. He was always climbing the trees!  The taller the tree, the better!  In elementary school there were tall hibiscus trees. He and the other children would play ‘tag’ in the trees during lunch or recess time.  In this game of tag, you were not allowed to touch the ground.  It was all played in the trees!  Williamson came to be known as one of the best climbers. His wife, Aerahn, laughed and said: “So whenever he got hungry or thirsty, he would just climb up the tree and get a coconut to eat and drink!”

At a high school football camp in Hawaii there was a climbing course and then a competition on the rope climb.  The fastest time was a little over two minutes at the time.  Williamson said: “I did it in fourteen seconds!  My instructor was so surprised that he called another teacher over and had me try it again.  They had never seen someone do it that fast before!”  Unfortunately, that ‘monkey skill’ didn’t last and climbing trees or ropes now is not as easy!  One of Williamson’s other skills is being able to hold his breath underwater for a long time.  This skill came from spear fishing in the islands.

When he was eight years old, the sister missionaries began teaching his family about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pohnpei.  His mother was the first one to join the Church, followed by his sisters and a brother.  (There were eight siblings in his family, but only six of them at this time have joined the Church.) He was baptized when he was nine years old.  He remembers really liking it when the sisters came to their house.  The things that they were teaching were so different than what they’d heard before. “As kids,” he said, “If we didn’t have what we needed, we would just go over to another family members home and get it.  We all lived so close together. After my mother was baptized, she changed and so did our family.”  His father used to drink a lot and grow Marijuana.  His mother was always playing Bingo.  He said that it was so nice to go to church as a family.  He enjoyed going to Primary. The missionaries taught them about the importance of scripture study and having Family Home Evening.  His home life changed for the better.  His father became a member of the Church a few years later as well.  From early on, he has found joy in feeling the Spirit when he goes to church. 

Williamson remembers in the early years after his family joined the Church, some friends and family members were mean to them.   Because he was so young, he did not receive as much persecution as his mother experienced.  She endured a lot of persecution, both physically and mentally.  It was a hard time. The persecution caused them to move around a lot to avoid it, living with different family members who accepted them.   Several of his siblings moved off the island.  His mother and two younger sisters ended up moving to Hawaii. Williamson and his youngest brother stayed behind in Pohnpei with his dad.  He said: “We lived in a small house or hut in the jungle for almost two years.”  He was a freshman in high school during this time.  His older sister was married and lived in Pohnpei.  She sometimes would bring them extra food and try to look after them.  He and his brother would catch fish and crab for food.  Even though this was a difficult time in their lives, they also learned a lot.  Williamson said: “I think it was much harder for my dad though without my mom.  There were some people in the family who were trying to separate them because of the Church and some other issues." His mother worried about him and his brother during this time, so she found a way to bring them to Hawaii.

The first ward he attended after moving to Hawaii was the Manoa ward in Honolulu.  Another ward in the stake was the Makiki ward. For some reason, a lot of Micronesian people attended this ward.  His mother was attending this ward even though they lived in the Manoa ward.  Williamson kept going to the Manoa ward and began attending seminary. The members had treated him so well and were kind.  At this time, President Marlo Lopez (the current Yigo Guam temple president) was living in Hawaii in the Makiki ward.  He was over the seminaries and institutes in this region.  These two wards were divided to create another ward called McCully ward and all the Micronesians went to that ward.  Williamson remembered President Lopez because he had come to Pohnpei not only with seminary and institute, but he had also been in the mission presidency. His familiar face was comforting to him.  President Lopez was also a great friend. His family took our family ‘under his wing’.  He became their bishop and always made sure they had enough to eat. There were so many good people in both wards who helped him and his family.

Williamson remembers one time while in Hawaii, getting mixed up with the wrong group of friends.  At this time, he didn’t make the best decisions and got into trouble which led to him being taken into custody.  His young men leader was a police officer. He and his mother were able to rescue him from that place.  There were so many who seemed to be there when he needed to be rescued.   He remembers having some wonderful teachers that always seemed to know what he needed; from remembering his birthday to giving him a nudge in the right direction. President Lopez was always making sure he was attending seminary and institute, meeting and being around the right people, and that he had a calling in the ward. One of those callings was to be the YSA representative.  That calling gave him the opportunity to be surrounded by returned missionaries who were always willing to share the gospel and the experiences they had on their missions with him.  He wondered why he was called to serve in this position.  President Lopez wanted him to feel comfortable in his calling. Sometimes as they gathered as a group, he would whisper in Williamson’s ear to help him know what to say because he wasn’t real confident in speaking English yet. 

The Church programs really helped his testimony to grow.  He has found that being a member of this Church allows people to stand in front of each other and give talks, share what’s in their hearts through their testimonies, and to teach lessons.  Before joining the Church, he was a shy little boy and would sit in the back pew of the church.  Being a member of the Church and having callings has given him confidence to stand up in front of people.  

As Williamson approached the age of going on a mission and began preparing, President Lopez invited him to read the Book of Mormon.  He said: “That was the first time I was ever invited to read Book of Mormon all the way through.” President Lopez helped him go with the missionaries to teach people about the gospel.  As one of the YSA representatives, he would then try to involve and help others learn to be missionaries as well.  

The first time he read through the Book of Mormon, he said that he felt like he was reading war stories and he enjoyed it!  By reading the Book of Mormon, his English skills improved.  He was taught English in school, but learning the gospel vocabulary was new to him. He was able to finish it after three or four months. He loved reading the Book of Mormon but still felt some doubt about his ability to be a missionary.  Williamson described his experience saying: “Late one night on my way home, I stopped at the football field to pray.  It was dark and I was all alone.  I knelt there and said a prayer.  It was the first time I felt that overwhelming feeling that I should go on a mission.  I wasn’t sure if it was the Holy Ghost that I was feeling, but I trusted that feeling.  After I was set a part as a missionary, I had that same feeling as I had that night I prayed.  The same feeling returned when he was in the mission training center or MTC.  He was having a training about the atonement of Jesus Christ. It was a powerful feeling.  Those feelings helped to confirm that it was the Holy Ghost testifying to him that these things were true.” 

He was called to a two-year mission to Billings Montana.  He enjoyed his mission and the experiences he had there to have his testimony grow stronger.  After his mission, he returned to Hawaii.  His father had finally moved to Hawaii for his senior year, so it was nice to see both of his parents and family together again. He worked a few months for another member of the Church in construction. He was also learning automotive mechanics and welding.  President Lopez helped him to get a scholarship to attend the LDS Business College. It was while he was attending this college in Salt Lake City Utah that he met his future wife, Aerahn Yoon from Korea. 

Before reading the Book of Mormon, he received the Melchizedek Priesthood.  President Lopez helped him prepare to receive the priesthood by teaching him and explaining what the priesthood was, the obligation of holding this priesthood and the importance of keeping himself clean and worthy to represent the Lord.  He also explained the power of the priesthood and how it can help him be strong spiritually.  His first time giving a blessing was for his sister who was suffering with bad stomach pains. He remembers saying a prayer first asking Heavenly Father to help him say the right words. He gave his sister the blessing and afterwards there was a peaceful and calm feeling that came into the room. He gained a testimony of the power of the priesthood that day.

Aerahn joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Korea while she was attending college there. She had grown up in a Christian family.  Her parents would always take them to church.  In high school, she lived away from her family in a dorm.  It was there, out on her own, that she quit going to church.   She moved farther away from home when she left to attend college.  One day she had a friend ask her: “Do you think there is a God?” She told her: “I stopped going to church for a long time, but I know there is a God.” Aerahn said that she wasn’t sure where that answer came from.  She began pondering her friend’s question and her answer.  She wanted to go back to church but didn’t know which church she should go to.  She began investigating other churches.  During this time, she met two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  She said: “I saw the word ‘church’ on their nametags and asked them if they could teach me about their church.”  They introduced her to the Book of Mormon. They didn’t give her a copy of the book, so she went to the school library to learn more about it.  She found one copy and saw that it was signed and donated by one of her class professors who she really respected.  She became more interested in reading the book.  The missionaries came to teach her and asked her to pray.  She said: “I told them ‘no’ because it had been a long time since I had prayed.”  They asked her to pray another time and she did.  It made her feel good inside.  The missionaries invited her to a family home evening, and it was a good experience for her.  The family had a dinner followed by a lesson. She witnessed the father get up after dinner and wash the dishes.  She had never seen that before.  Her father would never have done that in her home.  She was also impressed that the youngest primary-aged child in the family gave the lesson, not the mom or dad!  She thought to herself that one day she wanted a family like that. From then on, she wanted to learn more about the Church.  When she came to the meetinghouse for the first time, it was dark, and everyone was looking at a screen. She found out later that it was General Conference.  She remembers having that ‘burning in her bosom’ that she’d heard people talk about.  She said: “I knew what they were teaching was true. I felt that all the words they said were true and I wanted to follow them.”  Soon after, the missionaries invited her to another meeting in another city.  This time she said they called the meeting ‘stake conference’.  She was thankful that she was nourished by all these good words.  She once again had the ‘burning in her bosom’.  She wrote the missionaries a letter saying that she really wanted to be baptized into this Church.   Aerahn wanted to get baptized and felt like it was the right thing for her to do.  She talked to her bishop, and he told her that she didn’t need her parent’s permission because she was old enough to make that decision on her own.  She got baptized shortly after that.  She didn’t tell her parents that she had been baptized for a while.  As she read the Book of Mormon, she had many questions for the missionaries, some of which, they could not answer such as ‘where is Zarahemla’?  The missionaries explained to her that some of these types of questions didn’t really matter.  She decided to read with more intent on the principles being taught instead of worrying about places she’d never heard of before.  She said: “I remember reading in Mosiah in the Book of Mormon.  I felt the Spirit and knew that what I was reading was true. I became more sincere in my reading and read with more intent to learn.” 

She remembers when Korea celebrated the 50th anniversary of when the Church opened Korea.  They were asking for volunteers to be in the choir.  Aerahn volunteered to sing in the choir.  They practiced as wards, then by stakes and areas, and finally as a nation.  At the final practice during a break, she went to the restroom.  There in the restroom, she met two sister missionaries.  She was surprised to see that one of them was one of her first college friend! When they were in college, her friend was not a member of the Church then. 

Her dear friend and bishop’s wife encouraged Aerahn to serve a mission.  She talked with her bishop and filled out her mission papers.  She was called to serve a mission in Seoul Korea.  She felt like she didn’t know or recognize how to be led by personal revelation.  She picked up some English on her mission.   After completing her mission, she did some volunteer service in Paraguay with the National Library.  She became homesick there and decided to return to Korea.  Before returning, she wanted to experience living in Utah in the United States.  She felt a need to enroll in school while she was there.  She already had a bachelor’s degree, so Brigham Young University didn’t accept her.  She found out the LDS Business College would accept her, so she enrolled there.  It wasn’t for a degree, but just to learn and study more.  Her mission president was from Salt Lake City. He and his wife helped her a lot. 

She met Williamson Rodriguez at a combined young single adult activity and family home evening.  Aerahn was talking to her former Bishop one Sunday after church.  He asked: “How was your Sunday?”  She told him that it was good and that she really liked Will’s testimony. Her Bishop knew Williamson from Hawaii!   He told her: “I know him.  He is a good man, a godly man. Tell Will that he should buy you lunch!” A week or so later, it was Mother’s Day and a linger longer Sunday.  Aerahn saw Williamson there. Remembering what her Bishop told her, she was brave and went over to him said: “The Bishop said to tell you that you should buy me lunch!” That first lunch date led to many more including dates to the temple together.  After a short courtship, they were married in the Salt Lake City Utah Temple in 2010.

Williamson was a Pohnpein translator for General Conference. There is a special room in the conference center where the translators sit. It was a great experience for him.  He said: “There is an ‘army’ of people in the conference center that work in the translation department. The Church has so many languages they translate in.  It is amazing to see all this work going   behind the scenes!”  He was able to meet Elder L. Tom Perry when he worked in the translation department.  He has helped with the translation of Church pamphlets and handbooks into Pohnpein.  He helped with the Pohnpein translation of the temple ordinances and the Book of Mormon as well.

While they lived in Salt Lake, Williamson worked at Beehive Clothing sewing baptismal suits. He said that he got pretty good at sewing suits!  It didn’t bring in a lot of money, but it was something he could do on Saturdays to help buy what their family needed.

Elder Michael Dunn of the Seventy was their stake president at the time.  His son served his mission in Pohnpei.  Sister Kristin Yee is another special connection they have.  She was a counselor in the stake Relief Society in their stake.  Sister Yee was also an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple at the same time Williamson was an ordinance worker there.  They knew each other from the temple.  Sister Yee came to their wedding and signed their book.  When they met Sister Yee at the airport in Pohnpei last year, she remembered them! It was a fun reunion.

In 2013, Williamson felt like they needed to move back to Pohnpei.  At this time, they had two small daughters.  It was a decision that was difficult and required a lot of faith on their part.  They prayed a lot about the move.  It wasn’t in their plan at that time.  They had hoped to save more money and finish Williamson’s schooling.  They put their trust in the Lord and moved to Pohnpei in 2013. They bought a tent and went camping to several National Parks before moving.  In Pohnpei they would be living without electricity. He told her that it would be like camping!  She said that it was hard with a small baby and a toddler, but at least she liked camping!

They lived with his parents for a while in their very small home that they also shared with other family members.  The cookhouse (kitchen) was outside where they cooked over the fire. This was not something that Aerahn was accustomed to, but she did her best and has learned the ways of living in Pohnpei. Williamson was a good fisherman which helped to feed their family along with the native fruits and vegetables. He worked hard to build a house for them. The Lord gave them both the strength they needed to get through this challenging transition time.  They had gotten used to the conveniences in Utah, such as electricity and other things, but with the Lord’s help, Pohnpei became their family’s new home. Their families and friends have been a great help to them.

Their lives have revolved around service to the Lord.  Williamson has served as a bishop and was called to be the Pohnpei stake president in October 2021. They have added two more children to their family.  Aerahn was scared to give birth in Pohnpei, but faith and prayer have given them strength to rely on the Lord. They know that children bring blessings.  Their children are blessings to them. Aerahn has learned what charity is by living in Pohnpei.  She said that she has learned to love people and not judge them.   As they look back over their lives, they can see how the Lord has guided them to be where they are today. 

President Rodriguez said that when they finish building their house, they want to have scripture phrases on the walls of their home.  Scriptures that remind them the importance of building our foundations on our Savior, Jesus Christ. “I want everyone to know that we love Jesus Christ and we’re so grateful for what He had done for us, and we need to follow Him no matter what.  I want our stake members to do what our prophet tells us to by doing our best to prepare to receive all the ordinances of the gospel and be covenants keepers of the Lord, and disciples of Jesus Christ. If we strive to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and be a covenant people, we will help prepare for way for the second coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that as people go to the temple, receive these ordinances and keep their covenants, others will see the power that comes from the ordinances of the gospel.  With that power, it will give them strength to overcome their challenges.  I really feel that my family couldn’t go through the challenges we’ve had without the power of our covenants.  There were times where our struggles with marriage, moving, building our home, and trying to work to feed our family that was so hard.  I know that we would never have been able to get through them without our covenants. The power of our covenants gives me the power and strength that I need to keep going.”  Sister Rodriguez testifies: “Trust the Lord, support the Priesthood and God will bless your family.”

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.