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The Love for God Increases Faith to Overcome Fear

Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us. Marlo and Memnet Lopez discover that letting Him lead them throughout their life, has made all of the difference in where they are today.

Yigo Guam Temple President & Sister Lopez 2023
Yigo Guam Temple President & Sister Lopez 2023
Sister Memnet & President Marlo Lopez © 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us.  Marlo and Memnet Lopez discover that letting Him lead them throughout their life, has made all of the difference in where they are today. Marlo was the only one in his immediate family who was very religious.  His parents and the rest of the family only attended church twice a year.  Marlo said that he always had a believing heart in the Catholic religion.  He was chosen by his family clan when he was young to be a Catholic priest.  They knew that he was a religious person as he went to church on his own. He was faithful in doing his rosary beads and “crossing himself” whenever he passed by a Catholic church.  He was 17 years old and attending Catholic seminary, when two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on his family’s door.  One was an American and the other one was Filipino.  Marlo’s father loved the American people. He had served with them during WWII.  He was a second Lieutenant in the Philippine Navy and served in the United States Armed Forces of the Far East.  He was also a POW in the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.  He had a lot of gratitude and a deep love for the American people. For this reason, his father let the missionaries into their home.  The missionaries piqued his interest with their teaching, but then told him that they could not teach him without his wife.  He convinced his wife to join in the lessons.  Then the missionaries said: “Well, you have children living at home, right?”  Which they replied that they did.  “Well, we cannot teach you the gospel without having your children here too.”  Marlo had an older brother and two younger sisters at home. (He had other older brothers and sisters, but they did not live at home with them.  His parents had a total of eleven children.) They all agreed, but Marlo was harder to convince.  Every summer, he would stay in the seminary convent in preparation to attend a Catholic college to become a priest.  Marlo tried to be an obedient son.  His father was very sincere in wanting him to come to the missionary lessons.  The missionaries always came on Sunday evenings around five or six o’clock.  He had to be at the church at five o’clock because Mass started at six.  He agreed to skip Mass one time to hear the missionaries.  He would at least know what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was all about.   Marlo remembers that the first lesson he heard was about Joseph Smith.  They taught him that when Joseph was 14-15 years old, he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  It was not hard for Marlo to believe that this vision really happened.  It was rare in the Catholic teachings that God would appear to an older person.  He believed in apparitions.  From then on, he attended most of the lessons.  The missionaries taught his family for six months before they got baptized.  Soon after, the bishop talked to him about receiving the Aaronic priesthood and becoming a priest.  He told the bishop: “I always wanted to be a priest and have the priesthood!”  (The bishop didn’t know that he had been studying to become a Catholic priest!)  He was then invited to attend seminary.  He said: “Yes, I like seminary!” Again, there was a misunderstanding on his part.  The words were familiar terms, but they were used a little differently in this new church. The ward members did a great job fellowshipping him and his family.  It was because of the friendships that he made that he was able to stay strong in the Church. 

He had a desire to serve a mission.  His father didn’t want him to go on a mission until he finished his education.  In the Filipino culture, education is the number one priority.  Marlo broke culture by going on a mission!  He filled out his missionary paperwork secretly because of his father’s feelings about him serving.  He had a good friend that helped him to get to another province to do his mission medical requirements.  The doctor was a member of the Church and did the exam for free so that his father would not find out.  He submitted his papers and was called to serve in the Philippines Davao Mission.  When he told his father about it, he was not happy.  Davao was in the south and in the middle of a Christian/Muslim war.  His father worried for his son's safety.  One month before he left on his mission, he received a transfer to serve in the Philippines Cebu Mission instead. Cebu is in the central part of the Philippines.  This gave great comfort to his father.  His parents sacrificed a great deal to send him money each month while he was on his mission. They were so grateful that he was serving in the central part of the Philippines and considered this a blessing. 

Marlo had learned to play the piano when he was 14 years old.  His father wanted him to learn to play the organ, so he enrolled him in a Yamaha organ school.  He was able to use this talent while he was on his mission.  One day he and his companion were talking to a Catholic priest in their area.  They asked him if there was anything they could do for him.  The priest said: “Well, if you can play the organ, we could use an organist!”  Marlo told the priest that he could play the organ.  So, he and his companion began going to the Catholic church on Sundays after their meetings.  He played the organ for their congregation.  Fortunately, he was already familiar with the hymns which made it easier for him.  It was a great service opportunity for him to share his talent with the congregation. 

When he returned from his mission, he could still feel the disappointment in his father at not completing his education first.  He applied for BYU-Hawaii thinking that because it was in America, he could make up for that disappointment.  (If he got accepted, he would be the first one in his family to go to the United States.) He was right. He did get accepted and his father was so excited that he was willing to give him anything to help him get there.

Memnet Panes was born in the Philippines.  When she was 9 years old, her family was living in Guam for her father’s employment.  He worked for the Civil Service in the Navy working in the stainless-steel plant.  Memnet doesn’t ever remember her family attending church together.  She felt a strong need to go to church, so she would walk 15 minutes each way by herself to attend nearly every other Sunday.  She was brought up in the Catholic church. She wondered about the prayers that she had in her heart that were not said in the memorized rosary prayers. Often after saying her rosary prayers, she would say a quiet prayer in her heart to God.  She explained saying: “I felt like I still had things that I wanted to say that were not in the memorized prayers.  I would always talk to God and express what was in my heart.”  She had never heard of anyone just ‘talking’ to God without it being a memorized prayer.  She found comfort in talking to Him.  In one of her prayers when she was 19 years old, she remembers saying: “I know that there is a God, but I only know Jesus Christ.  I really want to know the truth.  I’ve been coming to the Catholic church, but it has become so routine to me, and I really don’t enjoy it.  I see so many people there distracted and gossiping.  I know I go there to receive Communion and pay my devotion to God.  I just feel like there must be something more and better than this.  I don’t know what I am looking for, but would you please show me?”  Sometime later, two young missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints showed up on their doorstep.  Her mother answered the door but was not very welcoming to them. The missionaries were not deterred and kept coming back.  Her mom finally decided to let them in.  Her whole family gathered together as the missionaries showed the film strip about Joseph Smith’s first vision.  The first time that Memnet saw the picture of Joseph Smith with Heavenly Father and His Son, she said: "I felt like a light came on inside me."  She thought, “This makes sense!”  Memnet had been taught about the Holy Trinity where God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one person.  She never understood how that was possible.  It was very confusing to her.  She was finally able to understand that they were truly separate Beings and it felt right. Reflecting back, she said: “It was a personal revelation and enlightenment to me.”  She fought hard to hold back the tears and stay in control throughout that first lesson.  Her mother was the one who made the final decisions for their family.  If she decided not to get baptized, then no one in their family would get baptized.  Memnet was very interested in the Church, but the missionaries soon stopped coming to her home.

One afternoon while her parents were working in the yard and garage, a senior missionary couple from Hawaii drove up to their house.  They were so warm, loving and sincere.  Memnet watched her mother’s heart soften.  (To this day, she has a soft spot in her heart for senior missionaries.)  They were able to do things that the junior missionaries couldn’t do.  This senior couple were true ministers to her parents, and they welcomed them into their home anytime. One day as they were teaching her family the gospel, they committed her mother to baptism.  They told her that before she could be baptized, she needed to attend church.  A date was secured for them to get baptized and an interview appointment was made.  On the day of the interview, her parents needed to make a quick trip to the hardware store.  Upon leaving the store and getting back into their truck, they quickly realized that their brakes were not working right.  They wanted to keep their appointment with the missionaries. They decided to try and make it back.  It was a risky decision because they had to drive across town, through traffic and several stop lights (about 15 of them from Tamuning village to Agat). They were surprised that ALL the stop lights stayed green!  The traffic seemed to part, and they made it back for their appointment.  Her parents had never seen this happen before.  It was a miracle that they needed and a testimony to them that what they were about to do was right. Memnet’s whole family was baptized on June 24, 1978.  Elder Andrew and Sister Leimomi Kamauoha  (the senior missionary couple) taught Memnet’s family how to do family home evenings on Monday nights.  Memnet remembers one lesson about the temple where they connected paper chains that symbolized sealing families together forever. It was the beginning of her love for the temple. 

A few months after getting baptized, Elder and Sister Kamauoha talked to Memnet’s parents about her going to college.  Her parents told them that going to college off the island was too expensive.  They told them about BYU-Hawaii and the program the Church had that would make it possible for her to go.  Memnet and her parents became excited at this prospect.  The Kamauoha’s worked out the details and became her sponsor to BYU-Hawaii.  She was accepted, and the Kamauoha’s daughter met her at the airport and showed Memnet around campus.  The Kamauoha's took care of her while she was a student there.  Memnet got a job working at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) selling pineapple delights to the tourists.  She was trying to save money to go on a mission and worked hard. She got a second job as a custodian on campus.  After attending school for 2 semesters, she sent in her mission papers.  She didn’t tell her parents about her decision until she was at the airport on her way to serve in the Illinois Chicago Mission.  She was afraid that her parents would be angry and try to stop her from going on a mission.  Education was important to them, and they didn’t want her to focus on anything but that first.  She had a strong feeling in her heart that she needed to serve a mission. It was also something she really wanted to do.  It took a lot of strength and faith for her to make this decision.  Recalling this decision, she said: “My faith was stronger than my fear!”   She served for 18 months in the Illinois cold climate (1980-1981), which was hard for an island girl. When her mission was completed, she flew back to Guam to spend a few months with her parents.  She never heard from them while she was serving her mission.  It was hard.  She wanted to make sure that they were alright and doing well.  Her parents saw how much she had changed on her mission for the better.  She had more self-confidence and seemed so much happier.  They liked the change, embraced her, and welcomed her back into their home. She returned to BYU-Hawaii to finish her schooling there.  She wanted to prove to them that she had made the right decision to serve a mission.  Then she met Marlo!

Lopez 2023
Lopez 2023
Elder Marlo Lopez & Sister Memnet Panes© 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

The night before her and Marlo were to be married, they called her parents to tell them the news of their wedding.  Her parents were not happy.  According to their plan and culture, she was supposed to get her education before getting married.  Because of this, her father never liked Marlo. They were married in the Laie Hawaii Temple in June 1982.  None of their parents or family members came. Marlo’s mother was a seamstress and made Memnet’s wedding dress.  Memnet’s parents wanted her to become a doctor.  She was accepted into the Far Eastern University Medical School in the Philippines where she began pursuing this dream.  This seemed to help the tension between Marlo and her parents soften a bit. They sent financial support for her schooling.  Memnet’s parents helped to pay for nannies for their two young sons, Jordan and Jershon who were toddlers at the time, while Marlo worked, and she attended school.  Marlo and their sons kept getting sick, alternating from month to month.  He and the boys ended up in the hospital at different times.  The environment was not good and was affecting their health.  Memnet would study for her tests next to Marlo as he lay seriously ill in the hospital.  They were poor.  Marlo was working as a Manila Institute of Religion Director (1985-1989) for the Church trying to support them. Memnet was gone so much that her sons would run to their nannies before they came to her.  She was missing them and that 'mother’s bond' she wanted so desperately.  It was emotionally very difficult for her.  She felt like Heavenly Father was sending her a message.  She thought: “What good is all of this schooling if I lose my family?”  She decided to quit school and be a 'full-time' mother.  Becoming a doctor was her parents’ dream, not hers, but it was still a very difficult decision.  It was hard for her to disappoint her parents for the third time.  They didn’t take the news well and were very upset, especially with Marlo.  She worked even harder in the Church, and in her life to prove to them that she had made the right decisions with this path that she had chosen.  

From the Philippines they moved to Utah where Marlo went to BYU to get his master’s degree while on a Church Educational System two years educational leave.  While living in Utah, Memnet gave birth to their third and youngest son, Jericho in March 1990.  Their baby was only a few months old when Marlo was assigned to work in Guam as a CES country director, covering all the islands of Micronesia.  They lived in Guam from 1990-2001 wherein Marlo served as 1st counselor to five Micronesia Guam mission presidents. Memnet feels it was also a divinely directed transfer.  She was blessed with the opportunity to be by her mother’s side when she became very ill and passed away in 1993.

They received another employment transfer back to Hawaii where Marlo continued to teach seminary and institute (2001-2012).  While they were there, he was called to be a mission president over the Philippines Bacolod Mission from 2012-2015. He and Memnet served there faithfully and influenced many lives for good. They especially loved their senior missionary couples and knew the power they had to change lives.  Marlo would tell the junior missionaries: “If you can’t get someone to listen to the gospel or to commit to baptism, just bring the senior missionaries in and let them work their magic!”  Then they would explain how one senior missionary couple touched his wife and her family and changed their lives. 


After returning from their three-year service as mission president, they moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where Marlo worked for the Church curriculum department.  He became a curriculum writer for the seminary and institute manuals.  He helped to write the New Testament curriculum that the seminary and institute students are using today.

In September 2017 , Memnet was called to be on the General Relief Society Board, now called the Relief Society General Advisory Council, working with President Jean Bingham. They often discussed the needs of the women in the Church.  She said: “Women would send in questions that they struggled to find answers to.  Some of these were hard to find the answers they were seeking, but we would study the scriptures and pray about it.”

In March 2020, they received a call to be the temple president for the new Yigo Guam temple for three years.  Because of Covid, they served their first year remotely from Salt Lake.  They finally came to Guam in July 2021 to prepare for the open house that was to take place in November 2021.  Due to some delays and Covid, the temple dedication didn’t happen until May 22, 2022.  They were told that their official three years didn’t begin until the temple was dedicated.  Reflecting back from where where their married life had begun up to where they are living today, Memnet realizes an interesting, repeated cycle.  They had lived in these four places: Hawaii, Philippines, Utah and Guam two times in the same exact order! 

When they first arrived in Guam, Memnet had a dream about her mother.  In the dream she found herself in a dark basement where she was locking the iron bars on the basement door.  Her mom came running toward her and stared her in the eye. Memnet said that she didn’t know what she wanted, but she remembers her mother just staring at her.  She woke up not knowing what this dream meant.  She thought to herself: “I did my parents temple work already!  Why is my mom still behind bars?”   A few days before the interview for this article, she had another dream about her mother.   She saw her mom standing in a beautiful field.  There were groups of people standing there all dressed in white.  As Memnet walked in this field, she noticed someone running up to her dressed in white.  She said: “It was my mom! She was in a happy mood. She embraced me in a sweet hug.”  Memnet woke up and pondered on the dream.  She had a warm feeling come over her that made her feel like her mom was finally happy for her, proud of the woman she had become, and happy for all that the Church had turned her into.” 

As the Yigo Guam Temple president and matron, they want people to come to the temple.  Sister Lopez said: “Coming to the temple is like a window into the eternities.  Each time you come, you learn more and more.  It’s the best place to go to receive strength to face your trials every day. We need that, especially today. Also, it’s only in the temple that I can feel noble, and truly a daughter of my Heavenly Father. I feel like my worth is magnified when I am in the temple.  My value, my path, my mission is clearer to me here. To know who I am, to know that I am intimately related to my Savior and to my Heavenly Father is all the help I need to face the hardships that I may have that day.  It is a sweet feeling to know who you are as you listen to the sacred words of the ordinances. In the temple, I feel like the Lord himself is teaching me.  Every place you look in the temple, you see our Savior, Jesus Christ.  You feel Him in the temple.  It’s my sweet little sacred space.”  President Lopez said: “I think it was President Nelson that said that we need to have Jesus as the focus in our lives.  How do you do that?  We can do that through prayer, scripture study, going to church, and ministering.  There is a much more deeper manifestation of Christ when we focus on Him in the temple.  It is a true manifestation that you are a witness that you can have Jesus Christ in your life.” Sister Lopez added: “If you come to the temple, metaphorically speaking, with an ‘empty container’, the Lord will fill it up for you.  It is sweet.  I love it!”

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