Located in that city is the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Its construction was begun in the year 1075 and took a century to finish. Following the discovery of what is believed to be the tomb of the Apostle James in 813, pilgrimages to Santiago became massive.
Believers, sportsmen, adventurers, tourists, and others travel the “Way of Saint James.” Believers believe that by doing it, their sins will be forgiven. The most used is the so-called French Way, which goes from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles (France) and from there passes through Navarra, Aragón, La Rioja, Castile, León and Galicia. It is said that Galicia is the “finis terrae”, the place where the world ends and the realm of the unknown begins, the place where we retire to rest.
Geographically, Galicia occupies the extreme northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. On the north and the west it is bounded by the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by Portugal, and on the east by Asturias and León.
It is poetically said of Galicia: “Galicia is always a garden where one breathes pure aromas, freshness, and poetry.”
On January 31, 2006, while president of the Spain Bilbao Mission, I was in that city along with my wife, Sister Dina Zivic, Elder Kenneth Johnson, a Seventy General Authority and first counselor in the Europe West Area, and his wife, Sister Pamela Johnson. We had finished our first zone conference of the mission tour we were carrying out.
One of the missionaries who had served there, Elder Tyler Neel, told us that he had been in contact with the cathedral organist in order to play [the organ] there that day. Elder Neel and his companion had already made friends with the organist and had spoken about the gospel. They had given him a Church hymnbook which he used to perform numbers on the magnificent organ in that cathedral.
We all went to that place. When we arrived, they told us that the organist was not there yet but he was on his way. We had doubts about being able to wait for him since we had to travel four hours to get to the city of León. Nevertheless, I felt that we should wait. It was worth it because the experience we had next was totally worth the wait, which, in any case, was brief.
The organist led us up a twelfth-century staircase to where the organ was located. There Elder Neel began to play the hymns of the Restoration: “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer,” “Praise to the Man.” Then, at the organist’s request, he played, “Families Can Be Together Forever.” The organist told us that it was one of his favorites and that he played it often.
An overpowering emotion seized us all as we listened, in a Catholic Cathedral of that magnitude, and with the significance it has for the people of that faith, to the hymns that declare that the truth is once again upon the Earth, that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith putting an end to that long night of darkness, and that the light of the gospel is within reach of all of our Heavenly Father’s children.
Our eyes filled with tears and our hearts with joy for the opportunity of bringing rays of light to such an emblematic place.
When we were saying goodbye, after taking some photographs, the entire place was flooded with the notes of the hymn “God Be with You Till We Meet Again,” a beautiful hymn, the words of which express the desire we all have that with His counsel’s guide He will uphold us, that when life’s perils thick confound us He will put His arms unfailing around us, that the banner of His love will keep floating o’er us, that He will smite death’s threatening wave before us, (I would say especially that of spiritual death.)
We are very blessed to have come to know His Church, to have the Holy Ghost that confirms the truth of all things, and to be able to feel in the depths of our hearts that it is not the imagination of our minds, but rather the confirmation and certainty that what we feel comes from on high.
I worry about those who had those feelings in their hearts at one time but then, when trials came, they were not able to remain because they were “built upon a sandy foundation” (3 Nephi 18:13). In several scripture passages the Lord exhorts us to be built upon His rock, which is done by keeping His commandments.
My desire is that the Lord and His gospel will always be lighting our way and that we may always share with others that His Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is upon the earth again, to bring joy and salvation to all.
From left to right: Elder Neel, Elder Mateo (assistant), cathedral organist, Elder Johnson, Sister Johnson, Sister Zivic, President Zivic
Elder Neel, Elder and Sister Johnson