Santiago Leonardo Rivera Gonzalez was born on July 25th, 1945 in the city of Soloma in the Huehuetenango department of Guatemala. He is the second of seven children and the eldest son.
As a child Santiago was restless, and always up to mischief, it was hard for him to concentrate in school and would often skip school to go hunt in the mountains. He hunted birds, deer, and opossum. When his parents realized that he was skipping school they decided to put him in a monastery school to give him more discipline. This did little to quell young Santiago’s restless nature and he was soon caught eating the communion wafers and drinking the sacramental wine.
On another occasion, he was taking firewood to his house with his cousin and slipped and fell. When he examined his leg he saw that his kneecap was moving. He thought he had broken his leg and had his cousin take all of the firewood back to the house and then come back give him a piggyback ride back to the house. Upon arriving at the house he couldn’t figure out why his leg was broken without pain. Finally, someone explained to him that knee caps move like that by design.
As Santiago was working as a police officer, he met the beautiful Aura Mercedes Herrera Lopez en Totonicapan, Guatemala at a cafeteria owned by Mercedes’s aunt. They knew each other casually for a year in the cafeteria and around town. When they finally decided to date, they only dated for 8 days before they were engaged and within 15 days they wed. Mercedes was a member of the Mormon church and shared her faith with Santiago who within a month of marriage was baptized and confirmed a member of the church as well.
Living in the highlands of Guatemala was a harsh upbringing that came with bad habits. Santiago grew up drinking cusha(moonshine) and smoking. He would give it up from time to time but it was a vice that plagued him for nearly four decades. When his oldest son Erik decided to serve a mission for the Mormon church., it woke up something inside Santiago and he decided it was time to give up alcohol and tobacco for good. He stopped cold turkey both of those habits and never returned to those vices again in his life.
Because of the examples of his wife and children he gave up his vices and became very active in his faith. At 47 years old he was called to serve in the Guatemala City Temple as a temple worker. In a short period of time, he was called to be a sealer in the same temple and was set apart by James E. Faust. From that day until his body would no longer let him he served faithfully every Saturday. On many occasions, Mercedes would receive a call to put more food on for lunch in order to make sure that people that sacrificed to come to the temple would be taken care of.
Unfortunately, Santiago Rivera was called back to do work on the other side of the veil on Wednesday, July 25th. He died peacefully surrounded by his family. His is survived by his wife Merci, sons Antonio, Erik, and Edwin and daughters, Yanina, Wendy, Yasmin, and Karina their spouses and 16 grandchildren.