Olivas Vila Aoy, a native of Spain, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Mexico in the early 1880s. He was a member of the team that translated the Book of Mormon into Spanish. But Aoy is best remembered as an education pioneer in El Paso, Texas, where he was the first teacher to cater to Spanish-speaking students. He started his school with no expectation of being paid, and ran it for seven months on his own savings. In addition to helping his students prepare to enter the English-only public schools, he often gave them food, medicine, and counseling. When his funds began to run out, his friends called his plight to the attention of the city, and the school board soon began funding his school. Even then, he devoted the bulk of his small salary to the needs of his students.
When Aoy died in 1895, he was sorely missed, both by city leaders and the families whose lives his sacrifice had touched so deeply. They engraved a scripture from the Gospel of Matthew on his headstone: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). Aoy’s Christlike service for the underprivileged children of El Paso exemplifies the Lord’s admonition to Latter-day Saints that they “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27).
For more on Aoy's relationship with the Book of Mormon, see “‘That They May Know the Covenants of the Lord’: Olivas Aoy and the Book of Mormon.”
Image credits: International Society of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Abilene Library Consortium, El Paso Historical Society, El Paso Independent School District, El Paso Public Library,William Baxter, Brigham Young University, Church History Library.