Sacrificing Soccer for Service

Elizabeth Maki

Samuel Borén, Pioneer of the Church in Argentina

Samuel Borén, Pioneer of the Church in Argentina

Next to testimony, there is perhaps no more frequently recurring theme in the stories of converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than that of sacrifice—especially when those converts are pioneers in their homelands or families.

Argentinean pioneer Samuel Borén is no exception. When Borén was baptized just outside Buenos Aires in 1936, he became one of the earliest members of the Church in Argentina. Just 20 years old, Borén was a skilled soccer player with a rising career, playing on the second division team of one of the best soccer clubs in Buenos Aires.

A few years after his baptism, Borén was called to a leadership position in the Church—around the same time he was offered a contract to play first division soccer. Both required extensive time on Sundays, and there was no way the young convert could do both. After seeking counsel from the mission president, Frederick S. Williams—who told Borén “that is a decision that only you can make”—Borén turned down the contract.1

“Playing soccer on Sundays, it was a very difficult thing for me to forget about,” Borén later said. “I thought I had a world in my hands when I was playing. … I stopped playing Sunday. Naturally again for some reason the Lord blessed me with a peace of mind. … As more time passes I am more convinced that the Lord made that decision.”2

That first sacrifice set Borén on a path of service that would mark the rest of his life. He was soon called on a mission among his countrymen in Argentina, making him one of the first native Argentineans to serve.

Having a non-foreigner preach the gospel in Argentina was a powerful tool; at one door, Borén told the young child who answered who he and his companion were and why they were there, at which the child turned and loudly shouted, “¡Mamá, éste habla como nosotros!” (Mother, this one talks like we do!)3

After his mission, Borén married Clara Lorenzi in Buenos Aires. During World War II, he served as Argentina’s first local branch president in La Plata. Later, he served as a counselor in the Haedo Branch presidency until 1949 when he was called as a counselor in the mission presidency, again making him the first local man to hold that position in Argentina.

His service continued in 1963 when  Borén was called as treasurer of the Church Building Committee for South America. Then, in 1969, he was called as president of the Mexico Southeast Mission. In 1972, he became a regional representative for the Church, with responsibility over Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. His wife, Clara, was called as a member of the Relief Society General Board about the same time, and together they were the first to preside over the temple in Lima, Peru, in 1985.4

Having given much of his life in the service of his faith, it was easy for Borén to recognize the sacrifices made by the patrons with whom he worked in the Mesa Arizona Temple in the 1960s. Working Spanish-language sessions there, Borén often saw large groups of members from Mexico and Guatemala who had made the long journey to attend the temple.

“Oh, it is wonderful,” he said. “It is gratifying to see these members coming. Some of them, they make sacrifices—well, most of them—but the value is not in the sacrifice they make. It is that they go through the temple and they learn things. They are stronger in the Church after they went through the temple.”5