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‘Anxiously engaged’ missionary monument

Artistic father pays tribute to importance of missionary work by sculpting statue

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PROVO — Like so many other parents, Erasmo Fuentes was forever changed after saying goodbye to his first son with a tearful hug as he entered the Provo Missionary Training Center that morning in 1995.

"It was a sweet feeling," he said, "different from anything I've ever felt before. To know that your son is doing the best thing he could possibly be doing at that time brought a peace that was sweet for weeks."

Moved by the moment, Brother Fuentes returned to his home in northern Mexico where he sketched a drawing of two missionaries riding bicycles, their faces beaming with the love of their callings.

In the next years, after moving to Utah, the feelings were repeated when Brother Fuentes and his wife delivered their second son, Alex, and then their third son, Mikel, to the Missionary Training Center.

In time, a friend, impressed by a scale model of the drawing, approached Church leaders in Salt Lake City with the prospects of casting a larger-than-life statue of the missionaries for display at the Provo Missionary Training Center.

After Church leaders approved the idea, Brother Fuentes, an artist and professional sculptor of 20 years, set to work. Using Alex as a model, and drawing upon pictures from his mission, the two began sculpting in April 2003 in Brother Fuentes' backyard workshop.

About two months after completion, the 7-foot high 8-foot wide statue was unveiled in December 2003 in a courtyard in the Missionary Training Center complex.

"If missionaries see this statue and grow in the understanding of their calling, then I'm satisfied," Brother Fuentes said. "That is the purpose of art, to inspire and motivate. I hope it helps missionaries see the importance of their work."

Missionary work is dear to the heart of Brother and Sister Fuentes. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, and raised in the northern city of Saltillo, Brother Fuentes is a third-generation member — following grandparents who joined the Church about 1925. He met his wife, Cynthia, while studying art at Brigham Young University. Several years after marrying, they returned to northern Mexico. They now reside in the Mapleton 4th Ward, Mapleton Utah Stake.

Their four boys and one daughter have served, or are now serving, missions in San Antonio, Texas; Lisbon, Portugal; Barcelona, Spain; Dominican Republic; and Tennessee.

"I'm hoping missionaries will be touched by their message," he said. "That's why I titled the statues, 'Anxiously Engaged.' "

E-mail to: shaun@desnews.com