From Richard L. Millett: [Alexandre Mourra was the first member of the Church in Haiti. His family was from Bethlehem and moved to Santiago, Chilie, where Alexandre was born. When he was six month old, the family moved to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Alexandre's father was a successful businessman and became one of the richest men in Haiti. His father became ill and moved the family back to Bethelhem, to a dryer climate. Shortly after arriving to their homeland, he died.]
Richard L. Millett continues with this history of Alexandre Mourra:
The family took care of the burial and made preparations to return to Haiti only to find that the way had been blocked by government officials. Brother Mourra's Uncle had bribed those in charge of customs, and they were forbidden to return.
The family was now left destitute with many children and no means of income once their funds had run out. Alexandre was the second oldest in the family, and he and his brother worked at odd jobs to supply the family with the basic necessities. Alexandre's brother could not take the pressure and left, leaving Alexandre as the chief bread winner for the family. He said he worked as a brick mason and in other odd jobs until he found tailoring to his liking. A most unusual experience happened during this period of time in the family's life. Alexandre told of praying for guidance and that as an answer to his prayers, his father appeared to him nightly to tell him where to go and what to do to provide for the family the next day. As a consequence, he never went beyond the eighth grade in his education.
World War II began; and with Palestine under the protection of England, he found himself in the British army. This gave him a great deal of experience and also helped him to perfect his English, which he speaks fluently.
In Palestine he met and married his wife who was from Italy. Brother Mourra longed to return to Haiti and talked about it often with his wife. They decided to return to Port Au Prince and arrived with their son George, who was six months old, and $100 dollars in their pockets. Brother Mourra did not know where to begin but went to a local factory that was operated by an American company and explained his situation and his need to have a sewing machine in order to continue his profession as a tailor. The American who was in charge turned to his plant manager and said, "Get Mr. Mourra a sewing machine!" He brought out a sewing machine and allowed Brother Mourra to use it. With the $100 dollars he bought some black material and made bow ties from it.
From this humble beginning, Brother Mourra continued to prosper with hard work and his determination to succeed. When he had sufficient savings to pay for the sewing machine and because his business had grown, he went back to the factory to pay for it and asked to purchase a second machine. Once again this kindly gentleman turned to his plant manger and said, "Get Mr. Mourra another sewing machine."
Things progressed through the years for the Mourras, and eventually they owned a sewing factory that made things such as Barbie Doll clothes, etc. They also opened a store in the center of Port Au Prince that sold yard goods, clothing and other miscellaneous items. Brother Mourra always sold his merchandise for less to the disadvantaged Haitians than did the other merchants. Some of the other store owners did not like that, and they would put voodoo dolls on his doorstep with needles stuck in them. This did not deter Brother Mourra. He would throw the dolls into the garbage and go about his usual business of helping the Haitians.
During this period of time, his wife's mother became ill and was not expected to live. Brother Mourra wanted to send his wife and children to Italy to see his mother in-law before she died. Sister Mourra did not feel they could afford to take the trip, but he insisted that they go. They estimated that the trip would cost in the neighborhood of $9,000 dollars to take the family, and to purchase gifts for his wife's family, as was the custom.
Brother Mourra took the matter to his Father in Heaven and asked for his help. He told of how he reminded the Lord that his wife "was a good wife and mother and was worthy of this blessing." The next morning a man walked into his store whom he had never seen before or since. He walked up to the counter where Brother Mourra was standing, slammed down a piece of paper and said, "Here, God sent this to you!" The man turned and walked out of the store. Brother Mourra picked up the slip of paper the man had left, and it was a ticket for one-half of the national lottery. The next day Brother Mourra won $9,300 dollars, sufficient to send his wife and children to Italy.
[Through the years Brother Mourra had searched for the truth. He joined five or six religions but had never been satisfied. In 1977, he came upon a Joseph Smith pamphlet, wrote for a copy of the Book of Mormon, and was later taught and baptized in Florida. (See LDS-Gems History Part One.) Brother Mourra played a significant role in early missionary efforts in Haiti.]
Some twelve or thirteen years following Brother Mourra's baptism, they moved to the Toronto area of Canada. Brother Mourra had been experiencing some health problems, and their daughter Nena was living in the Toronto area with her husband and four children where she was also going to medical school.
Brother Mourra had developed some problems with his throat and it was determined that he had cancer of the larynx and would need surgery. The operation was successful in removing the cancer, but all of his larynx had to be removed, and consequently, he lost his ability to speak naturally. However, he was able to communicate with a resonator.
This part of his life, and our subsequent contact after a number of years was very interesting. We had not heard from Alexandre Mourra for several years, and he had not received our letters in Haiti. Our neighbor, Sean Dixon, had been called to serve a mission in the Canada Toronto Mission was serving as a zone leader and had gone to interview an investigator for baptism. He visited with the couple and found out that it was Sister Mourra. In their conversation Elder Dixon realized that the Mourras and the Milletts knew each other, and he enclosed a letter to us from Brother Mourra in the next letter he wrote home.
Sister Mourra had not been baptized a member of the Church. Brother Mourra had placed some pressure on her to join through the years; and although she knew it was true, she had resisted. When they moved to Canada, she became involved in the local ward and attended meetings with Brother Mourra. He reported that one morning she awoke and told him that she wanted to be baptized that day before she changed her mind. As a result, Elder Dixon was informed and came to interview her for baptism. Brother Mourra said the most important factor in her decision was that she had loved Relief Society and had come to appreciate the warmth and fellowship of the sisters of the ward.