James E. Faust, “Simply Happy,” New Era, Jul 1985, 4
Like so many young people do, when I was young I occasionally dreamed of being rich and famous. I am now grateful that that dream was not realized. My understanding of what success really is has changed over the years of my life. It began to change on my first mission to Brazil over 45 years ago.
One day, my companion and I went out to visit a poor sister who was widowed. In those days there were no stakes or wards in Brazil, only mission districts and branches. Sometimes missionaries looked after the members.
Finally, we arrived at a humble home in a very isolated area. This home had a dirt floor and open windows without any glass. The wind and the flies could come right through. Never before in my life had I been in a home where people live with open windows and a dirt floor. Despite this, the house was clean and neat, curtains were hung, and the boards on the inside of the house were whitewashed. Despite being primitive, the home had a cozy feeling about it. We asked after this poor widow’s health and well-being. She seemed quite happy and contented. We then began to have something of a gospel lesson. She participated freely. We thought that we were the teachers, but it soon became apparent that she knew more than we did. Her faith was deep, and her knowledge of the great eternal truths of where we came from, who we are, and where we are going was very profound.
I had my eyes opened. It was astonishing to hear this sister in these humble circumstances explain the great purposes of God in the grand scheme of the earth and its creation. I was reminded about what James said in his great epistle: “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5).
In contrast to this experience, I have seen many who were wealthy who have wasted their talents and energy to a point where their spiritual understanding was dulled. Some were so preoccupied with money and things that they missed the grand purpose of life. I am sure that while poor people did not choose to be poor, often it is within their grasp to know, understand, and enjoy the really important things. So if one does not have all the things of this world one would wish, one can still have and enjoy the rich, satisfying gifts of life and the blessings of God, such as faith, family, and friends.
This poor widow on the outskirts of São Paulo made the most of her straitened circumstances—circumstances that could not easily be changed. She realized that she should not make her life miserable by wishing it were otherwise. We ought always to try to improve on the things that can be improved, but there are some circumstances that cannot be changed. This impoverished woman enjoyed her independence, and she owed no one any money. She was industrious and thrifty. She crocheted beautiful cloths which were sold in the city to satisfy her simple wants, but she was not poor in spirit. She was rich in the things that really matter.
From that experience many years ago, I learned much. I am persuaded that this humble widow who lived in a house with a dirt floor and no panes in the window is an heir to the exaltation of God.
[illustration] Illustrated by Mark Robison^ Back to top