Joaquim Stopped Coming to Church
Joaquim was the proverbial golden convert. Freshly baptized, he couldn’t seem to get enough of the Church and its activities. If he happened to see us missionaries during the day, he would stop what he was doing and spend several hours street-contacting with us. He would even arrive early for church just in case there was something he could do to help. Joaquim Pinto Dias and his family quickly became pillars of the Meier Branch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1970.
Called to teach Sunday School, Joaquim plunged into his calling with exacting zeal. If the manual called for the lessons to be forty minutes long, that is exactly how long he taught.
And then, abruptly, he became inactive. As is sometimes the case with new members, the crisis was precipitated by a seemingly trivial event. The Sunday School president, in trying to fulfill his assignment, had shortened the prescribed class time to solve a scheduling problem. When Joaquim had objected, the president had given him a tactless reply.
Shortly thereafter the Sunday School president was called to be the new branch president. When this happened, a still deeply offended Joaquim completely stopped coming to church, and no amount of reasoning from members or missionaries could change his mind.
I was one of those missionaries. After a month of persuading, my companion and I decided to visit Joaquim one more time. The usual arguments once again got us nowhere. Suddenly I heard myself say, “But Brother Joaquim, have you forgiven him?”
This question came to him as a thunderbolt. He had been offended, and logic told him that the new branch president should come to him and apologize.
He thought about what I had said, then he turned to his wife and asked if she thought it was possible that he had not forgiven his fellowman, as the Savior had commanded.
She answered in the affirmative, and the situation was resolved. He would be returning to church. We said “Good night” and left.
We had walked about a block before the impact of my question to Joaquim jolted me as it had him. I realized that I had not asked the question; it was the Holy Ghost who had spoken through me. The words had simply tumbled from my mouth as the Spirit moved me.
The Spirit of the Lord had intervened after we had exhausted all our efforts. As the significance of the event flooded my soul with joy, I felt as though I had been lifted toward heaven and I fairly floated over the cobblestone streets on the way home.
“I’ll Stay for an Hour”
For a long time I thought that enthusiasm for the gospel was for new converts and recently returned missionaries. The gospel was true but not alive to me. It took me several years to learn that making the gospel live involves second mile service—reaching out to others and losing myself.
For five years I was inactive in the Church. When I decided to become active again, I plunged wholeheartedly into living the gospel.
But as time passed, I became disillusioned. Some Church members I knew were not ideal models of Christian life. Others were slothful in their work. I began to feel that pure, Christlike living was an unrealistic goal.
After I went to college, I was still active in the Church, but my thoughts began to be centered on my career. Going to church seemed more and more like a ritual. The gospel was not the source of my deepest fulfillment.
One day the thought hit me: I was not living up to what I knew was true!
I began to put more effort into keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I tried to magnify my calling, read conference talks in the Ensign, and attended ward choir practice. As a home teacher, I helped out my families where I could between visits. But even with all my efforts, I didn’t feel any more spiritual. I wondered if I ever would.
Then I did something else. An announcement was made in priesthood meeting that a couple needed help moving. I usually ignored such announcements, figuring that I didn’t know the people and that their close friends and relatives would be there to help them. This time I decided to help.
On the appointed day, I rode my bike over to their house. It was hot. I had a very heavy school schedule, and there were other things I needed to do. But I was determined to help.
As I parked my bike in front of the house, I felt awkward, afraid they would think I was trying to show what a “good guy” I was. As I walked inside and saw the endless stacks of boxes that needed to be moved into the truck, I almost lost my enthusiasm. “I’ll stay for an hour,” I told myself. “That’s doing my duty.”
Still feeling silly about helping people who were practically strangers, I started carrying boxes out to the truck.
Then a small miracle happened. I began to enjoy the work. I “lost myself” in giving and wound up staying the whole afternoon—until the entire truck was packed.
I rode home feeling sweaty and wonderful.
At four the next morning, I awoke with butterflies in my stomach. Why was I so excited? Because I had done something I didn’t have to do. And it felt good!
“I wish I could feel that way all the time,” I thought. I had once heard a General Authority say that he had “ups and downs” like everyone else—only he had learned to take advantage of his “ups.” I decided to take advantage of mine. I got up, knelt, and poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father. I felt a warmth come over me, and my tears flowed freely. At last I was tasting the fruits of my efforts to better live the gospel.
The world’s rewards seemed shallow in comparison with the ecstasy that I experienced, knowing I was living in harmony with the Lord’s will. I had learned what the gospel is all about: loving and serving others. Nothing fills with such lasting satisfaction as the living water of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Honesty by the Bunch
Making a living in Joseph City, Arizona, in the early 1900s was difficult. The poverty line was just a crop failure away, and extra money was scarce. Even after we children were all gone from home, my mother still cultivated a large garden and sold most of the produce to peddlers, who would truck it to Holbrook or Winslow to market.
Among the vegetables the peddler who came to our house regularly requested were carrots—four or five dozen bunches, which my mother dug, washed, and bunched herself. When he arrived, usually quite early in the morning, all the requested vegetables were bunched and neatly arranged in boxes near the pump so that Mother could keep them sprinkled and fresh.
Moist, freshly washed carrots are tempting, and the peddler often snipped a carrot from one of the bunches and ate it as he loaded the vegetables onto the truck. He noticed my mother eyeing him disapprovingly, but he paid little attention. This happened a number of times.
Finally, one morning when he had done it again, Mother said, “Do you intend to sell that bunch of carrots?” When the peddler said he did, she shook her head slightly, but said no more.
The next time he came to pick up her vegetables, she had saved a few of the culls and tied them neatly in a bunch. She handed them to the peddler and said, “Now, see here, young man. These are for you.” Then she looked him straight in the eye and said, “And don’t you dare break off any of the carrots from the bunches I have prepared for the market.”
That day the peddler got a lesson in pioneer-style honesty.
The Minister’s Eternal Marriage
In September 1977, my wife, Lyn, and I moved with our family to Spotsylvania County, Virginia. I knew that some of my ancestors had lived in Spotsylvania County around 1890. My natural curiosity aroused, I looked through the telephone book and called the post office to learn whether any Winfreys still lived in the area. But my search was unsuccessful.
One warm Saturday we decided to tour the county as a family. Turning onto every back road we could find, we enjoyed discovering the countryside together. Throughout the day, I had had a peculiar, yet persistent, feeling that something would turn up concerning my ancestors. I tried to watch the names on the mailboxes as we drove but saw none that were familiar.
Then I saw the brick church with its adjacent cemetery. I felt a distinct prompting to pull into the parking lot. A pleasant-looking gentleman was sitting in his car there, and as we began talking, I asked him if he knew whether any Winfreys were buried in the cemetery. The answer was no, but he said that he believed a Winfrey used to be the pastor of the church. The man told us that he was now the pastor. Then he gave us a tour of the building.
Inside, he showed us a list on the wall of all of the previous pastors. On a gold plaque was the name E. W. Winfrey.
I knew so little about my own ancestry that I didn’t know how this Winfrey was related to me, but the discovery was exciting. Before we left, my wife asked the pastor why he had been sitting in the parking lot. He explained that he had been impressed to wait there, but he didn’t know why.
I later discovered my relationship to the man whose name was on the plaque. E. W. Winfrey was my great-grandfather. News of my chance discovery excited my relatives, and an aunt loaned me Great-grandfather’s journal. Through the information I obtained in that volume—a complete genealogy of my Winfrey family—I was able to perform the temple ordinances for my ancestors.
One section of the journal particularly fascinated me. Great-grandfather Winfrey was quite a poet. In one poem, he expressed his sincere belief that he would be married to his beloved wife through all eternity. That was a peculiar doctrine for a Southern Baptist minister. Now that we have performed his temple work for him, his hope for an eternal marriage is undoubtedly now a reality.