The court case was troubling for Portuguese labor judge Artur Manuel Ventura de Carvalho. An employer was being prosecuted because he did not pay the legal adult wage to a young man working for him.
But the young man, though in his late twenties, was mentally handicapped and he could not do as much work as the other employees. The employer would have to let the young man go if he had to pay him more, although he was sympathetic to the young man’s responsibility in supporting his mother.
The decision required by federal laws seemed plain. “My difficulty was that I felt something was not right in this case,” says soft-spoken Brother Carvalho. “I prayed, and suddenly the answer came.” He declared that although the young man was legally of age to receive the required minimum wage, his mental age and work capacity did not justify the adult pay level. Therefore, the employer did not have to meet the demands of the law. The young man kept his job, and the grateful employer even raised his wage a bit to help the man better support his mother.
Brother Carvalho has come to accept the fact that if he is in tune with the Spirit, he may receive direction in his thinking.
“When I have a difficult decision, I pray to the Lord, and I receive help in a special way,” he says.
There was, for example, one very complex legal case in which “I had no idea how to decide. I knew the law, but I was confused,” he recalls. He prayed about it, and one particular point of law which clarified the matter stood out in his mind. Later, an attorney mentioned that it seemed remarkable the judge had so clearly seen that point. But, Brother Carvalho says, “I am absolutely certain that I received guidance from the Lord.”
Members of the Lisbon Second Ward know Artur Ventura de Carvalho as a judge in another sense; he is their bishop. It is only one of several leadership calls—including counselor in two stake presidencies—he has received since his baptism in mid-1979.
But he might have seemed an unlikely future bishop when the missionaries first knocked on his door that spring.
“What God?” he replied when they asked if he believed in Deity. It was not the question of an unbeliever, but of one who had studied a variety of religions and could not understand why there are so many different concepts of a Supreme Being. When the missionaries explained that they had a message about Christ, however, his heart was touched and he listened.
“I believe God prepared me over many years to accept the gospel,” Bishop Carvalho says. Neither he nor his wife believed the doctrines of the dominant church in their country; both had sought the truth and were ready to receive it. His own study had already convinced him that God must have a physical body. He was also impressed by the missionaries’ teaching that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restored church, with apostles and prophets as in Christ’s organization of old.
Living the Word of Wisdom in wine-producing Portugal might create problems for some, but Bishop Carvalho had no trouble giving up the occasional social drink. In addition, he had always believed it was wrong to smoke, and he felt it a privilege to help support the Lord’s work with his tithing.
But Bishop Carvalho did not come from a close family, and joining the Church helped him learn how to be a better parent and spouse. “I didn’t understand my responsibilities as a father. Sometimes, when I came home from work, all I could think of was how tired I was,” he explains. “The gospel was like a light that showed me the way. I began to understand my purpose as a man and as a father.”
Now, Bishop Carvalho says, he could not handle his many work and Church responsibilities without the support of his wife and two children. He says it is a great blessing to have been called as a sealer in the Swiss Temple, because temple work is so important to him. He functions in the calling when he travels to Switzerland with Portuguese temple excursion groups.
“The gospel, for me, is simple. It is an honor to serve the Lord under the direction of his inspired servants.” One of his prime objectives as bishop has been to teach members that the gospel means serving their brothers and sisters.
Bishop Carvalho knows from experience the blessings that come through trying to follow the example of the Master.