Not long ago, Sister Floripes Luzia Damasio arrived at the São Paulo Temple with other members of the João Monlevade Branch, Belo Horizonte Brazil Stake. During this temple excursion on 3–7 June 1997, she went through at least three sessions each day, and on one day she attended four sessions. During this trip she was also sealed to her deceased husband and to other family members—including her daughter, Maria Raimundo, who received her own endowment. This 500-kilometer trip was the third time Sister Floripes has attended the temple since her baptism in 1993.
None of these facts is entirely unusual—unless one knows a little about Sister Floripes and her circumstances.
Sister Floripes was born on 13 December 1889, just over one year after the May 1888 declaration freeing the slaves in Brazil. Her parents were former slaves and worked for owners of sugar plantations.
Sister Floripes, however, was born into freedom. She learned from her parents to place a high value on life, on freedom, and also on work. And from the time she was very small, she has worked to build a better life. As a young woman she married Cassemiro Jovino da Silva, and they had 12 children. He died at age 60.
It wasn’t until 11 July 1993—at age 103—that Sister Floripes was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On 2 December 1994—at almost age 105—she traveled to the São Paulo Temple for her own endowment. During her latest trip to the temple, she was 107 years old!
While serving in the temple, Sister Floripes did not want to rest. She was a little tired but explained that she was very happy being in the temple.
On the last day of the trip, she wanted to see a little of the city of São Paulo. As she became acquainted with the streets, the stores, and the surroundings, she expressed her joy at each new thing she encountered. She was impressed by the many cars, airplanes, and people, explaining that she grew up accustomed to oxcarts and buggies.
Now age 109, Sister Floripes has outlived five of her children. She still plants and harvests her own food, cooks her own meals, and takes care of a daughter, who is also a widow, when she is ill. And she always arrives at the meetinghouse early on Sunday—in spite of having to walk a distance and then catch a bus.
Sister Floripes does not give in easily to the annoyances and challenges of life. Her spine may have been curved by the passage of time, but she shows much determination and perseverance and is an example of finding happiness in righteous living. She prays for the branch members and always encourages them to keep the Spirit in their lives. When her visiting teachers stop by, she asks them to read the Book of Mormon to her.
Sister Floripes is, as James wrote, “an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.” As James continued, “We count them happy which endure” (James 5:10–11).