“No Palace Could Compete,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 69
Crisanta Juan really wasn’t interested in leaving her family or her Philippine hometown of Mayantoc. But several of her friends were applying for jobs as nannies in Saudi Arabia. If they got the jobs, they told her, they could make lots of money to send home. Thinking nothing would come of it, 25-year-old Crisanta signed up. A month later, she received word that she had been hired by a Saudi Arabian prince!
When the prince’s secretary came for her, Crisanta wasn’t sure that she wanted to go. The man couldn’t comprehend her hesitation.
“It’s a privilege to serve in a royal family!” he said.
The secretary insisted that the prince had chosen her and that no one else would do. And he already had her passport ready. Crisanta finally agreed to go. Soon she was in an airplane on her way to Saudi Arabia.
But the farther she went from home, the more frightened she became. She began to wonder if it was a cruel joke. “I couldn’t believe a prince would hire some unknown girl from the Philippines!”
Then came the shock of the prince’s palatial home. Crisanta had never dreamed of such wealth. There she met the beautiful nineteen-year-old princess (one of the wives of the prince) and her two-year-old daughter, who was to be Crisanta’s charge.
The child spoke only Arabic. “How can I talk to your daughter?” Crisanta asked the princess in English. “I cannot speak Arabic.”
“You must learn,” the princess answered. Crisanta began to study with a tutor. Within three months, she spoke Arabic so well that the prince asked her to teach both Arabic and English to his daughter. He also raised her salary.
It didn’t take long for Crisanta to become accustomed to her new life-style. “I felt like a princess myself,” she says. “I didn’t have to wash or iron my clothes, or cook, or do anything except teach and care for the child.” She was chauffeured in a luxurious car. She ate rich food—often at a long table with the prince, his wives and children, and the other nannies. She spoke almost daily with the prince about his daughter and her development.
Crisanta was paid well. She sent money to her family, and they upgraded their humble Philippine home. She also learned to spend money on herself. Soon she had many new dresses, expensive jewelry, and other luxuries.
Crisanta lived like that for three years. Then she returned home for a month’s vacation. There she found that her parents and two sisters had joined the Church, and she agreed to listen to the missionaries. But after four discussions, she told the missionaries that she didn’t want to continue. “Because of my luxurious life, I didn’t think I needed a spiritual life,” she says. But for some reason, she decided to take the Book of Mormon and some pamphlets back to Saudi Arabia with her.
As Crisanta was reentering Saudi Arabia, the airport officials found the Book of Mormon in her luggage and told her that it was illegal to take the book into the country. “I showed them the letter attached to my passport,” she says. “It said I could bring back whatever I wanted.” The officials telephoned the prince. He asked to talk with Crisanta.
“Is that book really important to you?” he asked. She replied that it was. He gave his permission.
That night, Crisanta started reading. She noticed that the missionaries had marked certain passages in the Book of Mormon, particularly Moroni 10:4–5 [Moro. 10:4–5]. “I started getting interested,” she says. “And I realized that in order to understand all these things, I must ask God. So I prayed about it. Every morning, I felt challenged to read that book, and every day I made time to read it. I realized that it was really helping me spiritually. I felt that I was nearer to God and that my life was different.”
Crisanta wrote home excitedly, telling her family of her growing testimony. They sent her a tape recording of their family home evening, complete with hymns and testimonies. Crisanta was especially moved by the testimonies of her mother and father.
Before a year had passed, she wanted to go home again to learn more about the gospel. But the princess refused to give her any time off, reminding Crisanta that she had recently had a vacation—and that she had promised to stay for three more years.
So she asked the prince for permission. He agreed, but he told her she must return after one week. As a guarantee that she would return, Crisanta could take only four dresses with her. The rest of her new clothes and all of the other possessions that she had bought during her years in Saudi Arabia had to stay behind.
Back home in the Philippines, Crisanta met with missionaries again. “I told them that although I hadn’t been interested before, I felt different when I read the Book of Mormon.”
During their second visit, the missionaries asked her to pray. “A warm feeling entered my heart. I felt all my sins, and I realized how happy I had been since reading the Book of Mormon. I felt that I really am a daughter of Heavenly Father, that I really am important to him. After my prayer, I told the missionaries that I wanted to be baptized.”
The ordinance was performed a few days later, on 9 April 1988.
From that moment, Crisanta lost interest in her life of luxury in Saudi Arabia. “I felt that I had something to do here in the Philippines,” she says. “The longer I stayed, the happier I felt. I was happy because I had learned the importance of life—not only here but hereafter. I had learned that the family is important. And I had found that I must put God before anything else—that I had to serve him.
“I had also learned that money cannot make me happy. In Saudi, I cherished all the luxuries. But when I joined the Church, I realized that those things are nothing. Everything I do in the Church gives me more joy than those other things I had. So I gave them up.”
After a few days, the prince telephoned her from Saudi Arabia, saying that she must return because the baby was waiting for her.
“I want to extend my vacation,” she told him.
“But we want you back,” said the prince. “The baby wants you back.”
“And I really miss the baby,” Crisanta said. “But I feel I have a job here to do.”
“What is it?” the prince asked.
Crisanta then told him that she wanted to serve a mission for the Church—and that she wouldn’t be able to return to Saudi Arabia for two years. Convinced that she was serious, the prince released her from her commitment. “You can come back to Saudi Arabia after two years if you want,” he said. “But the princess cannot wait for you.”
A month later, Crisanta received word that the prince had hired another nanny. The new nanny and Crisanta corresponded several times, sharing news and insights about the baby.
At home, Crisanta served as a Primary teacher, as Primary president, and as a stake missionary. She worked in a bank to earn money for her mission. “If only I could bring back all that money I spent before!” she says. “Oh, I had a lot! I was crazy before—really crazy!”
Exactly a year after her baptism, Crisanta received her endowment in the Manila Temple. Two months later, in June 1990, she received her mission call. She is currently serving in her native Philippines.
People ask her why she gave up so much for her mission. “I tell them I’m happier now than before.”
“Is it that good?” they ask.
“Yes, it’s that good,” she tells them.
What are her plans after her mission?
“I want to go where Heavenly Father wants me to go,” she says. “If he takes me again to Saudi Arabia, that’s what he wants for me.” But she isn’t sure.
“Now I want a simple life,” she says. “I want to serve Heavenly Father. I want to be loved by him. I want to love him.”