Joaquim Stopped Coming to Church
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“Joaquim Stopped Coming to Church,” Tambuli, Oct. 1989, 14

Joaquim Stopped Coming to Church

A seemingly trivial event involving a difference of opinion over Sunday School class time, resulted in Joaquim’s staying away from church.

A new convert, Joaquim, 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 fulfilled 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 stopped coming to church. As is sometimes the case with new members, the crisis was caused 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 the members or the missionaries could change his mind.

I was one of those missionaries. After a month of fruitless 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.

As we walked down the street, 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 filled 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.

  • Keith Neilson is president of a real estate development company and assistant tennis coach of Brigham Young University’s women’s tennis team.

Illustrated by Mitchell Heinze