Brazil is third country to have 100 stakes

With the creation of seven new stakes in Brazil in December, the country now has 104 stakes.

Brazil is the third country in the world to have more than 100 stakes. The United States has some 1,171 stakes and Mexico has 126 stakes.It took 62 years of missionary work in Brazil before the the first 56 stakes were created. Then in just three years, almost 50 more stakes were organized. In the last 30 years, membership in this nation has climbed from 5,000 to 500,000.

Of the seven new stakes created Dec. 5, 12 and 19, six came from divisions of just two stakes - Florianopolis and Novo Hamburgo. The Sao Leopoldo Brazil Stake, created Dec. 5 from the Novo Hamburgo Brazil Stake, is the 100th stake. (See Feb. 12 Church News for biographies of the new presidencies.)

Brazil is a country of remarkable potential, with a population of more than 160 million people. The land covers 3.3 million square miles - very close to the size of the United States - and stretches from north of the equator to south of the Tropic of Capricorn, and from the Atlantic Ocean on the east to the Andes Mountains on the west. Brazil's borders touch every South American country except Chile and Ecuador.

The 103-year-old republic is the only country that has two cities numbered among the world's 10 most populous, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of around 20 million.

Great changes have come in Brazil and in the Church since the first missionaries arrived in Joinville in southern Brazil in September 1928. From then until the early 1940s, proselyting was conducted only in German in the colonies of German immigrants in the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Parana. Missionary work began in earnest to the entire population of the country in the Portuguese language only after World War II.

The presidency also reported that the Sao Paulo Temple often functions at full capacity, with stake excursions from the Sao Paulo area and groups of temple patrons arriving every week from throughout the country. Because of the size of Brazil, members often travel overland from three to six days and nights to get to the temple. (See March 13, 1993, Church News for article on a temple trip from Amazon Basin to Sao Paulo.)

"The dedication of the people is inspiring," said Elder Harold G. Hillam of the Seventy and president of the Brazil Area. He served a mission in Brazil from 1954 to 1957. "Imagine the joy I felt attending a regional conference of over 20,000 people where there was a magnificent chorus of 400 voices.

"This occurred in the city of Sao Paulo which had only one branch when I arrived as a missionary 40 years ago. Now there are 22 stakes in the greater Sao Paulo area. I served as president of the Sao Paulo district at the end of my mission, and I could sense that, because of the faith and love of the marvelous Brazilians, they would one day become a great force in the Church.

"At that time there was just one mission in Brazil. This mission had a North American mission president, and 98 percent of the missionaries were North Americans.

"Today, the faithful Brazilians are filling more than half the callings as mission presidents and the strong Brazilian youth are accepting the challenge and making the sacrifice to serve missions. Now, more than half the missionary force is composed of Brazilian elders and sisters. I have seen a seasoning and maturing as the Lord has directed this work. Everyone is working together in reactivation, in teaching many fathers and families in missionary work, in retaining new members, and in calling local missionaries. These efforts have worked the temple beyond capacity and given excitement to being a Church member in Brazil."

Because the potential for growth in Brazil is still enormous, the need in this decade and beyond is for more elders, more sisters, more missionary couples, more mission presidents, more stakes and more temples, said Elder Hillam.

Elder Helvecio Martins, a convert of 1972 and a member of the Seventy and first counselor in the area presidency, is the second native Brazilian to be called as a General Authority. (Helio da Rocha Camargo served as a member of the Seventy and in the Brazil Area Presidency from 1985 to 1990). Elder Martins has been close to the work and seen the growth on a first-hand basis for two decades. In the 1970s, he served as the public communications director for the Church in Brazil, in the 1980s as a counselor in a stake presidency, bishop and mission president, and now as a General Authority.

"Although there was consistent Church growth for the 30 years following 1948, it was after the dedication of the Sao Paulo Temple in November 1978 that the tremendous increases began," said Elder Martins. "The existence of the temple seemed to instill in members a desire to share the gospel and in non-members a desire to know the truth."

Elder Dallas N. Archibald of the Seventy and second counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency arrived in Brazil in 1982 as a businessman to direct the Brazilian division of an American company. "In those days there were six missions in Brazil," he recalled, "two in the south (Porto Alegre and Curitiba), two in Sao Paulo, one in Rio and one in Recife. I was called to be a regional representative to the northeast of Brazil which included the major cities of Recife, Maceio, Joao Pessoa and Fortaleza. We then had six stakes in that region and one mission. Today in the northeast there are 22 stakes and five missions, including the Manaus and Salvador missions where we had almost no members 10 years ago. In all of Brazil, we currently have 19 missions, 9 of those created in the last three years."

The area presidency reported there are cities of 100,000 to 250,000 people that have never had missionaries - not to mention many smaller towns and villages. There just aren't enough full-time elders and sisters to reach the large population, the presidency said. Ground was recently broken for a new missionary training center in Sao Paulo that will be the second largest in the Church, behind only the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

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