Brazil poised to be second in stakes

With the recent creation of its 150th stake, Brazil is poised to become the second country - next to the United States - in number of stakes in the Church.

Brazil's 150th stake, which was the Church's 2,294th, was created in Goiana, Brazil, on Dec. 15, 1996. About the second week of March, enough additional stakes are expected to be created in Brazil that its total will pass that of Mexico, which now has 152 stakes.Brazil is geographically larger than Mexico and has a greater population, but has fewer Church members. Brazil, larger than the continental United States in square miles, has an estimated population of 163 million people, with 600,000 being Latter-day Saints.

Mexico, about one-fourth the size of the continental United States with an estimated population of 95 million, has an LDS membership of 754,000. This membership remains substantially ahead of all other countries outside the United States. Mexico's LDS growth rate continues constant.

Elder Dallas N. Archibald of the Seventy and president of the Brazil Area, said, "It is an exciting time to see what is happening in the Church in Brazil, to see the members blending together as one in strength and direction. They have strong testimonies and they want to strengthen the Church."

He said while missionaries are instructed to preach the gospel to all people, they make special efforts to bring in entire families. As husbands and fathers are baptized, more priesthood leadership is available.

Elder Archibald commented that soon after a family is baptized, the parents meet with the stake president. He challenges the father to prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the couple to be married in the temple in a year. Missionaries continue to spend time training and strengthening a family of new converts. The ward priesthood quorums and the Relief Society also work closely with the family "to provide the support necessary for the family to become solid members in a year."

In addition, missionaries work with less-active men, including prospective missionaries, said Elder Archibald.

"Our young men surpass generations of time in preparation as they serve and return from missions," he said. "They return from their missions and are married, pursue their educations, and are soon called as bishops and high councilors. It might appear that our stake presidents are called at a young age in their early 30s, but they have been on the cutting edge of leadership for 10 years previously."

Missionary work continues to expand into large cities where the Church is virtually unknown. Creation of the Manaus Brazil Stake, the 1,700th of the Church, in 1988 in the center of the Amazon region, established a base from which many of the interior cities have since been reached.

The first missionaries arrived in Brazil in 1927 and began work among German-speaking settlers in Joinville, and the Brazil Mission was created in 1935. Progress was slow as missionaries at first taught only in German. However, when the Book of Mormon was translated into Portuguese in 1937, missionaries began teaching in that language as well. By 1940, the country had fewer than 200 members. World War II slowed the work, but in its aftermath, missionaries increased in number. A decade after the war ended, membership in Brazil was about 1,000 in 1957.

Increases came more rapidly in the years that followed, and by 1966 the first stake was created in Sao Paulo. Ten years later, an additional 10 stakes had been created and a temple was announced for that country, to be built in Sao Paulo. Today, a second temple is under construction in Recife.

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