Brazilians honor President Faust as `one of their own'

"One of the finest moments for the Church in Brazil" came when President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, was made an "Honorary Citizen of Sao Paulo" April 27.

Sao Paulo's Municipal Council, in conjunction with local Church members, awarded President Faust the high honor for his many years of service in Brazil, including three years as a missionary from 1939-42, two years as an executive administrator - a General Authority supervising the work in South America - from 1975-77, and his many trips and visits since. The honor was reported in the Brazil media.While in Brazil, President Faust also broke ground for temples in Campinas and Porto Alegre, presided at regional conferences in Brasilia and Porto Alegre, visited 11 missions and the new Sao Paulo missionary training center. In all, he delivered 19 addresses in 10 days to some 40,000 members and 2,000 missionaries. (See related stories on this page.)

One member meeting in Sao Paulo was held in two locations because of the large number of people who wanted to attend. So he and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, who accompanied him, each presided at nearby stake centers, and then traded places about 40 minutes into the meetings so each could speak to both congregations. Large screens outside one meetinghouse near the Sao Paulo Temple brought the proceedings to crowds outside the meetinghouse for whom there was no available seating inside. The combined congregations totaled some 7,500 people.

Brazil currently has more than 650,000 members in 183 stakes and 26 missions.

President Faust and his wife, Ruth, were the guests of honor at the Sao Paulo City Hall where more than 200 dignitaries from the city, a military band, and some 100 Church members, welcomed him. The Honorary Citizenship was presented to President Faust by Mohamed Mourad, president of the 55-member Sao Paulo Municipal Council, which governs the 23 million residents of Brazil's largest city, and the world's second largest city.

Only two other foreigners have received this signal honor: Pope John Paul II and Dalai Lama.

One of the citations accompanying the award stated, "This honorary citizenship is a token of our love, friendship, and gratitude from all the Brazilian Saints to you, and to all the missionaries that served their missions here in Brazil. We may say tonight that President James E. Faust loves the Brazilian people and Brazil as his own people and his own country, and that the Brazilian Saints love President Faust as one of their own."

President and Sister Faust, who received numerous standing ovations, were accompanied on the trip by Elder Wirthlin and his wife, Elisa. In attendance at the ceremony were Elders W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and president of the Brazil Area, and counselors Elder Claudio R. M. Costa of the Seventy and Elder J. Kent Jolley, both of the Seventy, and Elder Athos M. Amorim, recently called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Their wives were also present.

In his response, President Faust commented that "I have always considered myself a `Paulista' [a person who has resided in Sao Paulo] but now to become a citizen of Sao Paulo is very humbling.

In his response, President Faust commented that "I have always considered myself a `Paulista' [a person who has resided in Sao Paulo] but now to become a citizen of Sao Paulo is very humbling.

"I can only qualify in one respect for this recognition, and that is for my long love of Brazil and the Brazilian people. . . . I can only characterize my feelings for the Brazilian people by describing them as `more': more friendly, more enthusiastic, more helpful, more generous, and more excited about football

soccerT. When I first came to Sao Paulo in 1939, Sao Paulo was not a large city. There were very few automobiles.

"There were perhaps 2 million people in the city of Sao Paulo then."

President Faust explained to those assembled that the mission of the Church is to strengthen and fortify families, and noted that he was in Brazil to break ground for two holy temples where families could be sealed for eternity.

"At the heart of our mission is to strengthen and fortify eternal families." he said. "My wonderful wife of 55 years, Ruth, who is here this evening, and I were sealed in the temple in Salt Lake City for time and all eternity. We believe that our five children and our 22 grandchildren and our two great-grandchildren are sealed to us eternally if we are worthy of that blessing."

President Faust quoted from the Proclamation on the Family and mentioned that a copy of the proclamation would be given to all present.

"This is a great personal pleasure and a high honor to be here with all of you," he said.

In an interview after his return from Brazil, President Faust was quick to say, "This award certainly cannot be considered an award to me personally. This was an award in recognition and appreciation of the Church, and I was willing to accept it on the basis that it would help raise the Church somewhat out of obscurity."

During the formal ceremony, said President Faust, the president of the council left his script to comment that as a boy, he remembered passing a meetinghouse and seeing the big, tall elders in their white shirts, and that he had a good feeling about them, and has an appreciation for the Church.

"I was touched by that," said President Faust.

Regarding the Church, he said that having been in Brazil in the early days of the Church, "Every time we go back, the progress is unbelievable and astounding. When I say progress, I don't just mean the numbers, I mean their ability to carry forward the program of the Church."

He said he was immensely pleased to see the early members of the Church carrying on in faithfulness.

"There is a depth of leadership in Brazil that I think is quite remarkable. We have many members with ability, and substance and faith that are in positions of leadership."

President Faust noted that despite the Church's growth, there are 140 cities with more than 50,000 people, and 400 cities with more than 40,000 people, that have never had missionaries.

He said that the leadership in Brazil is focusing on new growth with improved retention and creating a solid Melchizedek Priesthood base.

"The goal is to `not lose anybody.'

"When I was on my mission, the Lord was not smiling on the Latin American people as He is now," he said, noting that the LDS scriptures had not been translated into Portuguese and progress was very slow.

"All we had was the old Portuguese Bible, and our testimonies. One year, all 76 missionaries in Brazil baptized a total of three people. This year, there were baptized in Brazil more than 54,000 people."

He said that indicators of faithfulness, such as sacrament meeting attendance and payment of tithing, have increased substantially over the years as well.

While progress has taken place in all of the countries of South America, Brazil, by its sheer size, provides theChurch with almost endless potential, said President Faust.

"When they get their additional temples, they can become a mighty force of faith for the whole Church," he said. "The Church can only grow and prosper in Brazil, and in the world, really."

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