Latter-day Saints from South America and beyond are mourning the passing of Elder Angel Abrea — Latin America’s first General Authority.
Elder Abrea, an emeritus General Authority since 2003, died Feb. 13, 2021. He was 87.
He is survived by his wife, Maria Chiapparino Abrea, along with three daughters, 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A Church convert, the Buenos Aires, Argentina, native holds a defining place in Latter-day Saint history from when he was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy at the April 1981 general conference, becoming the first General Authority from Latin America.
At the time of that monumental call, the 47-year-old Elder Abrea was serving as a mission president and had already been called to preside over the soon-to-be-built Buenos Aires Argentina Temple.
“I pledge all of my time, talents and efforts, all that I possess, to the work to which I have been called,” he said in his general conference address at the time of his calling.
For countless Latin American Latter-day Saints, Elder Abrea was an example of service and spiritual strength.
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a native of Brazil said Elder Abrea played an important role in the lives of many people in South America and around the world.
"His strong personality made him faithful in Jesus Christ and in His gospel," said Elder Soares in a statement. "He influenced many people for good through his teachings and example of a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. I am very grateful for his rich life and for what he taught me at the beginning of my ministry as a new General Authority."
Elder Walter F. González, a General Authority Seventy and another fellow South American, worked closely with Elder Abrea while the former was serving in various ecclesiastical positions in Uruguay and Ecuador.
In an email to the Church News, Elder González said he was blessed by Elder Abrea’s wise direction and advice.
“Elder Abrea was a man of great honor and a great advocate of the kingdom of God wherever he lived,” wrote Elder González. “He helped to establish the Church, especially in South America, sharing with enthusiasm his knowledge of the gospel and the standards of the Church.
“He was a defender of the faith, knowing that God will always provide.”
Angel Abrea was born Sept. 13, 1933, in the Buenos Aires town of Piñeyro to Edealo and Zulema Abrea, according to his obituary.
Ten-year-old Angel, along with his mother and brother, Oscar, joined the Church after a pair of sister missionaries knocked on the family’s door “and brought the good news of the gospel.”
He often spoke of his love for his parents. His mother joined the Church; his father did not. But both were supportive of their son’s decision to become a devout Latter-day Saint.
Young Angel would later share the gospel and baptize his neighbor, Maria Chiapparino. The two were married July 7, 1957, and were later sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1966.
An accountant by profession, Elder Abrea’s adult life was defined by Church service.
At age 23, he was called to preside over the Caseros Branch in Buenos Aires. He later served as president of two districts and, in 1966, of the Buenos Aires Stake.
In 1971, he was called to serve as regional representative for the Buenos Aires, Montevideo (Uruguay) and Lima (Peru) areas and, later, as regional representative for all of Argentina. He was presiding over the Argentina Rosario Mission when he was called by President Spencer W. Kimball to be a General Authority.
As a General Authority Seventy, Elder Abrea served in several area presidencies in North America, the Philippines, Mexico, Central America, Peru and Bolivia and in the Temple and Missionary departments.
Elder Abrea’s love for Church service and his fellow Latter-day Saints continued long after receiving emeritus status.
A private family funeral service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 27.