Discovering family history includes more than seeking out ancestors and recording experiences, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, shared during their Family Discovery Day presentation part of RootsTech 2022 and broadcast on Saturday, March 5.
It also includes a spiritual heritage and belonging in the gospel of the Savior Jesus Christ.
“Just as important, if not more important, than passing down culture and heritage is passing down our testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and our testimonies of Him and His Atonement,” Elder Soares said. “That legacy of faith passed down from generation to generation is the ultimate heritage we can pass on to the future generations.”
For the Family Discovery Day presentation, they had been filmed visiting several places around Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in their native Brazil, including the school Elder Soares attended, the chapel where they connected after their missions, and also where they were married. They toured the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, which is scheduled to be dedicated in May. Elder Soares also bore his testimony with a view of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
The Soareses also shared about their families joining the Church and some of their family traditions, their courtship and life as newlyweds.
“Being back home here in Brazil reminds me of all these precious memories,” Sister Soares said.
While family history includes finding family roots, it’s also about a person’s own experiences.
“Remember, family history isn’t all about the distant past. You can look to your own recent experiences and stories,” Elder Soares said. “It is a combination of the past and the present that makes you uniquely you.”
Elder Soares’ grandparents were from Spain and Portugal and met when they were immigrating with their parents to Brazil. They got married after arriving and kept many traditions from their home countries. Elder Soares says he has many memories made from around the dinner table and family celebrations.
“Some of the stories and traditions are passed down, and some of them are discovered. As we engage with family history and discover more about those who came before us, we can find power in that discovery, power that can lead us to a better understanding of who we are and where we belong,” Sister Soares said.
When Elder Soares’ family was baptized, he wasn’t 8 years old yet, and he watched his three older brothers and parents get baptized.
Elder Soares said his parents were “very ordinary people, but very faithful, and their conversion to the gospel changed their lives forever.”
The gospel “created a new perspective” for his family and they also “felt so much joy,” he said.
Both Elder and Sister Soares served missions in Rio de Janeiro. It was after their missions at a multistake dance where they reconnected, and two weeks after the dance they started dating. During the Family Discovery Day, they revisited the chapel and reminisced about that first dance together.
They also visited the chapel where they were married civilly, as required by law in Brazil before being sealed in the temple. In that chapel they also had their reception, and danced in the cultural hall. They were sealed in the São Paulo Brazil Temple the following day.
As a young couple, they both worked hard to finish their education, get their degrees and start a family.
“We trusted so much, so much in the Lord and we recognized the tangible blessings,” Sister Soares said. “It was not easy for the two of us, who were so inexperienced while dealing with life.”
Elder Soares said “the Lord provided for our spiritual life.”
“It was a significant time that changed the direction of everything we would accomplish in our lives,” he said.
“You cannot fully understand the breadth of who you are without understanding whose you are. Do you understand that you are literally a child of God?” Elder Soares asked.
It’s in the temple where a person can connect with their spiritual roots, Sister Soares said.
“It is there where we learn and to really learn of God’s plan for us,” she said.
As Elder and Sister Soares toured the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, they recalled when they first went to the temple, their own sealing and those of their children.
“To me, this sealing room, along with all other sealing rooms in the temples around the world, represents everything that the Lord desires for each one of us, that we get married and be united forever in an eternal family,” Elder Soares said.
It’s in the temple where people can find the feelings of perspective, peace and purpose, Elder Soares said.
“Brothers and sisters, it is in the temple where you can not only discover who you are and whose you are, but also who you are meant to become,” Elder Soares said.
The next generation
“Just as a delicious meal requires attention and time, passing down our spiritual and divine heritage takes deliberate attention and care. When we combine ingredients they come together to create a delicious meal,” said Elder Soares, who also noted he has always been fascinated by cooking.
”Likewise, when we help our children piece together who they are and whose they are, the results can be extraordinary as they discover their individuality and divine destiny,” he said.
They recalled memories with two of their daughters and Sister Soares’ sister Margareth in a section filmed in their Salt Lake City home as they gathered around the dinner table for polenta, caprese salad and homemade bread. Polenta is a traditional dish for both sides of the family.
Sister Soares shared how her father’s family frequently had polenta. And while her family was not religious, they did pray and her parents taught them principles.
Sister Soares was 9 when her sister Margareth, then 14, was invited by a friend to attend a Church meeting. Later, a friend of Sister Soares’ invited her to Primary, and she was delighted it was the same Church.
For Elder and Sister Soares and their children, it was important for them to regulary eat dinner together as a family. It was challenging when he was serving as a stake president and his family didn’t always know when he was coming home.
They laughed over the memory of how their children decided to lie on the floor “starved to death” to wait for their father to return, and a confused Elder Soares wondered why they were all on the floor.
Both daughters said the principles, habits and role models that they were raised with in the gospel have helped them as they’ve married and started families.
“It doesn’t take much to pass on a legacy,” Elder Soares said. “And it’s never too late to start.”
“When I was a missionary in this very city, over four decades ago, I never would have imagined the path that would bring me to where I am today, addressing all of you as an Apostle and a special witness of our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ,” Elder Soares said, while standing on Sugarloaf Mountain with the view of the Christ the Redeemer statue and the city of Rio de Janeiro.
There are times when the skies are clear and it’s easy to see the iconic statue.
“But there are times when the clouds roll in, keeping the Savior from view. In those moments, to see requires rising above and … requires an uphill climb,” he said.
It’s like when a person decides to come to know the Savior Jesus Christ through His teachings and commandments, as it takes rising above circumstance and, sometimes, an uphill climb, he said.
“The path to discovering who He is, is certainly individual, and has its ups and downs. But that discovery will ultimately and undoubtedly lead to purity and peace, perspective and purpose, and power and place in the family of God,” Elder Soares said.
In moments of grief and trials, Elder Soares said that “coming unto Christ is the sure way to bring back even a flicker of light that can grow within you” and lead to hope.
Temple and family history work helps gather Israel on both sides of the veil and “engaging this work helps us on our quest to become more like Jesus Christ,” Elder Soares said.
The Family Discovery Day broadcast concluded with “Come Unto Jesus” sung in English and Portuguese by Nathan Pacheco and Alyssa Armatki with cellist Charles Jarvis.