Elder Denelson Urbano da Silva knew ‘something was ready to happen’

Elder Denelson Silva, a new General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left, and his wife, Sister Regina Maria de Carvalho Silva, pose for a photo at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 4, 2022. Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Elder Denelson Urbano da Silva of the Seventy. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Denelson Silva said he and his wife, Sister Regina Maria de Carvalho Silva, knew “something was ready to happen.”

The couple recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of their sealing. In that amount of time, they have served in a variety of callings in the Church.

Regardless of the type of opportunity, Elder Silva said each calling had one thing in common.

“You never feel prepared for any calling,” he said.

A mission lesson learned and relearned

He said each calling has required something different and resulted in unique blessings. And the two of them insist they saw the hand of the Lord with each step along their journey — even when that journey took them thousands of miles away from São Paulo, Brazil, to Luanda, Angola.

In 2016, Elder Silva was called as a mission president. The couple served in the Angola Luanda Mission for three years with the missionaries in their care.

Sister Silva recalls how they felt when that calling was extended to them.

“After we were called to serve a mission in Angola, we felt a lot of stress,” she said.

“We had to move. We had to sell our home. We had to sell our things. We had to figure out what to do with our car.”

The list of tasks to be undertaken before leaving on a mission was long and seemed more challenging to take care of than time would allow. But that is where she saw and felt guidance from heaven and gained a strengthened testimony of how Heavenly Father can clear a path when He needs something accomplished.

“All of those things,” she said. “It all worked out.”

They shared that testimony-building experiences with their missionaries to help them have faith for whatever would come next in their journeys. The Silvas, however, didn’t know that they would need to remember that experience as much as their missionaries needed to hear about it.

The original plan was simple — sell the home in Brazil, serve a mission in Angola, purchase a new home in Brazil three years later, and move forward with life.

Learn more about the 6 General Authority Seventies sustained during the April 2022 general conference

“We sold the house because we wanted to be 100% focused on the missionary work,” Elder Silva said. He knew he would ask the missionaries in Angola to be completely focused, and he wanted to do the same.

Despite having a plan and moving forward with faith as they served in Africa, the nine-hour flight home at the end of their mission was filled with restlessness.

“When we got home from our mission in 2019,” Sister Silva recalled, “we decided not to buy a house or apartment in that moment. We wanted to see what was going to happen.”

While they had an idea of what they should do, the Holy Ghost hadn’t confirmed to them that purchasing a new home was the right thing to do. So, they waited.

United in obedience to the Spirit

“We decided — we decided together — to wait for a time,” Sister Silva said.

The looks exchanged between the Silvas in this moment gave a glimpse into what more than three decades of counseling together, praying together and making decisions together looks like.

But on the practical side of this equation, Elder Silva knows it could sound odd that the couple sold a perfectly good home and then chose to not purchase one when they had no tangible reason not to.

After a short time of looking at their options upon returning to Brazil, he said, “We decided to not buy a house because we agreed that we would decide where to buy a house after retirement.”

So, a second plan was put into place — return to work, rent an apartment for a few years, retire, purchase a new home, move forward with life.

Two years later, Sister Silva said it was still challenging to follow through on what they had felt and agreed to with each other.

“Sometimes I could see the home of our dreams, and I would think about it,” she said. “But I would feel that, no, it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

In those challenging moments, Sister Silva said they focused on the fact that Heavenly Father had helped them figure things out prior to their mission and that He would help them again to do what was right.

The answer is always ‘yes’

The answer came when the call was extended to Elder Silva to serve as a General Authority Seventy.

“When we received the call from President Nelson, we felt overwhelmed,” he said. “We felt definitely like we were not prepared, but we trust in the Lord, and He is in charge.”

In that moment, the Silvas said they had their answer about buying a home.

“We can see clearly why we needed to make the decision to not buy a house and why it wasn’t by chance. It was something that was prepared by the Lord,” Elder Silva said.

A quiet retirement away from Brazil’s capital city will have to wait a while. But that is OK with the Silvas.

“When we received the calling, it was a confirmation that the feeling was a preparation for something bigger that was to happen,” he said.

More than being guided to buy or not buy a home, Elder Silva said he has a testimony that the Lord uses these types of experiences to help individuals overcome the natural man and become more like the Savior.

“He knows our limitations, and He has the power to make our weaknesses become strengths through the enabling power of His Atonement.”

As a couple, the Silvas know that they need to work together in that process. For that reason, they made a decision early in their marriage that has helped them be unified when faced with choices.

“We’ve always wanted to put the Lord first in our lives,” Elder Silva said. “It didn’t matter what the circumstances of the moment were.”

His explanation of how they came to have such a strong determination to do Heavenly Father’s will is based on the example he sees in the life of Jesus Christ.

“If you look at what the Lord did, He gave His life for us. That is the biggest evidence of the love that God has for us. And because of that love, the only way we can repay a small amount to Him is to serve God’s children,” Elder Silva said.

Convenience and perceived availability weren’t barriers for the Savior. He did what the Father asked when the Father asked.

Sister Silva said this experience helped her recognize the truthfulness of counsel she has heard from prophets, apostles and other Church leaders over the years.

“The testimony I gained from this is just like we hear in every general conference,” she said. “We make plans. But Heavenly Father has other plans for us.”

“We learned that before when we were called to serve a mission. It was the same thing. We already had plans. But He has a bigger plan of what we’re supposed to do here on earth, and we have to be prepared to follow through with the Lord’s plans — not to do our will, but the will of our Father.”

Elder Silva said their goal as a couple is “to be of service, to be available, whenever we can. And it can’t be when it’s convenient for us. We have to have the mentality that if He asks us to do something, the answer is always yes.”

That is what he hopes to leave as a legacy — doing whatever he is called to do because that is what the Savior did.

“If the answer isn’t always ‘yes,’ it leaves space for ‘no’ or ‘maybe.’ And there was no space for ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ in Gethsemane. There was no space for that.”

Even if what the Lord asks is something small, the answer for the Silvas never changes.

“The Lord gave His life, and we owe Him a debt that we will never be able to repay. But the little bit we can do, we must do for Him.”

Biographical information for Elder Silva

Family: Born on July 4, 1965, in Recife, Brazil, to Domingos Urbano da Silva and Maria José de Almeida Silva. He and Regina Maria de Carvalho Silva were sealed in the São Paulo Brazil Temple on May 26, 1987. The couple has two children — one son and one daughter.

Education: Degree in business administration with an emphasis in data processing.

Employment: Worked in the travel industry for 30 years, including nearly two decades with Sabre International, a travel software and technology company. He was working as the travel manager for the Church’s Brazil Area office at the time of his calling.

Church service: Prior to his call as a General Authority Seventy, Elder Silva served as an Area Seventy. That calling came immediately following his service as Angola Luanda Mission president, where he and his wife served from 2016 to 2019. He also served as stake president, stake presidency counselor, high councilor and bishop.

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