SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered a central message during his recent visit to Brazil: The Lord is in charge — and things will work out for the best.
Those were welcome, comforting words for the legions of Brazilian Latter-day Saints. This South American nation of 1.3 million members has known hard times over the past few years. The economy has receded and unemployment has risen. Political unrest and crime have brought feelings of uncertainty. Hope sometimes wavers.
“But my strong impression is that despite all of the past and present difficulties the Lord’s hand is over things in Brazil,” he told the Church News. “He is guiding the affairs and setting the stage for a more stable economy and society. The nation and the Church will flourish more than ever in the future.”
The challenges of the day in Brazil have not eluded the members here, noted Elder Christofferson. Counted among the many who have lost jobs and other opportunities are dutiful bishops and stake presidents. Many are worried for their families’ future.
“But I had no hesitation in saying it’s going to turn out well.”
Elder Christofferson was in Brazil to preside over the annual review of the Brazil Area. He was joined by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy, along with their wives, Sister Kathy Christofferson and Sister Jan Robbins.
The visiting Brethren’s 13-day tour (March 8-20) offered them opportunities to be heard by thousands of Latter-day Saints across a variety of member and missionary meetings. Each audience was a bit different, but the guiding message the Brethren delivered was largely the same.
Stay hopeful, they counseled, the Lord is with you.
Brazilian youth and missionaries
Elder Christofferson and Elder Robbins agreed it’s impossible not to be hopeful for Brazil’s future after spending time with the country’s young people and the missionaries serving here.
Both men participated in multi-stake youth devotionals in the cities of Maceio and Porto Alegre.
“What struck me was the energy felt in those meetings with the youth,” said Elder Christofferson. “When you look at the young people you can’t help but see a bright future for the country and the Church. They could not have been more enthusiastic.”
The young people were thrilled to be in the presence of a latter-day apostle, added Elder Robbins.
“Some arrived several hours early to get a good seat and when the meetings were over, they didn’t want to leave,” he said. “It was a spiritual feast.”
The visiting Brethren and their wives counseled the young people about the importance of prayer, reading the Book of Mormon, seeking education and preparing for missions. They also discussed the importance of marrying when the time is appropriate and the happiness that comes from following the standards of the gospel.
Elder Robbins added that the young people of Brazil would play a key role in the growth and development of the Church. They live in a nation of over 260 stakes. Their confidence, faith and optimism are essential.
“Brazil is one of the pillars of the Church,” he said.
Brazil’s continued growth and maturity will be largely determined by the day-to-day efforts of the missionaries. Brazil and Mexico each have 34 missions, more than any other countries outside of the United States. Populating those missions in Brazil are approximately 4,000 native-born elders and sisters — a high point for that country. Many of Brazil’s missions, meanwhile, are presided over by Brazilians.
Elder Christofferson and Elder Robbins participated, together or separately, in mission conferences in Maceio, Brasilia, Florianopolis and Porto Alegre.
Once again, the visiting General Authorities and their wives were uplifted by the devotion, energy and optimism of the full-time missionaries.
Still, much work remains. The Latter-day Saint population in this nation of 200 million is about one-half of 1 percent. Countless opportunities for growth remain.
Elder Christofferson said Brazil remains primed for the message of the restored gospel. “It is a field that is ripe and ready to harvest,” he said. “Brazil is one of the highest baptizing areas in the Church.”
Worshipping alongside members and leaders
Elder Christofferson and Elder Robbins also participated in a variety of stake conferences and member meetings during their recent Brazilian travels. Once again, they shared messages of hope. They counseled the members to ensure a bright future by living the commandments, worshipping in the temple, caring for their families and following their leaders.
They also presided over priesthood leadership conferences in Maceio and Porto Alegre. Those conferences offered them key opportunities to interact with local leaders, listen to their concerns and answer questions about fulfilling their sacred callings at Church and in the home.
Seasoned leaders bless the nation, observed Elder Robbins.
“The vast majority — between 80 to 90 percent — of the stake presidents served missions,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Latter-day Saints in Brazil are led by a loving and capable area presidency, assured Elder Christofferson. Brazil Area President Claudio R.M. Costa and his counselors, Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis and Elder W. Mark Bassett — all General Authority Seventies — are committed to helping the Brazilian members navigate the challenges of the day.
The March 14-15 area review offered the visiting Brethren an opportunity to discuss the Brazil Area’s guiding objectives — including strengthening faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, promoting individual self-reliance, fortifying priesthood quorums, accelerating missionary and temple/family history work and, finally, strengthening the youth.
The Brazil trip also provided opportunities to make new friends for the Church. While in Florianopolis, Elder Robbins met with Santa Catarina Governor Raimundo Colombo. The two men enjoyed a vibrant discussion of the Church’s history in Brazil and their shared interest in the family.
Better days await
The challenges facing the Brazilian members are real — but Elder Christofferson’s hopeful message buoyed the spirits of the many Latter-day Saints he visited.
“The overall outcomes in Brazil will be what the Lord wants, and it’s going to be for the best,” he said.