In the early 1970s, on a road leading to the famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro stood the only LDS meetinghouse in the city. The meetinghouse was an inviting place with blossoming flower gardens. On Sundays, the grounds were filled with well-dressed people.
Athos Amorim, a young military officer and his wife, Maria, often commented about the attractive building as they drove past on their way to the beach. The Amorims noticed churches because they were searching for a religion for their family, and had visited a number of congregations.So when missionaries knocked on their door, Maria Alice Amorim welcomed them, expressed interest in their message, and invited them to return when her husband was home.
Missionaries began teaching the family. They fasted and prayed with Sister Amorim to help her live the Word of Wisdom. "They would call almost every day to see how I was doing," she recalled. "They did love us; we felt this."
The Amorims' Sunday drives became shorter as they attended services at the meetinghouse instead of going on to the beach. After 45 days, the Amorims were baptized.
Elder Amorim recalled, "When I was baptized, I felt something happening inside me; I felt myself changing inside. When the missionary, Elder Kent B. Furness, laid his hands upon my head to confirm me, I cried a lot; I confess I cried very much because something happened inside of my heart.
"Elder Furness gave me a big hug and told me I would be a mission president," recalled Elder Amorim. "I didn't even know what a mission president was; I had never seen one."
Today, that young military officer, baptized July 22, 1972, is a General Authority, sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy on April 4. He is the fourth Brazilian to be called as a General Authority.
Their two sons, Manoel Luiz and Paulo Cesar, are both returned missionaries and active in the Church. Paulo is currently an Area Authority Seventy and a member of the Fourth Quorum of the Seventy, but it is Manoel who claims to have the best calling in the Church: Primary teacher.
"Our grandsons want to serve a mission," said Elder Amorim.
Between the day that the missionary first knocked on their door and the present, Elder Amorim and his wife have acquired many years of experience in Church service. He's served as branch president seven times, high councilor, district president, mission president and temple president.
As a young man, he raised horses and competed in equine events. "I had two wonderful horses, a white one and a black one. One was the Brazilian champion in a three-day competition of dressage, cross country and high jumping," he said. "I qualified for the Pan-American Games but the horse had an accident and was injured."
Elder Amorim attended military schools and earned the equivalent of a Ph.D. in military studies.
"We were a happy family, but we didn't have a religion," said Elder Amorim. "When our son came home and asked if he could go to church with his friends, this woke us up that something was missing.
"We had a feeling that we needed a church so we could be close to the Lord our God. It was four years later when the missionaries knocked on our door."
After the Amorims became members, he received his first calling – to straighten up the chapel after services. Magnifying that call, "we cleaned the meetinghouse many, many times," he said. Next he was called as branch president's counselor, then as branch president. During his military career, he was assigned to many cities where he was often called to preside over very small branches.
"Now there are two, three and four stakes in these places," said Elder Amorim.
One of the branches he presided over was in Anapolis, a two-hour drive from their home in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.
"On Saturday morning, we'd get our sleeping bags and put them on the car, and take our food, and travel two hours to Anapolis," related Sister Amorim. "We'd work with the people on Saturday, and on Saturday night, we'd sleep in the office of the small rented home where the branch met."
One of the branch members was an old woman, Anna de Jesus, who lived in poverty and could neither read nor write.
"Every Sunday, she put a flower on the pulpit. And she paid her tithing every Sunday," said Elder Amorim. "Sometimes it was just a few coins. The missionaries there filled out her receipts, and we all cried. The missionaries used to go to her home and read to her from the scriptures. She was a woman of strong faith."
After the Sunday meetings, the family drove back to Brasilia for another week's work. "We did that for eight months," said Sister Amorim.
Today, there are half a dozen stakes in the region, including one in Anapolis.
While living in Brasilia, he was secretary to the Brazil Minister of the Army, a cabinet-level post. He said the leaders held respect for the Church. "The minister never gave me an assignment on Sunday," said Elder Amorim. "He always asked me to pray for him."
Elder Amorim was a colonel when he retired. In 1990, he and his wife moved to Fortaleza where he presided over the Brazil Forteleza Mission.
"We had so many wonderful missionaries," he said. "They were a very good example of work, faith and love. Sometimes they worked with very poor people. I could see the spiritual and temporal changes in these people who were baptized."
He related that the missionaries helped build 54 homes for these people during their community service hours.
Sister Amorim recalled blessings of inspiration that came to them as they worked with the missionaries. She told of a sister missionary who developed serious health problems and was taken to a hospital. There, doctors said that surgery was necessary, the sooner the better.
"I just had a feeling come over me that she didn't need surgery," said Sister Amorim. "I asked the doctor if we could wait until tomorrow. I took the full responsibility upon myself and we went to another doctor who found a completely different problem than the one the doctor was going to operate for."
She said that inspiration often came to her when she and her husband were serving at the Sao Paulo Temple. She served as matron while he served as president.
"Many times in the temple, I felt impressed that I should go to a place, so I just stood up and went," she said. "When I got there, something had happened and the workers needed help."
Elder Amorim said he and Sister Amorim learned a great deal from the temple workers about service to the Lord.
"Many temple workers lived in another city and came from far away by bus. Many of them didn't have money to eat once they arrived at the temple; they only had money to pay the fare," he said. "Of course we made sure they had a meal. But these people came to the temple every week."
He told of a touching experience with a father whose wife and children had been killed in an auto accident as they were traveling to the temple to be sealed as a family.
"A few weeks after his family had died, this father came to the temple to be sealed to his family. He said to me at the sealing, "I am sad, but I am not desperate. My wife is a wonderful wife and my children are wonderful. I miss them a lot and I weep often, but I know that my Heavenly Father has prepared a way so that I will see my family again.
"The Holy Ghost comforts me, and I feel Jesus Christ is beside me, and my bishop and my stake president have helped me," he told Elder Amorim.
Elder Amorim and his wife echo this powerful faith:
"We both share our love for our Savior, for His Church, and we know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world."
Elder Athos M. Amorim
Family: Born June 14, 1932, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Antonio Marques and Maria Carlota Martins Ferreira Amorim. Married Maria Alice Pires Ferrao; two sons, Manoel Luiz Ferrao Amorim and Paulo Cezar Ferrao Amorim, both of Sao Paulo, Brazil; seven grandchildren.
Education: Bachelor's degree from Prepratory Cadet School of Sao Paulo, 1952; master's degree from Military Academy of Agulhas Negras, 1955; Ph.D. equivalent from Superior War College, 1988.
Employment: Career military officer for 35 years, and was secretary to Brazil's Minister of the Army and an ROTC instructor; retired as colonel in Army Reserve.
Church service: Branch president's counselor, branch president seven times, high councilor, district president, president of the Brazil Fortaleza Mission, 1990-93, and president of the Sao Paulo Temple, 1993-1996.