119-year-old member from Brazil

Taught family correct principles before finding gospel at age 111

How many people today can say they remember something they did in the 1800s?

Sister dos Santos is surrounded by four generations of family some of whom are LDS. Among them are daughter Maria Amelia's family, members since 1996.
Sister dos Santos is surrounded by four generations of family some of whom are LDS. Among them are daughter Maria Amelia’s family, members since 1996. Credit: Courtesy of Santos family

For Sister Amelia Costa dos Santos, age 119, it's simply a matter of recalling her childhood.

A member of the Ajuricaba Ward, Manaus Brazil Ponta Negra Stake, Sister dos Santos was born May 15, 1888, according to a birth certificate issued by the state of Amazonas, Brazil.

She is perhaps the oldest living person in the world, said Kip Lambert of South Jordan, Utah. Brother Lambert met Sister dos Santos while serving as a missionary in the Brazil Manaus Mission. He's working to get Sister dos Santos inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living person in the world. The title has made recent headlines as the world's previously recognized oldest living person, Yone Minagawa, died August 13 at age 114, according to The New York Times.

Sister dos Santos was baptized at age 111 by her grandson Nilzomar Souza. Her family first came in contact with the Church three years before when missionaries knocked on the door of one of her daughters in 1996.

Daughter Maria Amelia, one of 15 said it took her mother a little longer to change her long-standing traditions, but "being surrounded by family members who had embraced the Church helped her see the fruits of the gospel."

The supercentenarian, as this growing segment of 110-years plus, has come to be known by researchers, still does many things on her own. She feeds herself and can still walk. One of her favorite hobbies is to lie on her hammock and listen to Church hymns.

"She has such a wonderful spirit about her, always so smiley and happy," said Brother Lambert who remembers teasing Sister dos Santos about being baptized at such an advanced age.

Birth certificate issued by the civil registry states Amelia Costa dos Santos was born May 15, 1888.
Birth certificate issued by the civil registry states Amelia Costa dos Santos was born May 15, 1888. Credit: Courtesy of Santos family

"I would tell her, 'Boy, you're old. There must have been a lot of sins washed away when you were baptized.' And she would say, 'Elder, I never felt cleaner."'

With a century's worth of stories, Sister dos Santos loves to gather her great- and great-great-grandchildren around and tell stories of her life and instill in them the values she was taught as a child.

She still remembers being about age 10 when her family had to flee into the jungle for a few days after a serious conflict broke out in Brazil in the late 1890s (most likely the War of Canudos from 1896-1897). The brutal struggle for authority between 30,000 villagers and the Brazilian army ended in the death or capture of almost the entire village.

Sister dos Santos said her father was fearful that the conflict would break out to other parts in the north and made preparations for his family to survive in the wilderness.

Sister Maria Amelia said that the influence of her mother definitely helped prepare her family to join the Church.

"The values, the stress on a healthy diet free from addictions and the importance she placed on obedience helped prepare our family to accept the gospel," she told the Church News in a telephone interview.

Sister dos Santos has 15 children (four deceased), 96 grandchildren and more than 100 great-grandchildren.

The family hopes Sister dos Santos lives a little longer to witness the Manaus Brazil Temple dedication.

When asked what her secret to long life is, this vovozinha, or "little grandmother" as she is known throughout her neighborhood, will tell you to drink a lot of milk (her favorite beverage) and always be very obedient to your parents.

Sister Amelia Costa dos Santos holds great-granddaughter Elis. Sister dos Santos has 15 children (four deceased), 96 grandchildren and more than 100 great-grand-children.
Sister Amelia Costa dos Santos holds great-granddaughter Elis. Sister dos Santos has 15 children (four deceased), 96 grandchildren and more than 100 great-grand-children. Credit: Courtesy of Santos family

E-mail to: [email protected]