The name Belo Horizonte — “Beautiful Horizon” — signifies the Brazilian city’s beauty.
“Belo Horizonte has the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook who visited Brazil in May.
This beauty is not only seen in the place —constructed on several hills and completely surrounded by mountains — but also in the lives of the members of 14 stakes that call the area home, said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
In Belo Horizonte, as well as in Curitiba and São Paulo, Brazil, members and leaders are striving hard to build their faith, he said. Elder Cook, with his wife, Sister Mary Cook, traveled to Brazil May 25-29 — conducting leadership conferences, meeting with missionaries and participating in a stake conference.
Home to 1.4 million Church members, 34 missions and six temples, the Church has grown steadily in Brazil during the past four decades, said the Brazil Area Presidency: Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, Elder W. Mark Bassett and Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella. They are serving in the country with their wives, Sister Luisa E. Aidukaitis, Sister Angela B. Bassett and Sister Elaine F. Parrella.
Elder Aidukaitis, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Brazil Area, said meetings with Elder Cook in Belo Horizonte, Curitiba and São Paulo reflected the size and maturity of the Church in Brazil.
Chapels and cultural halls were filled to capacity, he said. This was also the case for leadership conferences attended by stake presidents, bishops, elders quorum presidents, Relief Society presidents and Young Women presidents in both Belo Horizonte and Curitiba.
“They asked relevant questions about the issues of the day and carried a very noticeable enthusiasm for the work of the Lord,” Elder Aidukaitis said. “Perhaps even more striking were the feelings given by the Spirit about their devotion and preparedness.”
Elder Cook spoke in both cities about the importance of ministering.
“They understand ministering,” Elder Cook reported. “They live it.”
One response from a sister in Curitiba illustrated this understanding, said Elder Cook.
She spoke of worrying in the past if her visiting teaching lessons were good enough. “Now I try to bless the lives of the people to whom I am assigned to minister,” the sister reported. “It is more about them than me.”
Elder Cook also invited the members to not only build Zion in their hearts and in their homes, but also to be good examples in the community.
“When we are a light, we influence the world for the better,” Elder Cook said.
A great blessing of the meetings was that they were not interrupted by a country-wide trucking strike, which caused fuel and produce shortages and crippled transportation for several days in Brazil.
In spite of all this major turmoil in the country, Elder Cook’s flights were not canceled, making it possible for him to attend meetings with the missionaries in three different missions, two leadership conferences, a special stake conference and a meeting at the São Paulo MTC during the short time he was in Brazil, said Elder Aidukaitis.
“Even more impressive was the fact that almost 100 percent of those who were invited to participate in the meetings were able to come,” Elder Aidukaitis said. “Members were creative in finding solutions to the shortage of fuel supply by carpooling, hiring transportation or using scarce public transportation during those days.”
In some locations members were able to participate in the meetings with the use of internet broadcasts, he added.
“In my mind, these things were only possible because the hand of the Lord was in control during a very difficult time in the country,” said Elder Aidukaitis.
Members in Brazil, he added, are not perfect. “Many are struggling to carry on with their duties as they try to make ends meet and take care of their families in a very demanding time in the history of the country. But it is impossible not to observe the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in raising ever more diligent men and women of faith and knowledge.” Nowhere is that faith and knowledge more evident than in Belo Horizonte, said Elder Cook.
As a young missionary, Elder Ulisses Soares served in Belo Horizonte. “I was on a mission for only seven months when my mission president sent me there,” recalled Elder Soares, now of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “He gave me the task to find and baptize a future branch president because I was the seventh subsequent missionary to serve in that area as a branch president.”
During Elder Soares’ missionary service in the late 1970s, there was only one chapel in the Belo Horizonte area and not many members. “All the missionaries were very engaged in the work at the time but it was not easy to see the fruits of our labors in a short range,” recalled Elder Soares. “We never gave up and endured, working hard.”
One of the men who joined the Church during Elder Soares’ time is Edson Ribeiro, a former Area Seventy and current mission president in Brazil. President Ribeiro, part of a large family with 10 children, was 12 years old when he joined the Church. He was the first bishop and first stake president in Sete Lagoas, the location the first branch in the Belo Horizonte area.
Today, reported Elder Soares, the area where he served his mission now has its own mission. “Belo Horizonte has produced great leaders in the Church.”
Elder Cook said it was a great blessing during his recent trip to Brazil to see what has happened in the area where his friend and fellow apostle served.
Belo Horizonte, as well as São Paulo and Curitiba — and so many other cities in Brazil — have become great areas of strength for the Church, Elder Cook said.