Sunday, Oct. 4, will long be remembered by Teresinha Maria de Souza Rocha and many other Brazilian Latter-day Saints as a “historic day.”
Not only was a second temple announced in São Paulo, but for the first time, a session of general conference was broadcast live on a national TV network — meaning more Brazilians than ever before could watch general conference and hear a hallmark address from President Russell M. Nelson.
“It was a big missionary opportunity,” said Rocha, a member of the Itapetininga 1st Branch, Itapetininga Brazil District. “I invited people on social media and I shared the post with everyone I could. It was a joy to be able to talk about the Church on social media, that conference would be broadcast. … For anyone that watched, I know for certain that their hearts were touched.”
RedeTV broadcast the 30-minute “Music & the Spoken Word” performed by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square followed by the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference. The speakers in that session included a Brazilian Apostle — Elder Ulisses Soares — and a Brazilian member of the Presidency of the Seventy — Elder Carlos A. Godoy.
“It was something very different for us members here in Brazil,” said Rocha of the conference broadcast on TV. “I hope this can happen again, that they can broadcast other conference sessions. It’s a way that the Church is being seen more in Brazil. …
“Even when missionaries can’t go from door to door, the Church is going door to door in another way.”
Approximately 1.8 million viewed the Sunday morning session of general conference on RedeTV, said Nei Garcia, communications director for the Brazil Area.
Brazil was not the only country to have a national TV station broadcast general conference last weekend. Imagen Televisión in Mexico broadcast all five sessions of general conference — also an historic first.
In fact, more than 50 countries had October general conference broadcast on a public TV or radio station — the largest global reach to date, according to Michael von Rosen, area director for the Church Communications Department.
Broadcasts in Mexico
All 32 states in Mexico received the broadcast via radio, television or both, and all sessions of general conference were broadcast on TV and radio to more than 71 cities in the country, said Elder Rafael E. Pino, a General Authority Seventy serving as Mexico Area president.
The five sessions drew a total of more than 8 million viewers or listeners, he added.
“A week before general conference, members of the area presidency and Area Seventies discussed the importance of this event for the Church with various important national opinion leaders on radio and TV,” Elder Pino said. “This was an effective way of introducing general conference to an audience that has never heard of the Church.”
Elder Pino continued, “We feel greatly blessed and joyous to have been witnesses at this time of this unprecedented way of sharing general conference with our brothers and sisters in Mexico.”
Samuel Gallegos, who lives in the Rio de Luz Ward, Mexico City Azteca Stake, watched general conference with his family on Imagen TV. He said the best part was that some of his friends and neighbors called or sent messages to him on Saturday asking if that was his church broadcasting an event on public TV. That led to more questions about the Church.
“I began sending messages to all of my friends saying that they could watch it on TV. That was one of the neatest things,” Gallegos said.
Influenced by the pandemic
Though data is still being gathered and finalized, von Rosen said the TV and radio broadcasts of general conference around the world so far have proved successful. (In areas like Asia, the Philippines and the Pacific with time zones a day ahead, general conference broadcasts are done a week later to accommodate the Saturday-Sunday schedule).
“From what we’ve heard,” he said, specifically referencing Brazil, “it was just a huge success in terms of members being so excited to be able to see this in their homes. … Everything worked out really well.”
The push to broadcast general conference on local and national TV and radio stations was largely motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, von Rosen said.
“In April, about two weeks before conference, we realized so many of our members across the globe get it through going to the chapels because they don’t have access to high-bandwidth internet, or it’s very costly,” he said. “So that really drove us to try to get it on a station so they can see it.”
About 30 countries had TV or radio broadcasts for the April 2020 general conference. In terms of the growing reach, “I don’t think this would have happened this quickly without a pandemic,” von Rosen said.
A global Church
During his recent October general conference address, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of Latter-day Saints changing the world for the better by small and simple means.
“In 1823, who would have imagined that in 2020 there would be three countries each with more than a million members of this Church — the United States, Mexico and Brazil?” Elder Gong asked. “Or 23 countries, each with more than 100,000 members of the Church — three in North America, 14 in Central and South America, one in Europe, four in Asia and one in Africa?”
Members of the Church live in 196 nations and territories, and general conference is available in 100 languages, he said.
The Church’s effort to make general conference available on TV and radio stations is another way to amplify Church leaders’ messages and make them more available worldwide, said Wanessa Ferreira Roncate of the Jardim Conceição Ward, São Paulo Brazil Raposo Tavares Stake.
“Not everyone has a computer or internet connection in their home. The TV is so much more accessible,” she said. “It’s so much easier for someone to change the channel of the TV than look for general conference on the internet.”
For Roncate, watching the October general conference sessions — including the Sunday morning session on RedeTV — helped her receive answers to personal questions about motherhood and family.
“The conclusion I arrived at after conference was that I need to centralize my life in Christ, follow His example, be more like Him and teach my daughter in the deepest way I can about Him. …
“Many things can be important, but most important of all is to prepare myself and my family to meet the Savior.”