Latter-day Saint youth in the Brazilian cities of Natal and Rio de Janeiro live some 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) apart. But during a nationwide event called MeetUp, the youth in those cities are closer than ever before.
Youth in Manaus become close to youth in São Paulo, youth in Fortaleza become close to youth in Porto Alegre.
As youth from all over Brazil gather in their respective areas for MeetUp, they realize they aren’t alone.
“The idea of MeetUp is to get youth together and help them feel like they are a part of something big, that there are thousands of youth just like them all over Brazil striving to live the gospel,” said Alex Dantas, publishing services manager for the Brazil Area who helps coordinate MeetUp.
“They spend the entire day having fun, learning about Jesus Christ, strengthening their faith and making new friends.”
On Nov. 2 about 15,000 youth and young single adults across Brazil participated in 70 sessions of MeetUp. Additional MeetUp sessions are planned for Nov. 15.
Niobe Coelho, a 17-year-old who participated in the Natal session, described MeetUp as “an event inspired by God to help the youth.”
“It was something I was needing,” Niobe told the Church News. “Through MeetUp I was able to recognize the Savior in the small details. I was able to learn how to better study and analyze the scriptures. I was able to see through my counselors and those in my group how the Savior loves me and cares about me. …
“MeetUp gave me more courage to serve a full-time mission. I am certain that many things I learned there will help me be a better representative of Christ.”
What is MeetUp?
MeetUp is an annual one-day youth conference that is held simultaneously in Latter-day Saint meetinghouses across Brazil.
Dantas explained that MeetUp began in 2017 with interest from the Brazil Area presidency to help prepare youth to serve missions and strengthen returned missionaries. It is designed for youth and young single adults ages 16-25 who have not yet served a mission.
Each session has about 300-400 attendees who are divided into small groups of 20-30, led by young single adult counselors who are returned missionaries. Throughout the day they participate in a variety of spiritual and social activities.
The 2017, 2018 and 2019 MeetUps attracted a total of 70,000 youth and young single adults. In 2020 and 2021, MeetUp was held online due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
This year’s event — titled MeetUp Hexa 2022 in honor of the upcoming FIFA World Cup — was once again held in person on Nov. 2. Because of some political-related protests after Brazil’s recent presidential election, about 15 sessions were postponed until Nov. 15 for safety reasons.
Connecting to the gospel and each other
Each session of MeetUp has its own Instagram account for participants to connect before, during and after the event.
In the days leading up to this year’s event, the national MeetUp Instagram account posted video invitations from Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella, General Authority Seventy and Brazil Area president, as well as Brazilian soccer player Milton Queiroz da Paixão, also known as Tita.
“This will be a time for you to receive answers to your prayers and also feel the Spirit strongly,” Elder Parrella said of MeetUp.
Tita told the youth: “Don’t miss this opportunity to strengthen your testimony, to strengthen your knowledge, to share your testimonies. It is a golden opportunity.”
One highlight of MeetUp for the youth, Dantas has observed, is studying the scriptures together as a group. “The counselors give them tips that they can use on a daily basis to really immerse themselves in the scriptures and find strength. It’s a moment during the day they really like,” he said.
This year each of the groups participated in a challenge in which they recorded themselves making a TikTok-type video while dancing to a song. Another activity was exchanging stickers to complete a sticker album.
A new arrangement of the MeetUp theme song “Chegada a Hora” (“The Time Is Coming”) was created this year, inspired by songs for the World Cup. The song, performed by Gabrielly Lourenço, featured a young single adult from Africa named Jeremy Chagadama.
“When the youth saw that here in Brazil, they were so emotional and so excited, because it really makes them feel like, ‘Yes, we belong to a huge group of people all over Brazil and all over the world,’” said Dantas, who wrote the lyrics to the song.
Messages from Church leaders
In the opening session of MeetUp on Nov. 2, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon spoke to the youth in Portuguese via video message about trusting in the Lord. She quoted Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasizing the promise “He shall direct thy paths” — paths plural.
“He will guide us in our paths every time we turn to Him. We can trust in Him. I love the significance of the letter ‘s’ at the end of this scripture,” she explained.
She extended two invitations to the youth: first, frequently study one’s patriarchal blessing. For those who haven’t yet received one, prepare to do so now. And second, read the revised “For the Strength of Youth” guide. “Choose the Lord and let Him walk with you daily,” she said.
In closing, President Cordon testified: “The Savior lives. He lives to bless you. Let Him direct your paths and you will have great joy.”
During the closing session, Brazil Missionary Training Center President David L. Beck spoke to the youth via video message surrounded by missionaries in the MTC. He and the missionaries recited together 3 Nephi 5:13: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.”
President Beck, who served as Young Men general president from 2009 to 2015, reiterated President Russell M. Nelson’s call to the young men during April 2022 general conference to prepare to serve a mission. He also noted the valuable contribution of sister missionaries and welcomed their service.
With an empty chair in the front of the group, President Beck promised each of the youth that there is a place for them at the MTC and testified of the blessings that come from serving a mission. “Please, come, sit here, come and be part of the grand army of the Prince of Peace,” President Beck said, referencing the medley the MeetUp participants would sing at the end of the closing session.
Feeling and sharing God’s love
Marylicia Cardoso was one of the counselors at the Natal session of MeetUp. At first she was nervous to be a counselor, but as she met the youth in her group, “my fear was replaced with love,” she said.
She was impressed with how the youth overcame their shyness and became friends, including each other and serving one another. There was a particular moment when she looked at her group and felt so happy and proud of them. Then she felt the impression, “If you are proud, imagine me.”
“It was clear that God was even more proud of them,” Cardoso said. “MeetUp was this — seeing the hand of the Lord, recognizing the Spirit and ministering as the Savior would. God was there the whole time. … The youth felt God’s love and shared this love.”
During one part of the day, her group participated in a video call with a MeetUp group in Rio de Janeiro, 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) away.
As her group interacted with the youth in Rio, “they could see they were all incredible youth, that even with different interests they could be friends,” she said.
Cardoso said she admired the faith of the youth at MeetUp. They were eager to accept invitations to share the Book of Mormon and invite their friends to learn more about the gospel.
“The youth were willing to let God prevail in their lives. They were willing to show through their actions that they want to overcome the world. MeetUp is about this — how youth overcome the world and gather Israel,” she said.