BELEM, Brazil — With the Sunday, Nov. 20, dedication of the Belém Brazil Temple, returned missionaries from across Brazil, the United States and other countries worldwide who served in the Brazil Belém Mission are gathering here to celebrate a house of the Lord serving the local Latter-day Saints whom they have grown to love.
Besides formal and informal gatherings, the returned missionaries will find their way to the temple site during the weekend, hoping to perhaps even be able to attend a Sunday session.
One well-known companionship who served in the Belém mission, however, will have up-front seats for all three dedication services, be recognized by many members and former missionaries from past years and also have access to Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who is presiding at the dedication.
That companionship? Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Monica Godoy, who are remembered by longtime members and missionaries throughout northern Brazil for their service as president and companion of the Brazil Belém Mission a quarter century ago.
‘A dream coming true’
“I never imagined that I would be alive to see this happen,” Elder Godoy said of the temple and its dedication, “let alone be there delivering a message. And I have to thank Elder Renlund because he made that happen for me and Monica to be there. We are so grateful.”
The Belém dedication will be special for the Godoys and their missionaries because of the time, effort, energy and love put into their service with the stakes and districts, wards and branches there and throughout northern Brazil.
“It was not an easy mission to serve in, and those missionaries paid the price and deserve to see this happen,” he said. “That’s why it is so meaningful to us — we were teaching about the temple, we were baptizing people, saying ‘You can be sealed. We know it’s far off, but a temple will be here — maybe for you or your children. We will have it.’ And now we are seeing it, so it’s just a dream coming true.”
Sister Godoy agreed about being back in Belém and on the temple grounds with their son David the day before the dedication. “I don’t believe it — it is very, very good.”
Twenty-five years ago in Belém, she was both a mission president’s companion and mother to four young children who were with them on their mission, taking care of them and helping arrange their education.
“I was nervous — I was so young at that time that I didn’t realize how hard it was. We were just living step by step, but it was nice,” she said, adding, “The Lord helps us with each detail in our lives.”
The Godoys have made their way around Brazil — he was born in Porto Alegre and she is from São Paulo; he served as a young missionary in São Paulo and she in Recife. They married in the São Paulo Brazil Temple in 1984 and lived first in Porto Alegre before being transferred by work to São Paulo. He later earned an MBA at Brigham Young University.
In 1986, they got a call to meet with the Brazil Area president, which instead turned into a surprise meeting with Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and an even more surprising interview about the possibility of serving as mission president and companion.
“A call was completely out of our expectation — we were young and not ‘experienced,’ ” said Elder Godoy of having served only one year as a bishop in Porto Alegre before the work transfer.
But the call came — and so did the dual opportunity to lead not only full-time missionaries but also the five districts that then were part of the Belém mission.
Mission service, 1997-2000
Arriving in early July 1997, the 36-year-old President Godoy found an area that included the state of Pará, where the mission headquarters were located, and the neighboring states of Amapá and Maranhão. A transfer for missionaries from one side of the mission to the other could take as long as two days, including 12 hours by boat, a one-hour flight and 12 hours by bus.
“The Amazon River was our interstate,” he said. “That’s where we were moving around missionaries, sometimes by plane, but most of the time by boat.”
He had to cover great distances to oversee the five districts — four of which have since become stakes. He hadn’t served in a stake presidency, so assisting a district and its branches was something new.
“You rely on prayer and the Spirit,” he said, adding that he brought the district presidents together every three to six months “hoping they would learn from each other and that the Spirit would give revelation because we were working as a council.”
Sacrificing to be temple-attending Saints
Elder Godoy recalls Latter-day Saints throughout the Belém mission area as already committed to regular temple attendance when he and Sister Godoy arrived 25 years ago. Members would attend two times annually or more — making great sacrifices to do so.
Those in and around Belém faced a three-day bus ride each way in the “temple caravans” that crossed the massive country to get to the São Paulo Brazil Temple, dedicated in 1978. It was the nation’s sole temple, with the addition of temples in Porto Alegre and Recife later in 2000.
Latter-day Saints living farther away in the states of Amapá and Maranhão tacked on an additional three-day boat ride to get to Belém, meaning round-trip travel was 12 days, not including any time spent at the São Paulo temple.
“So for them, it was really something of a sacrifice — but they were doing this twice a year,” Elder Godoy said, adding “It was normal, it was part of the districts’ tradition.”
The simple, humble members would not only deplete their savings but sell household items such as televisions, refrigerators and ovens to have money to travel by temple caravan.
“They were selling their possessions to go to the temple,” he added. “That’s why I’m so glad to see some of those members from 25 years ago — they will be there at the dedication. Some are just going to take a bus — maybe some only needing a few hours to get to the temple, rather than six days.”
After completing their mission assignment in 2000, the Godoys returned to returned to São Paulo for work before he was called as a General Authority Seventy in 2008. His assignments included serving in area presidencies in Brazil and northern South America before his 2018 call to the Presidency of the Seventy.
But their hearts have been true to Belém, a feeling shared by local members. Bishop Moises Queiroz of the Belém Ward remembers the Godoys as caring mission leaders and effective speakers in meetings. And he said that whenever the Godoys return, they’ll say they can’t stay away from the açaí, cupuaçu and other food typical of the state of Pará. “For the people from here to hear and receive a compliment and praise like this means a lot,” Bishop Queiroz said. “The members see him as family for sure — a very dear person to all of us.”
President Thomas S. Monson announced a temple for Belém, Brazil, in the April 2016 general conference; Elder Godoy remembers his three-phased response.
First, he was sitting on the Conference Center’s multi-tiered rostrum with the rest of the general authorities when hearing the announcement for the first time. “We cannot do anything right there — you have to be reverent. But I was weeping with joy inside.”
Outside the Conference Center afterward, he joined in sharing calls, emails and texts with family, friends, members in Brazil — “and especially our missionaries.”
The third phase came as questions to his mind, remembering his involvement as a general authority in helping supervise the Brazil Area. “ ‘Can I be there? Is there any chance of me being assigned?’ ” he said. “We cannot ask — but it was a dream.”
The current pattern of Church leaders assigned to temple dedications includes the member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who is presiding, joined by one of the executive directors of the Temple Department and a member of the area presidency.
However, Elder Godoy’s dream became a reality, when Elder Renlund requested to be accompanied by Elder Godoy.
“Elder Renlund added me to the list because he knew where my heart was, and he knew the whole story — or at least part of the story,” said Elder Godoy, adding that when he heard of his assignment to the traveling party for the dedication “I wanted to kiss him. I cried — I was just so happy.”
And he’ll benefit from another sweet gesture from Elder Renlund, who is also mindful of the presence of Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella and Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, General Authority Seventies who are respectively the Brazil Area president and an assistant executive director in the Temple Department.
Usually, Elder Godoy would try to accompany and assist the presiding officer and be at his side as much as possible. “Elder Renlund said, ‘You know, Carlos, I’m going to be there with Elder Parrella and Elder Valenzuela, so you can just be free to walk around before and after the three sessions, because there are so many people that you know there. Don’t worry about me — be with them.”
And the Godoys will do just that — be with the Belém Saints once again.
NOTE: A previous version had an incorrect timing of Elder Godoy receiving his MBA from BYU.