As a teenager in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Carlos A. Godoy had been curious about the “big box” across the street from the high school he attended for a year. He saw well-dressed people going in and out and wondered what they did inside.
He got the chance to find out when a friend of his older brother came to the Godoy home one day. He had recently joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The friend felt that Carlos and his brother, then 16 and 18, were not Mormon material, but that their 15-year-old sister might be interested.
“She was the ‘good’ one of the three of us,” recalled Elder Godoy, who was sustained at general conference in April as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
The friend wanted to take the sister to a youth activity at this “big box,” which turned out to be the stake center in Porto Alegre.
Her mother consented, provided one of the brothers go with her. Carlos’s brother quickly left the room, so the assignment fell to Carlos.
At the activity, hosted by two sister missionaries, a group of about eight youth sat in the corner of the big cultural hall and played a game called “Pretty Little Cat.” Carlos and his sister were the only “investigators” present.
“I thought it was a bit strange,” Elder Godoy said. “So that’s what Mormons do in this big box. It was a very simple activity, not many people. The food was just popcorn and juice. But what caught my attention was that they were so happy with very little. They were laughing, and they were bright, and I wondered how they could be so happy with such simple things.”
As the group was leaving, the missionaries asked Carlos’s sister if she was interested in knowing more about the Church. She said no. They asked Carlos, and he said yes. Without realizing it at the time, he had felt the Spirit.
“I’ve felt this wherever I go in the Church,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how big the activity, how many persons are there, whether the food is good or bad. It is the Church of Jesus Christ. You may not know what you are feeling, but you feel something. That’s what I felt, and I could not say no.”
Within a month, he was receiving the missionary lessons at the stake center instead of at home, because his parents were not interested. At the end of the month, he was baptized.
Then came a period of trial.
Weeping softly, Elder Godoy recalled, “As President Gordon B. Hinckley used to say, you need three things as a convert, and one is a friend.” This he lacked. He didn’t fit the “Mormon profile,” and it seemed that at Church no one paid attention to him.
Three months later, at a Church youth conference, his attention was attracted to another young convert, M?nica Brandao. Thereafter, at any Church activity where she was present, he was there too. It helped that his family later moved into her ward on the other side of the city. Her friends became his friends. She was a seminary student, so he became active in seminary. His testimony grew, and he received the Aaronic Priesthood.
It happened that both were called to serve in the Brazil Sao Paulo South Mission. As he was finishing up compulsory military service, she grew old enough that they could depart on their missions at the same time. A year after they returned home, they were married in the temple at Sao Paulo.
At age 26, Elder Godoy was called to be a bishop. It was a busy time for the Godoys: He finished up university education and started a career. They had one child with another on the way. “It was one year of full-time everything: student, employee, dad, husband, bishop,” he said.
A year later, the opportunity came for a promotion and a transfer in his occupation. He was uneasy about accepting it, because he had been bishop for only a year. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve was a visiting General Authority at stake conference and, in an interview, Bishop Godoy had a chance to seek counsel from the apostle. The response was that the young man should without a doubt accept the opportunity, because the Church needs future leaders well prepared and financially stable, and it would prepare him for future service.
The advice proved prophetic.
In 1997, he was called to preside over the Brazil Belem Mission. It was an answer to a prayer, albeit delayed. As a young man, Elder Godoy had prayed that he would be sent to a “pioneering” type of mission, where the Church was not well established. As it turned out, he was called to serve in Sao Paulo, where the temple is located.
“I cried a lot, because I thought it was the wrong mission,” he said. He later obtained the assurance through prayer that it was right, and he forgot his earlier desire. But now, as a mission president, he found his wish fulfilled.
“I learned two things,” he said. “One is to be more humble, because the people there are so humble, you can’t help but be touched by the way they are. They are happy with the small things. They are happy because they have the gospel, they have their families. They value the right things.”
The other thing he learned came from his being somewhat removed from central Church administration. To the people in the mission, he was the Church. He learned to be scrupulous and careful about administering the affairs of the Church in the right manner. That background would serve him well later as an Area Seventy.
Now, with rich experience in the Church and in business — and consistent with Elder Ballard’s counsel — Elder Godoy begins his service as a General Authority having been well prepared by the Lord since that day, as a 16-year-old, he encountered the Church in that “big box” in Porto Alegre.