Forty years have passed since the 1978 revelation opening the gospel in full to people of African descent. But for Elder Ulisses Soares, the decades-old memory of that day is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.
“What a great blessing,” mused the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. His joy upon hearing the revelation was two-fold.
First, as a native of Brazil, he knew his homeland would never be the same. The South American country has a large number of people of African descent. They were Elder Soares’ friends, neighbors, schoolmates and fellow countrymen and women.
“And after the revelation, the gospel spread out everywhere across Brazil,” he said. “We saw many cities being opened for the teaching of the gospel, and more and more people accepting the gospel.”
And second, Elder Soares was a full-time missionary at the time serving in the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission. “I had been on my mission for seven months and was serving in an area of the country where many people had the opportunity to be blessed by the gospel because of that revelation,” he said.
His day-to-day missionary work was dramatically affected. The Lord’s repeated charge, found in Doctrine and Covenants 33, to “open your mouth” assumed a new level of urgency.
“As a missionary, my capacity to share the gospel was enhanced because I could talk to everyone,” he said. “I could go among all people without considering circumstances of life. The gospel was for everyone — and now I was able to fully share the gospel with everyone.”
The Lord’s influence in Brazil was easy to see immediately after the priesthood revelation, added Elder Soares.
Investigators of African descent “were open to enjoy the blessings of the gospel,” he said. “When you spoke with them and shared the good news of the gospel, they embraced our message.”
Elder Soares points to the city of Salvador in the state of Bahia — a region with a large concentration of people of African descent — as evidence of the 1978 revelation’s impact on Brazil.
A month after the revelation, four missionaries arrived in Salvador and began teaching. “And then the work started progressing,” he said.
Today there are two missions operating in Salvador.
Another success story was found in the Amazon city of Manaus. At the time of the revelation, there were only a few Latter-day Saints living in Manaus. Most were military personnel from the southern part of the country.
There were no missionaries, but the people had been primed by a small contingent of members to hear their message.
“A year after the revelation, in 1979, my mission president sent the first four missionaries to Manaus,” he said. “When they got there they had an audience to teach the gospel. They began baptizing immediately. Units were formed. And today we have a temple in Manaus in the middle of the Amazon Forest.”