Reading from the pages of his mother’s journal, Elder Ulisses Soares recently learned much about his parents’ conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It took months for Apparecido and Mercedes Carecho Soares to commit to baptism in their native Brazil, but the missionaries who taught them remained faithful and strong. They never gave up or “I would not be here today,” said Elder Soares, who was sustained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during last April’s general conference.
Elder Soares shared the lessons he learned about his parents’ conversion with missionaries at the Church’s Guatemala Missionary Training Center on Nov. 3.
The missionaries showed “faith, desire and focus on helping my parents,” he recalled.
The missionary devotional was part of a recent trip to Central America Nov. 2-11. On his first travel assignment as an Apostle without another member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Soares visited Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama.
Accompanying Elder Soares was Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Presidency of the Seventy and members of the Church’s Central America Area Presidency: Elder Juan A. Uceda, Elder Jorge F. Zeballos and Elder Valeri V. Cordón, all General Authority Seventies.
Elder Soares promised the young missionaries in the Guatemala MTC, who will serve throughout Central America when their training is complete, that they will impact generations. “Elder Godoy came to the Church as a young man,” he told the elders and sisters. “Now he is a General Authority.”
Elder Godoy said he has known Elder Soares for more than 20 years — before they were both called as General Authorities — and has watched as the Lord has worked through him. But this trip was different, said Elder Godoy. He witnessed Elder Soares act as an Apostle.
“This case was not just the Lord through him, it was the Lord in him,” said Elder Godoy.
Elder Uceda agreed.
“Elder Soares brought a sweet spirit to all the meetings during his visit to Central America,” Elder Uceda said. “He shook hands with many members and invited them to follow the Lord. The members in Central America were blessed by his visit.”
For Elder Soares the trip was a “sweet experience.” He returned home with “a feeling of gratitude for the faith we found among those members.”
During the visit, Elder Soares and Elder Godoy participated in leadership trainings, missionary meetings, member devotionals and a mission presidents seminar.
They emphasized the recent teachings of President Russell M. Nelson and spoke to members about obtaining a “real conversion” — just as Elder Soares’ parents did years earlier.
As a manifestation of his conversion, one leader traveled nine hours by bus to attend a leadership conference with Elder Soares and Elder Godoy.
A woman waited four hours to give the men a special homemade gift, which was an “expression of her faith,” said Elder Soares.
Elder Soares said the two Latter-day Saints are two of many examples of the faith of the members.
Another example of great faith, he said, was found in a counselor in a stake presidency. The counselor was released during Elder Soares’ visit, after serving for 21 years under three stake presidents. He never questioned why he was not made the stake president, he just served, said Elder Soares.
“That is the beauty of the people of Central America,” he said. “They want to serve the Lord. They want to do what He has asked them to do.”
The Church has 272,000 members, six missions and two temples in Guatemala. In Panama there are 55,000 members, one mission and a temple. Costa Rica has 48,000 members, two missions and one temple.
Many of those members attended special devotionals for couples and young single adults, which were broadcast across Central America. The leaders focused on President Nelson’s teachings, the temple, family relationships and building faith. “They are eager to learn. Because of their challenges in life — members face many challenges in Central America — they are eager to listen,” said Elder Godoy.
“I was grateful to be there and see what is happening in Central America,” said Elder Soares. “I will always remember the faith of the people. They just want to follow the Savior, as expressed by the questions they asked and their sacrifice to be at the meetings.”