BRASILIA, Brazil — President Russell M. Nelson has an effective way to talk about the Book of Mormon with those who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Ask if they know about the mission of Jesus Christ to the people of South America,” he told missionaries serving in Brazil.
Speaking to 5,825 missionaries from 35 missions on Friday morning, President Nelson added: Once a person has committed to reading the sacred book of scripture, suggest they don’t start at the beginning. Instead, open to 3 Nephi 11 where they can read Jesus Christ’s “important words” spoken to the Nephites — words that promote baptism, prayer, the doctrine of Christ, the sacrament and seeking the kingdom of God.
Brasilia — the capital city of Brazil known for its unique city plan and architecture — is the fifth stop on President Nelson’s five-country Latin American Ministry Tour. Traveling with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Mary Cook, President Nelson has visited Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina, meeting with dignitaries and addressing large devotional congregations in each place.
Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Brazil Area, and his wife, Sister Luisa Aidukaitis, also addressed the missionaries.
The Lord loves the people in this “very special part of the world,” said President Nelson. “It’s so easy to teach them here. They’re exceptionally receptive.”
During the meeting, which was attended in person by those serving in the Brazil Brasília Mission and broadcast across Brazil, President Nelson asked the missionaries to emulate the Savior. “Only He could accomplish the Atonement,” he said. “But there is no limit to His attributes we can develop for ourselves.”
Missionaries can love as He loved, pray as He prayed, and endure to the end as He did, he said.
He also asked the elders and sisters to remember the importance of joy (3 Nephi 27:30). “Teach with a smile on your face,” he said. “If you are frowning, who wants to be like you?”
President Nelson spoke of the miracle that has happened in the Church in South America in his lifetime.
In 1925 in Argentina, Elder Melvin J. Ballard dedicated South America for the preaching of the gospel. Six months later he prophesied that the Church in South America would grow as from an acorn to a large oak tree.
“When I was born, there were no members of the Church in Brazil,” said President Nelson, who will turn 95 next week. Today there are 1.4 million Church members, 273 stakes, seven temples and 35 missions in Brazil.
Sister Nelson promised the missionaries that she and President Nelson pray for them “every day, twice a day.”
It is not by accident these missionaries were assigned to serve in Brazil, she said. “You are here because the Lord wants you here. If you don’t know that, ask your Heavenly Father and He will tell you.”
She also asked the countrywide missionary congregation to not fear. “When we think of the strengthening, ennobling power of the Atonement we can do anything.”
The Savior establishes His Church, said Elder Cook. “We are His hands.”
He shared the story of one of his companions from the British Mission. The young man was from rural Utah. His family farm was in foreclosure and his sister deferred her university scholarship so she could support her brother on his mission. “The first night he prayed, it was as powerful as anything I have experienced,” said Elder Cook.
Elder Cook also spoke of Wilford Woodruff, who President Gordon B. Hinckley called the greatest missionary in the Church.
Quoting Wilford Woodruff and the experience he gained in Zion’s Camp with the Prophet Joseph Smith, Elder Cook spoke of the opportunity Wilford Woodruff had in Zion’s Camp walking 1,000 miles with the Prophet Joseph Smith and gaining knowledge that could not come another way.
“We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way,” said Wilford Woodruff of Zion’s Camp. “We had the privilege of beholding the face of the Prophet, and we had the privilege of traveling a thousand miles with him, and seeing the workings of the spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfillment of those revelations.”
Elder Cook said members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve feel the same way about the opportunity to observe President Nelson. “We honor and sustain him,” he said.
Missionaries are working daily to become more like the Savior Jesus Christ, said Sister Cook. When one is tempted, the Holy Ghost can bring a hymn or a scripture to mind. Gospel music teaches of the Father and the Son, she said.
“Immerse yourself in the gospel of Jesus Christ and receive every blessing,” she said.
Elder Aidukaitis spoke of the importance of the gathering of Israel. “We want to invite you to take up an even greater commitment to help Heavenly Father with the work. The Lord will reward you.”
Sister Aidukaitis called the missionaries an “impressive sight.”
“Keeping the commandments brings joy and peace and the opportunity to live with God in the next life.”
Mark Woodruff, a returned missionary and former mission president in Brazil and personal secretary to President Nelson, reminded the congregation that they can receive “personal revelation through sincere prayer.” Nothing opens the heavens, he said, than more exact obedience, study of the Book of Mormon and dedication to temple and family history work.
Elder Brandon Carroll of Layton, Utah, rode a bus 16 hours to participate in the devotional, while his twin brother — Elder Nathan Carroll, serving in the Brazil Curitiba Mission — watched the broadcast by satellite. Being with the prophet made every minute of the bus ride worthwhile, he said. “The Spirit really touched my heart.”
Sister Josilane Silva of Alagoas, Brazil, said participating in the meeting “Strengthened my testimony the Church has a living prophet and that the Lord is hastening His work.”
Elder Marcos Soares of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, said it was a unique experience to shake President Nelson’s and Elder Cook’s hands. “I could feel the Lord lives and they represent Jesus.”