‘God did not send us here to fail,’ Elder Soares teaches Latter-day Saints in Maceió, Brazil

Develop faith in Jesus Christ and trust in Heavenly Father’s guidance, Elder Soares encourages

MACEIÓ, BRAZIL — Less than a week after arriving in Brazil’s capital city of Brasília to welcome the country’s media and VIPs to the Church’s recently completed temple there, Elder Ulisses Soares traveled north and east to preside over a weekend of meetings with Church members.

In the five years since he was called as an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the native Brazilian has testified of the Savior in many countries around the world. His assignments to minister in Brazil have been few.

On Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5-6, Elder Soares was joined by his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, and Elder Joni L. Koch, a General Authority Seventy and, as of Aug. 1, the new president of the Brazil Area. The group spoke to members of the Church in the coastal city of Maceió, located more than 1,500 miles north of São Paulo, where Elder and Sister Soares grew up.

“I do not get to come to my home country on assignments often or to speak in my native language often. I want you to know how much this means to me to be here with you,” Elder Soares said.

Members line up outside the Farol Chapel in Maceió, Brazil for a meeting with Elder Ulisses Soares.
Members line up outside the Farol Chapel in Maceió, Brazil, for a leadership session of a multi-stake conference with Elder Ulisses Soares on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. | Jon Ryan Jensen, Church News

The moment was special for him and for the members who look up to him.

“In this calling, I do not represent Brazil,” he said. “I represent the Savior as one of His witnesses.”

Elder Soares said that he does not advocate the cause of Brazil as a country or Latin America on a larger scale with his fellow quorum members. He said he was called, sustained and set apart the same way the other Apostles have been and that they are unified in seeking to do the Lord’s will as they fulfill their callings.

In the area, Elder Soares met with local leaders, young adults and members at large in a series of meetings that lasted until the last possible moment on Sunday night before leaving for the airport to return to Brasília — where he continued his assignment at the temple open house and participated in a religious freedom symposium.

Young adult generation of ‘heroes’

While the young adults were the last group to hear from Elder Soares, they weren’t shy about asking many questions. Dozens of hands went up each time he asked for volunteers.

“That was a unique young adult meeting,” he said after its conclusion. “They had so many great questions – especially those about preparing for and being successful in marriage.”

While some groups of young adults appear less than excited to hear about marriage when meeting with Church leaders, these young adults wanted to hear about everything from best practices in dating to keeping a marriage fortified against temptations and divorce.

Elder Soares talked about how Heavenly Father can open people’s spiritual eyes when they are prepared for and searching for something with His help. He said that he and Sister Soares had served in the same mission, but it was after returning home that his eyes were open and he saw that she was someone he should consider dating.

Sister Rosana Soares speaks during a session of a multi-stake conference in Maceió, Brazil.
Sister Rosana Soares, wife of Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks during a session of a multi-stake conference in Maceió, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023. | Jon Ryan Jensen, Church News

Due to their busy schedules during the week, their courtship included many dates to the temple in São Paulo on Saturdays.

“It was also important to us that there were things we knew we would not do while we were dating,” Sister Soares said. “We would not miss our Church meetings on Sunday. We would always pay our tithing, even if we did not have a lot of money to go out. We knew we would not break the commandments.”

Elder Soares talked about other habits that can be created before marriage that can also strengthen a couple once they are married.

“Small acts of love and kindness” can help couples grow together each day in their marriage, Elder Soares said.

“Start before marriage — when you are dating,” Elder Soares said. “Send words of appreciation through text messages or a small note or card. Talk to each other about everyday things to better understand what matters to each other, set goals and make plans for the future together.”

Elder Soares told the young adults how special they are in the timeline of human history.

“You are the heroes reserved to prepare the earth for the Savior’s Second Coming,” Elder Soares said.

He told them that preparation takes courage and effort to develop into what God needs them to be.

“I pray God will help you understand your divine origin and potential,” Elder Soares said.

He also asked the congregation to be bold in sharing their testimonies of Jesus Christ.

“The more you learn about the Savior, the less you will fear teaching about Him,” Elder Soares said.

And more than knowing what the Savior did, Elder Soares said they need to continually build their faith in Him.

“We must develop sufficient faith to trust that God knows better than we do and be willing to do whatever He asks us to do,” Elder Soares said.

Leading like the Savior at Church and at home

The counsel to build faith in the Savior was not exclusive to the young adults in Maceió. Elder Soares taught the same principle to all the members in their meetings over the two days.

The goal of every activity in the Church should be to help members build faith in the Savior. “We do not operate entertainment centers,” Elder Soares said.

Primary children, young men and young women should all be learning about the Savior at home and in their Church meetings and activities, he said.

“The Children and Youth program connects youth to the Savior at a young age,” Elder Soares said.

And those connections to the Savior can help lead youth to serving missions and making temple covenants.

“The decision to serve a mission starts young,” Elder Soares said. “Everything taught to children and to priesthood holders from age 11 on prepares them for a mission.”

Speaking to families and wards where there is not a missionary tradition, Elder Soares encouraged the start of something new. “Create the tradition if it does not exist,” he said.

Elder Joni L. Koch and Elder Ulisses Soares answer questions in a session of a multi-stake conference in Maceió, Brazil.
Elder Joni L. Koch, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Brazil Area, and Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answer questions in a session of a multi-stake conference in Maceió, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. | Jon Ryan Jensen, Church News

Those traditions — serving missions and making temple covenants — can’t start once young men turn 18 or young women turn 19, he said. It has to start earlier than that.

“Qualifying to be in a temple does not begin with temple recommend interviews,” Elder Soares said.

Part of the preparation comes from fulfilling ministering opportunities, he said.

“We need to minister better to our families,” Elder Soares said. “Ministering, according to President [Russell M.] Nelson, is a higher and holier way for us to care for each other like the Savior did.”

Elder Soares shared his observation that some have made a habit of ministering by text message. He said that does not feel higher and holier to him, but it could be part of a ministering approach.

To know how to minister well and how to help youth prepare for missions and temple covenants, Elder Soares referred to President Nelson’s 2018 general conference message “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives.”

“Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon and regular time committed to temple and family history work,” President Nelson said in that conference message.

Spending regular time in the temple can be challenging when the nearest temple is hours away, Elder Soares said. Saints in Maceió are currently in the Recife Brazil Temple district. He talked about being in Brasília for its open house and said that Latter-day Saints in both cities will have new spiritual opportunities and responsibilities.

“You will be blessed by having a temple in your cities,” Elder Soares said of those he was teaching in Maceió and those he had visited the previous week in Brasília.

Having a temple in each of those cities brings opportunities closer to members of the Church, but individuals must attend and serve in those temples to receive the blessings President Nelson promised, Elder Soares said.

“My family waited 15 years to get to the temple,” Elder Soares said, looking back at his own life. But the temple and its blessings will be much more accessible to Saints as more temples are dedicated, he said.

Aracaju Brazil South Stake President Rubens Prado shares an experience during a meeting in Maceió, Brazil.
At the request of Elder Ulisses Soares, President Rubens Prado, president of the Aracaju Brazil South Stake, shares an experience during the leadership session of a multi-stake conference in Maceió, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. | Jon Ryan Jensen

Elder Koch encouraged members to avoid feeling as though having a temple means the work of building the Church in Maceió is complete. He said it should make members of the Church more excited to share the gospel with their friends and family and invite them to receive the blessings available to them in temples.

“Only in the Church do we have all the covenants that enable us to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father,” Elder Koch said.

President Rubens Prado, president of the Aracaju Brazil South Stake, said Elder Soares’ message helped him better prioritize his efforts individually and in his calling.

“I felt inspired to move some things to the side and start doing some others,” he said. “I wrote down some of the scriptures they mentioned that I already knew and had already studied but that I understood in a different way as they taught today.”

Cynthia Gomes asks a question during a meeting in Maceió, Brazil.
Cynthia Gomes from the Maceió Brazil Pajuçara Stake asks a question during the leadership session of a multi-stake conference in Maceió, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. | Jon Ryan Jensen, Church News

Cynthia Gomes is the first counselor in the Primary presidency of the Maceió Brazil Pajuçara Stake. She said the feelings she had as she heard Elder Soares’ testimony were new to her.

“I have never had [those feelings] before,” Gomes said. “I know that the answers that Elder Soares gave were answers from the Lord. I felt very loved, very enlightened.”

Gomes said the love she felt was directed toward those she has responsibilities to serve in her calling, as well as others in her life.

“[Elder Soares] talked about ministering with love, and I know that love will open the way for us.”

Keep focus on God, avoid Satan’s distractions

Some members expressed concern about staying close to the Lord even after they have made temple covenants. Elder and Sister Soares and Elder Koch all had counsel to help overcome that challenge.

“My most profound spiritual experiences have come when repenting,” Elder Koch said.

He talked about repentance’s role in becoming pure and holy and enabling a stronger ability to recognize the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Sister Soares said daily scripture study is key for her staying close to the Lord.

“The scriptures contain answers to my prayers,” she said. “I learn to be like Him — what to change.”

In addition to finding both answers and instruction, Sister Soares said studying each day helps her feel guided and comforted by the Spirit.

“Every day, the Lord is with me when I am with Him,” she said.

Elder Soares said this is part of becoming what Heavenly Father expects of His children.

“Strive to overcome the natural man,” he said. “Search for what God’s plan is for you — how to do His will.”

If that is a challenge, Elder Soares offered some practical advice on identifying both positive habits and others that may need correction.

“Look at life in two columns,” Elder Soares said. “One is how you naturally respond. The other is how the Savior would respond in a situation.”

Latter-day Saints in Maceió, Brazil, take notes during a multi-stake conference with Elder Ulisses Soares.
Latter-day Saints in Maceió, Brazil, take notes during a multi-stake conference with Elder Ulisses Soares, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023. | Jon Ryan Jensen, Church News

Getting angry or frustrated when someone cuts in line or says an unkind word may cause a seemingly instinctual reaction, Elder Soares said. But purposefully trying to react as the Savior would helps stop the Spirit from being chased away due to negative actions that are instigated by the Adversary.

“Satan distracts from what is important and absolutely true,” Elder Soares said.

Individuals choose their actions and their reactions to situations, Elder Soares said. That is part of agency and the plan of salvation.

“God did not send us here to fail. God sent us here with a plan for us to return to Him,” he said.

But it can be easy to get sidetracked by small things that may make someone feel good but that aren’t true, he said.

“Be careful of relative truths that can subtly enter your hearts through television, music and social media,” Elder Soares said.

Those small distractions from truth can prevent individuals from arriving back to Heavenly Father, he said. So he encouraged members to rely on the Savior when they get off the path of righteousness.

“Jesus Christ will help you reach your ideal final destination. He and our Heavenly Father are always there for you,” Elder Soares said.

Related Stories
‘Relative truth is an excuse,’ Elder Ulisses Soares says at religious congress in Argentina
Video: Why Elder Soares says, ‘We all need God’
Getting to know Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed