‘Never forget what you felt,’ Elder Stevenson tells Latter-day Saints in Rio de Janeiro

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Latter-day Saints shared a consistent message from the grounds of the newly dedicated Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple this weekend: The work is not done.

After the final dedicatory session on Sunday of the Church’s newest temple in Brazil’s second largest city,  Elder Gary E. Stevenson echoed the same feeling.

“Temples connect heavenly families, and temples connect earthly families,” said Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Sitting next to the cornerstone of the temple dedicated in three sessions on May 8, Elder Stevenson looked at the people gathered on the temple grounds.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it? Just look at the people,” he said.

Read more: Elder Stevenson dedicates Rio de Janeiro temple — the Church’s 8th temple in Brazil

Many local Latter-day Saints remained on the temple grounds hours after the conclusion of the final dedicatory session. They were crying together. They were laughing together. They were planning temple visits together.

And what would Elder Stevenson suggest to them after the long wait for a temple in their city? “Never forget what you felt today,” he said.

“We love our neighbors. We love our families. We share with them. We invite them,” he said. “And hopefully with a temple so close, and attendance so convenient, we develop a regular routine of temple worship.”

Elder Joni L. Koch, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Brazil Area presidency, said he hopes people recognize how important Sunday was in the history of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

“This moment was more important than the Olympics or the World Cup,” he said. “It was bigger than anything in the city’s 500-year history.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets young men at the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple dedication in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets young men at the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple dedication in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Unprecedented growth continues

The temple in São Paulo was the 17thtemple of the Church, which now has 171 operating temples.

Elder Stevenson noted that this means that in the lifetime of the youngest Apostle, Elder Ulisses Soares, temples increased ten times what they were when he first attended the Sao Paulo  temple as a young missionary.

“In Elder Soares’ lifetime, the Church in Brazil has grown from 22,000 members to more than 1.4 million, from one stake to more than 280, from one temple to 16 dedicated or announced.” he said.

Brazil “is an important part of the Lord’s vineyard,” Elder Stevenson continued. “These are God-fearing people. These are people that love the Lord, that love Jesus Christ.”

Love, share and invite on both sides of the veil

Elder Joni L. Koch, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Carlos A. Godoy and Elder Benjamín De Hoyos pose at the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple dedication in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
Elder Joni L. Koch, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Carlos A. Godoy and Elder Benjamín De Hoyos pose at the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple dedication in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

With three dozen missions and a once-again growing missionary force following the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brazil is poised for a surge of new members to join the Church and benefit from the eight operating temples in the country. The work done to bring living people to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the work done to help those on the other side of the veil is a similar work, Elder Stevenson said.

This work is captured in the divinely appointed responsibilities to unite families together for eternity and invite all to receive the gospel, he said. Which facilitates progression on the covenant path.

Elder Stevenson said it is important for Latter-day Saints around the world to remember the invitation from President Russell M. Nelson to schedule time in the temple.

“Attending the temple helps lighten our burdens and cares.” Elder Stevenson noted. “I often say, as we walk through its doors, we are able to leave the world outside for that time we are in [the temple]. We unbolt ourselves from the world as we step into the house of the Lord. It seems time almost stands still there.”

The Japan-Brazil connection

Elder Stevenson and his family served in different roles in Japan for seven years in addition to the two years when he served in Fukuoka as a young missionary.

The Japanese and Portuguese languages spoken in Japan and Brazil might not have many connections, but the two countries do, Elder Stevenson said.

“Lisa and I grew to love Brazil in multitudes while serving  in Japan,” he said.

As mission leaders over the Japan Nagoya Mission, there were four Portuguese-speaking units in the mission boundaries.

“At any one time, we had up to 25 Portuguese speaking missionaries,” he said. “Over that period of time, we became close to so many Brazilians and their families.”

He said missionaries enjoyed great success teaching Brazilians who lived and worked in Japan.

A testimony of the Savior

Elder Stevenson bore his testimony one final time before leaving the grounds of the newly-dedicated temple.

“As Apostles, we have the responsibility to testify of the name of Christ,” he said.

“Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. He was born for us. His suffering and crucifixion was for us. His Resurrection broke the bands of death for us. Together comprising the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

In a city visited by nearly two million people each year to view the Christ the Redeemer statue, Elder Stevenson said the temple serves as another witness of Him.

“People connect this city to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which says something about its people,” he said. “And now the temple will be a spiritual anchor for this city, another witness, the House of the Lord.”

Attendees walk the grounds at the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple dedication in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
Attendees walk the grounds at the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple dedication in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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