Brigham Young University

Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world, encompassing an area larger than the continental United States, or about as large as the European subcontinent. The total population in 1998 was estimated to be about 162 million.

The first Latter-day Saints in Brazil were German immigrants who arrived in the southern region in the early years of the twentieth century. The South American mission, then headquartered in Argentina, officially sent the first full-time missionaries to work among the German-speaking colonies in southern Brazil around 1927. From that time until the organization of the Brazilian mission on 25 May 1935, missionary work was restricted to the German colonies. Because of strong nationalistic pressures imposed by the Brazilian government, which saw the cultural isolation of the German colonies as a potential threat to national security, the Church abolished the use of German language in church meetings in 1939. In 1942, the Church officially adopted Portuguese as the proselytizing language.

At first the work progressed rather slowly: by the time of the dedication of the Sao Paulo Temple in 1978 there were only 15 organized stakes and about 54,000 members in the whole country. After the completion of the temple (which happened a few months after the Church’s announcement of the revelation that extended the priesthood to all worthy males) the work progressed at a phenomenal rate. In the next 12 years, 41 new stakes were organized, embracing more than 300,000 members in the country the third largest concentration of Church members in the world, surpassed only by the United States and Mexico.

In 1994 Church units could be found in only 362 cities across Brazil less than 10% of the total number of cities in the country. Half of the Brazilian cities in which the Church was then present had populations with more than 100,000 inhabitants.

The Church began construction on additional temples in Recife (1996), Campinas (1998), and Porto Alegre (1998). By the beginning of the year 2000 there were 26 missions, 186 stakes, 1,879 units, and 743,182 members in Brazil. The largest concentrations of members were then found in the states of Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Parana, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, and Santa Catarina.

Four Brazilians have served as general authorities: Elders Helio de Rocha Camargo, Helvecio Martins, Claudio Roberto Mendes Costa, and Athos Marques Amorim. All served in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and Elder Camargo also served in the First Quorum.

[Year-end 2005: Est. population, 186,112,000; Members, 928,926; Stakes, 193; Wards, 1,247; Branches 487; Missions, 26; Districts, 54; Temples, 4; 1 announced; Percent LDS, .48, or one in 207; Source 2007 Church Almanac.]

SOURCES

Grover, Mark L. “Mormonism in Brazil: Religion and Dependency in Latin America.” Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1985.

Martins, Marcus H. “The Oak Tree Revisited: Brazilian LDS Leaders’ Insights on the Growth of the Church in Brazil.” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1996.

MARCUS H. MARTINS

From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 129-30. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.