clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MISSION CREATED 60 YEARS AGO; WORK PIONEERED AMONG GERMANS

Missionary work in Brazil was pioneered among Germans whose colonies were pocketed along the coast. Some of these colonists were clearing brush and shooing parrots from newly planted corn seed when the first LDS missionaries arrived in southern Brazil in 1928.

Busy as they were in settling the area, colonists welcomed the American German-speaking missionaries. Some German-Brazilians joined the Church and became a strong foundation for what has transpired since.Today, Brazil is one of the fastest-growing areas of the Church. At year-end 1994, there were 517,000 members of the Church in Brazil in 107 stakes and 22 missions. A temple in Sao Paulo was dedicated in 1978, and a second temple in the country, to be constructed in Recife, was announced Jan. 21, 1995. The Church's second largest missionary training center is also under construction in Brazil.

Brazil's first mission, the Brazilian Mission, was created 60 years ago on May 25, 1935. Creation of the mission followed seven years of missionary efforts under the South American Mission, created in 1925 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In 1935, Pres. Rulon S. Howells was called to open the Brazilian Mission. After extensive travel, he chose to establish the Church headquarters in Sao Paulo, although, at the time, it was smaller than Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo now has a population of about 20 million.

The first missionary work was done in German-speaking colonies, which had a population of 1.5 million in 1935. At first, literature in German was obtained from the Swiss-German Mission. Then, under Pres. Howells' direction, missionary literature and the Book of Mormon were translated into Portuguese. Dual translations of the Book of Mormon were completed and combined, printed in 1940, and disseminated later.

The first Portuguese-speaking missionaries were Elders Grant LeRoy Brooks and Melvin Harold Morris, who began work in April 1938. President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, served in Brazil from 1939-42.

The work grew slowly in the first decades. By 1957 membership was 1,000. However, in the 1960s work increased and the Sao Paulo Stake was created in 1966. About a decade later, in 1976, ground was broken for a temple. By then, Brazil had a membership of nearly 33,000.

By 1986, Brazil became the third country, outside the United States, to have 50 stakes, and in December 1993, became the second country outside the U.S. to have 100 stakes.

The first missionaries to Brazil were Elders Emil A.J. Schindler and William Fred Heinz. They arrived in Sao Francisco do Sul, Brazil, on Sept. 17, 1928, and began working in the German colony of Joinville, some 125 miles south of Sao Paulo. Elder Schindler was the district leader and is generally credited as being the first missionary in Brazil. He died in 1967.

Elder Heinz, 87, of the Rexburg 19th Ward, Rexburg Idaho Stake, and Elder David J. Ballstaedt, the sixth missionary to Brazil and second district leader, recalled their experiences for the Church News. Elder Ballstaedt, 90, now of the Garden Heights Ward, Salt Lake Wilford Stake, arrived in Brazil in 1930, served as district president for about two years and supervised the construction of the first LDS meetinghouse in South America, among other things.

Both are overwhelmed at the innumerable harvest that has come since their preliminary efforts.

The recollections of Elders Heinz and Ballstaedt offer a window into early missionary work in Brazil. (See separate articles on this page and on page 5.)