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Zoom empowered Latter-day Saint apostles to continue their ministry while the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited travel. Face masks eventually allowed limited in-person meetings and temple worship to resume.
But neither video conferencing nor masks are better than unrestrained, person-to-person interaction with a full view of every facial expression, Elder Ulisses Soares and Sister Rosana Soares said during an interview in Rio de Janeiro.
I asked them about masks because just a few days earlier, the First Presidency had announced that Latter-day Saint temples could eliminate mask requirements when local health conditions permitted. Several temples did so immediately.
“The temple is a place of reverence. You can’t be very demonstrative in a temple, but your countenance, your smile, your look can really make a difference,” Elder Soares said. “It’s a connection that is established in the Lord’s way inside of the House of the Lord.”
Elder and Sister Soares were living a dream last week, returning to Rio where each had served as young missionaries 42 years earlier and seeing old friends.
“The mask hides much of our feelings, because with a smile you can say a lot,” Sister Soares said. “We as human beings, we express so much with our smiles, with our lips, the way you move them when you you are talking.”
In Rio, the couple continued to take precautions, wearing masks when meeting with large groups of people but also taking them off in smaller settings.
“We are a team who love to be with people,” Sister Soares said.
“It’s beautiful to be with them to look at their eyes and faces, and they can see our love for them through our eyes and faces and the way we look at them. It is a connection or exchange of heartfelt feelings.”
Elder Soares called video conferencing technology a blessing from the Lord that has allowed apostles and missionaries to continue to deliver the message of Jesus Christ. It is transforming missionary work.
“But there is nothing like being face to face with people,” he said, specifically referring to the uncovered faces on church members who sat in Rio chapels while he conducted member meetings, a missionary meeting and training sessions. Citing 72 % vaccination levels, local authorities lifted indoor mask mandates on March 10 in the city — just before Elder Soares’ visit.
He was grateful to look in members’ faces, where he said he could see the spirit of the Lord testifying to their hearts.
“At that point in time you can see that they are pondering and making decision about how their life will be different, what they will implement as a result of that conference and meeting,” he said. “I think there is nothing like being in person and I rejoice at this opportunity.”
Elder Soares also shared a fun example. At one of his meetings in Rio, a woman came up to him to spark a memory.
“This good sister brought me this little special food that she used to give to us when we were missionaries here,” he said. “I ate in her home so many times and she reminded me how happy we were eating that thing, and then she was moved by that feeling to bring a little plate of the same food she’d prepared for us.
“She said to me, ‘Elder Soares, I know you love this, and I prepared it for you to remind you of the great time you were here as a missionary and visited us and and helped us and blessed us.’”
“It was a sweet, sweet experience,” he said. “That cannot happen over Zoom, definitely cannot happen over Zoom. So, it’s an amazing experience to be face to face with people and rejoice in this special moment, especially during this week when we are here to participate in the VIP open house of the (Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple) and see so many people that are working so hard to make it happen.”
My recent stories
- ‘Tiger Mom’ Amy Chua praises Latter-day Saint missions, offers solutions to America’s toxic tribalism (March 29)
- Religious freedom provides the architecture diverse societies need to be healthy, Elder Soares says at historic Brazilian symposium (March 23)
About the church
How to watch, listen to, and get news or updates from general conference this weekend.
There are some fun stories and good insights in this piece in which President M. Russell Ballard talks about giving conference talks for the past 46 years.
Read an update on the pioneer-era temples under renovation: St. George nears completion as work begins on Manti.
Did you know details from a U.S. Census aren’t released for 72 years? The 1950 census is being released this week. See what you can find out about your family.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson became the first apostle to visit the island of Carti Tupile, which is part of Panama.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square will join the Utah Symphony in May for a tribute and farewell to longtime symphony conductor Thierry Fischer.
The church is giving another $4 million to help Ukraine refugees.
Watch the church’s April 2022 World Report.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband just visited members in India and Singapore, the first apostolic visit to Asia since the pandemic began.
Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham spoke about emotional resilience in a new video.
What I’m reading
One current missionary is serving despite being shot in the head and left to die in a ditch five years ago.
Did you know that for 135 years, the second base bag in baseball has always been in the wrong place spot on the field? I sure didn’t. Now second base is going back where it should have been all along. Most minor league ballparks will move the base about a foot closer to home plate this year as an experiment. It turns out that the half of first base and half of third base used to be in foul territory. In 1887, the shape of home plate changed and first and third moved a bit closer to home. They were moved so that the outside of each base was on the foul line and thus were entirely in fair territory. Smart move. Second base wasn’t moved accordingly. That left second base about a foot deeper toward the outfield than first and third are. See this diagram to get a better visual. Baseball is moving the bag into alignment with the other bases in hopes of generating more stolen bases and more offense. Here is Jayson Stark’s story at The Athletic (paywall).
Will Smith slapping Chris Rock was shocking. He wanted to defend his wife’s honor, but it seems he only made life more difficult for her and him. The best defense against offensive speech is better speech, not physical violence. I believe that if he had simply told Rock to leave her alone, he would have a) gained the moral high ground and b) given his wife a bigger and simpler space in which to speak out on behalf of people with alopecia. That’s harder to do now when everyone wants to talk about the slap instead of the joke that sparked it. Here’s one critic’s take on the situation.