Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 198,739,000; Members, 1,060,556; Stakes, 233; Wards, 1,361; Branches, 488; Missions, 27; Districts, 52; Temples, 5, under construction, 1;Percent LDS, .53, or one in 187; Brazil Area.
Brazil, a federal republic with a Portuguese-speaking population, covers almost half the continent of South America.
The first known Church member in Brazil was Max Richard Zapf, who was baptized in Germany in August 1908 and emigrated to Brazil in 1913. After many years with no Church contact, Max Zapf and his family learned that Augusta Kuhlmann Lippelt and her four children, who had also joined the Church in Germany before immigrating to Brazil in 1923, were living in the small southern Brazilian town of Ipomeia. Augusta’s husband Roberto, although not a member when he moved his family to Brazil, was baptized several years later. The Zapf family soon relocated to be with their new friends, the Lippelt family. These two families represented the beginning of the Church’s permanent presence in Brazil.
The first missionaries were William Fred Heinz and Emil A. J. Schindler, accompanied by President Rheinold Stoof of the South American Mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina. President Stoof first visited Brazil in 1927, and returned with the elders to begin missionary work among German-speaking people in September 1928. Bertha Sell and her children, Theodore, Alice, Seigfried, and Adell, were the first converts, baptized 14 April 1929. A branch was organized in Joinville on 6 July 1930 and the first Church-owned meetinghouse in South America was dedicated 25 October 1931, in Joinville.
A mission was created and headquartered in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 25 May 1935. At first, missionaries taught only in German. However, a Portuguese edition of the Book of Mormon was published in 1939. Missionaries began teaching in Portuguese partly because the government, worried about the perceived growth of pro-Nazi sentiment among Brazil’s large German population, issued decrees which severely restricted the use of languages other than Portuguese. By 1940, there were fewer than 200 members in the country. In 1941, the Church began to remove all North American missionaries from Brazil as a result of World War II, which slowed Church growth. They did not return in appreciable numbers until 1946.
In 1954, President David O. McKay became the first Church president to visit Brazil. At the end of the 1950s, membership totaled 3,700 and by the time the Sao Paulo Temple was dedicated in 1978 it had reached 54,000. After 1978, in part due to the revelation extending priesthood to all worthy males, Church growth became extraordinary. By 1990, membership exceeded 300,000 and as the 1990s ended, membership totaled more than 700,000.
By 2002, membership reached 842,296.
The Brazil Area was created in August 1987 and divided in August of 1998 to form the Brazil North and South areas. On 2 February 1986, with the creation of the Campinas Brazil Castelo Stake, Brazil became the third country outside the United States to have 50 stakes. When the Sao Leopoldo Brazil Stake was created 5 December 1993, Brazil reached 100 stakes, the second country outside the United States to do so. Elder Helio A. Camargo, who served in the Seventy from 1985-1990, was the first Brazilian to serve as a General Authority. Other Brazilians called as General Authorities as members of the Seventy include Helvecio Martins, Claudio R.M. Costa, and Athos M. Amorim.
In October 1993, construction began on the the Church’s second largest Missionary Training Center in Sao Paulo. The seven-story building, capable of accommodating 750 missionaries, was dedicated 18 May 1997 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve. In October 1998, North American missionaries called to Brazil began receiving nearly half of their training at the Brazilian Missionary Training Center. The program to send North American missionaries to Brazil for four weeks of training enabled them to be immersed in the Brazilian culture and Portuguese language in a controlled environment.
The program was so successful that in April 2000 the first 22 North American missionaries were sent to Brazil for their full eight weeks of training. The group was the first of four pilot groups to enter the Brazilian center during the summer of 2000 to be entirely trained in another language at a missionary training center in another country. The pilot training program ended in August 2000 and afterward, an average of 33 North American missionaries began their full training in the Brazil center each week.
The Sao Paulo Stake, the first in South America, was organized on 1 May 1966. Ten years later, Brazil had 10 stakes, and a temple had been announced for Sao Paulo. President Spencer W. Kimball presided over a cornerstone ceremony for the temple on 9 March1977. The Temple was dedicated 30 October 1978. President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Recife Temple on 15 December 2000. While President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency attended the groundbreaking of the Porto Alegre Temple, he also was made an honorary citizen of Sao Paulo, in recognition of his lifelong ties to that city and to Brazil. President Hinckley dedicated the Porto Alegre Temple on 17 December 2000 and the Campinas Temple on 17 May 2002. A fifth temple in Curitiba is currently under construction.
Brazilian Latter-day Saints have been very active in humanitarian efforts and community service projects which have received nationwide recognition and appreciation. Marco Maciel, vice president of Brazil, thanked the Church for its service in 2001 and the Church, represented by its service organization, “Helping Hands,” received national recognition on 9 November 2002, as one of the most important volunteer organizations in Brazil.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve presided over the groundbreaking of the fifth temple to be built in Brazil in Curitiba on 10 March 2005.
Membership reached 866,988 in 2003. In 2005, membership reached 928,926.
Sources: Frederick S. Williams and Frederick G. Williams, From Acorn to Oak Tree, 1987; Mark L. Grover, “Mormonism in Brazil: Religion and Dependency in Latin America,” (PhD diss., 1985); Marcus Martins, “The Oak Tree Revisited: Brazilian LDS Leaders’ Insights on the Growth of the Church in Brazil,” (PhD diss., 1996); Donald Q. Cannon and Richard O. Cowan, Unto Every Nation: Gospel Light Reaches Every Land, 2003; [Dedication Ceremony, Brazil Missionary Training Center], 18 May 1997, LDS Church Archives; Deseret News, 14 November 1935; Rulon S. Howells, “Brazil, A new frontier for the Restored Gospel,” Improvement Era, May 1936 and September 1938; “Brazilian Missions,” Improvement Era, May 1963; Shaun D. Stahle, “Missionaries receive full training in Brazil,” Church News, 12 August 2000; Fernando Assis and Nestor Curbelo, “Brazilian temples complete historic year of dedication,” Church News, 23 December 2000; Fernando Assis, “Hands that help,” Church News, 3 November 2001; Fernando Assis, “30,000 serving brighten face of entire nation,” Church News, 5 October 2002; Ground broken for temple in Curitiba,” Church News, 19 March 2005.