Elder Cook Says Gospel Is Thriving in the Amazon Rain Forest
Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor
- In addition to growth in Manaus, Brazil, the area also has strong leaders—both in terms of living the gospel and in terms of education and occupation.
- Priesthood leaders mentor returned missionaries, helping to give them a short and longer-term vision of education and work opportunities.
“What is really impressive is that in almost every area—from missionary work to sacrament meeting attendance to endowed members holding a current temple recommend—the work is progressing very well.” —Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve
The gospel is thriving in the Amazon rain forest, said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Cook traveled February 19 through March 2 to Manaus and Belem, Brazil, where he conducted priesthood leadership conferences, missionary and member meetings, young single adult devotionals, and stake conferences. He also participated in a special priesthood leadership conference that was broadcast to Teresina, Brazil.
Elder Cook—who was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, and members of the Brazil Area Presidency, Elder Claudio R. M. Costa and his wife, Margareth, and Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis and his wife, Luisa—called northern Brazil “an amazing part of the world” that contains one-eighth of the world’s fresh water and 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.
Church work began in the Amazon River Basin—once the hub of the world’s rubber industry—in 1967; the first Latter-day Saint congregation was organized in 1978. Members asked the Area Presidency to send them missionaries, paid to fly elders from southern cities to Manaus, gave the missionaries free board and room, and found people for them to teach. Missionaries from the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission and then the Brazil Brasilia Mission found success in Manaus.
Elder Costa of the Seventy and President of the Church’s Brazil Area served as the president of the Manaus Mission when it opened in 1990. At that time there was just one LDS stake and one district in the Amazon region of Brazil.
But the work quickly took hold in Manaus—an isolated city of 2.2 million people accessible only by boat or plane—and in Belem—a city of 1.9 million almost surrounded by water.
Some 25 years later, there are now 19 stakes, three districts, a temple, and more than 80,000 Church members in the same area, said Elder Cook. “There were over 5,600 baptisms in 2014,” he said.
Elder Cook said in addition to growth, the area also has strong leaders—both in terms of living the gospel and in terms of education and occupation.
And as a testament of the success of the work in the area, the presidents of the Manaus Brazil Temple and Recife Brazil Temple (which is the temple for those from Belem); the presidents of the Manaus, Belem, and Teresina Missions; and the entire Area Presidency are native Brazilians, said Elder Cook.
Elder Cook said in order to help all members in Brazil become self-sufficient, returned missionaries from the area are being mentored by priesthood leaders. “These mentors help give the missionary a short and longer-term vision of education and work opportunities,” he said.
Elder Cook accompanied President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, when he dedicated the Manaus Brazil Temple in 2012.
The legacy of temple work that began in 1992 when the first group of Latter-day Saints made the long journey down the Amazon River to the São Paulo Brazil Temple—selling much of what they owned to pay for the trip—continues today, Elder Cook said.
“What is really impressive is that in almost every area—from missionary work to sacrament meeting attendance to endowed members holding a current temple recommend—the work is progressing very well,” he said.
The success of the area was foretold years earlier. On June 5, 1961, in a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, William Grant Bangerter, the mission president who would later serve as a General Authority, spoke about the facilities the Church was renting in Brazil. President Bangerter promised the missionaries that they would live to see the time when there would be hundreds of wards and stakes meeting in Church buildings, not rented houses, and tens of thousands of members, Elder Cook said. “He said there would be many temples—even one in Manaus.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook and his wife, Mary, and Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis of the Brazil Area Presidency and his wife, Luisa, greet members during an assignment February 19 through March 2 to Manaus and Belem, Brazil.
Elder Quentin L. Cook speaks to members during an assignment February 19 through March 2 to Manaus and Belem, Brazil. He was accompanied by his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook. The following leaders and their wives also participated: Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Seventy and president of the Brazil Area and his wife, Margareth; Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis of the Seventy and second counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency and his wife, Luisa; Elder Jose C.F. Campos, an Area Seventy responsible for the Teresina Coordinating Council, and his wife, Eva; Elder David G. Fernandes, an Area Seventy responsible for the Belem Coordinating Council, and his wife, Liduina; Elder Marco A. Rais, an Area Seventy responsible for the Manaus Coordinating Council, and his wife, Inez; President José C. Scisci and his wife, Rosana (Brazil Belem Mission); President Rui B. Castro and his wife, Elizabeth (Brazil Manaus Mission); President Alvacir L. Siedschlag and his wife, Aurea (Brazil Teresina Mission); President Ulisses Pereira and his wife Maria (Manaus Temple); and President Gelson Pizzirani and his wife, Mirian (Recife Brazil Temple).