Friend to Friend

From an interview with Elder Claudio R. M. Costa of the Seventy, currently serving in the Brazil Area Presidency; by Janet Peterson

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Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).

I was born in Santos, Brazil, a beach city fifty-five miles from São Paulo. The oldest of four children, I began working when I was eight years old, because my family was very poor. Even though they weren’t members of the Church, my father and mother lived many of the principles of the gospel and taught us to live them too. My father never used alcoholic beverages. He was kind to us children. He was a good father. We had family home evening every night, even though we didn’t call it that. My father and mother taught us to be honest and to have faith in God, Jesus Christ, and the Atonement. We attended church every Sunday.

When I was twelve years old, I met the LDS missionaries on the street and introduced them to my family. My father had strong roots in another church, so we were not baptized. When I was seventeen, I moved to a different city. While I was gone, the missionaries came to my parents’ home again and taught my family. They were all baptized in my absence.

Ten years later I came back to my father’s home for a time. My father, who was the ward mission leader, invited me to listen as the missionaries taught two young ladies in his home. The missionaries challenged us to ask Heavenly Father if Joseph Smith was a prophet. I accepted the challenge and spent fourteen hours reading, meditating, and praying about Joseph Smith. It was a spiritual experience that is sacred to me. I read Joseph Smith’s history in the Pearl of Great Price twice that night. I prayed many times and stayed up all night. At nine o’clock the next morning I knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the gospel was true.

I went to the sister missionaries’ house and asked for baptism. They explained that they needed to teach me seven discussions. I told them, “Give me all seven right now. I need to be baptized.” Two days later, I was. I began at once to work in the Church and to study everything the Church published in Portuguese. I enjoyed it all immensely, and my testimony has been strong ever since. The Church and the gospel have given me everything I have, including my family.

I love Joseph Smith. I love his entire life. After Jesus Christ, he has done more for us than anyone. Because of the answer I received to my prayers about Joseph Smith, it is easy for me to follow the living prophet. I decided on my first day in the Church that I would do whatever the Brethren ask of me, because they, too, are prophets of God.

I have a sweet feeling in my heart about President Spencer W. Kimball, who was the prophet when I was baptized. He was a great influence in my life. When I was a new member, he shook my hand in São Paulo, and I have never forgotten it. At one general conference he asked the members to stay out of debt, and I decided that I would. In Brazil we have inflation and a lot of financial troubles, but I have never had debts. I am not a rich man, and my family has had many challenges. But we have always overcome them because we followed this wise advice.

We did two other things in obedience to the counsel of our leaders. We decided to give our children good food so that their bodies would be healthy, and a good education so that their minds would be strong. As a result, our children are all good students. Our oldest son, Moroni, who is eighteen, is studying at the University of São Paulo, one of the largest and best universities in South America.

We have a big picture of President Gordon B. Hinckley in our home. President Hinckley called me to be a mission president and a General Authority. We had an opportunity to be with him on his visit to Brazil. Our family loves and supports President Hinckley. His words are the Lord’s words, and he is a wonderful example for us. Our family has read his biography. It was beautiful to learn about his life and his example and what he has done for the Church. I have a special love for him like I have for President Kimball—two great servants, two great prophets.

I have a special friend in my life—the Book of Mormon. It helps me make decisions. I search in it for answers to my questions. I have used the Book of Mormon for business, for family relationships, for helping missionaries—for everything in my life. I find inspiration in the lives of its prophets. Many, many scriptures in the Book of Mormon touch my heart. One of my favorites is Mosiah 3:19:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

I learned this verse my first week as a Church member, and I have tried to obey it. We should all try to be pure like children. You are the beautiful sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, and I love to be with you in Primary. I am learning a lot from you. The Lord has given me four wonderful children of my own, and they teach me a great deal. You are all part of a marvelous generation.

One year old

At age 7

In the army, age 18

Elder Costa with his family