“My ancestors were not pioneers who crossed the United States to Utah,” said Elder Helio Camargo, but he and his wife were the first members of their families to join the Church. They feel this makes them pioneers, too.
The Camargos were baptized thirty-one years ago. When they joined the Church, there was only one mission in all of Brazil. And where they lived, in S¶o Paulo, there was only one branch of the Church. Now there are fifty-four stakes and nine missions in Brazil. “The growth of the Church in Brazil,” Elder Camargo stated, “has been surprising, even to the members.”
The youngest of four children, Elder Camargo was born in Resende, a city in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Although most Brazilians were members of the Catholic church, he had been born into a Protestant family.
“My parents tried to follow the teachings of Heavenly Father and the Savior that they had learned from reading the scriptures. And they taught us children to love Heavenly Father, to be worshipful, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to read the scriptures. When I started studying the doctrines of the Church and attended its meetings, much of what was taught there was familiar to me.”
Elder Camargo, who joined the Church in an unusual way, said that “the missionaries never knocked at my door.” After a short career as an officer in the military service, Elder Camargo decided to become a Protestant minister.
He attended the Methodist seminary for three years. “On one occasion in one of my seminary classes,” he related, “the teacher was discussing the beliefs and doctrines of certain Christian groups. I remember asking him about the Mormons, and he said that he didn’t know if Mormons were even Christians. I said, ‘I think they are, because the name of their church is The Church of Jesus Christ of something,’ but I couldn’t remember the rest of it.
“The teacher said to me, ‘Why don’t you try to find out if there are Mormons in S¶o Paulo so that we could invite one of their ministers to come to us and explain their doctrines.’ So I went to the mission home in Sac Paulo and met the mission president who sent two missionaries to our class to explain the doctrines. This was the beginning. I left the seminary, studied the gospel for about eight months, and then was baptized with my wife and five children. Another child was born soon after we were baptized.”
Two other members of Elder Camargo’s class also left the seminary and joined the Church. And all three of them have been stake presidents and mission presidents.
Elder Camargo and his wife were indeed pioneers, and they certainly changed the course of the lives of their children. “We raised five boys and one girl,” he said, “but we lost one of our boys in an automobile accident. The others have all married in the temple; all of them are faithful Church leaders. We now have fourteen grandchildren.”
“I like discipline. That is probably why I originally chose a military career. I think that obedience is an important principle in our lives. If we want to progress, we must be obedient.
“Sometimes we do not understand exactly why the Lord wants us to do something, but knowing that He knows us and loves us helps us to be obedient. Obedience is the key to our happiness in this life and in the eternities.
“My message to children in the Church is to trust and love your parents and your leaders and to obey them because they love you and know what’s right for you. That is the way to eternal life.”