It’s Friday night in Brazil. From Recife to Rio and from Salvador to São Paulo, the great megalopolises of the country teem with life as young people fill the streets, heading down beach boardwalks and downtown drives to outdoor festivals and markets, movies and shows, restaurants and clubs.
But in a certain corner of São Paulo—Brazil’s largest metropolis with a population of 21 million—all the bustle of a big-city Friday night is forgotten as dozens of teenagers play a part in something most unusual.
They sit in small groups around a large, lit-up building, occasionally checking their watches as they quietly talk into the night. They’re not staying up late to hit a dance club. They’re not lingering for the late show. They’re anxiously awaiting something of far greater significance, something their ancestors have also waited for: their assigned time to do baptisms for the dead in the São Paulo Brazil Temple.
Because this temple is the only one in a nation of more than 700,000 Latter-day Saints, its doors are open all night every Friday until late Saturday in order to accommodate the bus loads of Church members from outlying areas who are only able to travel to the temple on weekends. Upon their arrival, stakes are assigned times round the clock to do temple work.
A Growing Challenge
According to temple president Aledir Barbour, handling such large numbers of temple goers “is now our greatest challenge because so many stakes want to come, but we cannot accommodate them all as we’d like.”
He pauses, then smiles and adds, “But certainly it is a challenge we like to have.”
The white-haired, soft-spoken temple president cites an example of a group of youth and their leaders who came by bus from Belo Horizonte, a large city about 200 kilometers northeast of São Paulo. Members of this stake youth group brought with them the names of 10,000 ancestors, all of whom the teens had identified through their own research. The group stayed from Tuesday through Friday, but it wasn’t nearly enough time to do the baptisms for all their ancestors.
The temple baptistry is so full of youth patrons, individuals can usually only be baptized for four or five deceased persons each time they come to the temple. And this is after many teens and their parents from outlying areas have saved for months to travel to the temple, riding on a bus for days to get to São Paulo (Brazil is larger than the continental United States).
When the São Paulo Temple was dedicated in 1978, it could easily handle the Church membership in Brazil, which then totalled less than 60,000. But membership in Brazil has increased by more than tenfold since then, and now the temple is consistently overflowing.
Fortunately, the rapid growth that has caused such a challenge is also a catalyst that is bringing about wonderful change—change that is already beginning to bless the lives of Brazilian youth.
A Time to Build
Peering through the rails of a barrier fence, 17-year-old Fabio Fogliatto and his friends of the Canoas Stake watch intently as men in hard hats construct a building near the southern tip of Brazil. Fabio notes with satisfaction that one of the workers leaves the construction site before smoking a cigarette. “He must know this is a sacred site for us,” he says.
On the other side of the fence from the teens is a spectacular sight. Against the backdrop of the city, the walls of what will be the Pôrto Alegre Brazil Temple are rising out of the red earth.
“Just watching them build the temple, I can feel it really is a temple of the Lord,” says Ivan Carvalho, 14, of the Esteio Ward. “It makes me feel even stronger that I want to come here to do ordinances for the dead and for myself.”
Fourteen-year-old Guilherme Recordon of the Estancia Velha Ward adds, “And now that we only have to go 20 kilometers instead of 300, maybe we’ll be able to come here every week!”
The feelings of these boys represent an excitement growing all over Brazil as temples are built. Another temple is nearing completion in Campinas (a city just west of São Paulo), and yet another will be dedicated in the northern city of Recife this summer. As temples are built into the Brazilian skies, youth here are constructing their own temple-worthy lives.
Living worthy to go to the temple is anything but easy for young Brazilians. They are teased by their peers if they don’t use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Extreme immodesty is common on billboards and prime-time T.V. Many students carry pornographic magazines to school. During carnaval, a week-long festival for which Brazil is famous, immodesty and immorality are paraded in the streets.
But LDS youth say that looking to the temple helps them keep the commandments despite the many temptations and trials they face. “At school, when you won’t look at the [pornographic] magazines, people make fun of you. But I have a goal to serve a mission and marry in the temple, so I already know that if they push this stuff at me, I won’t do it,” says Fabio Marques, 16, of the Campinas Fourth Ward. “I’ve already made my decision.”
Fabio says having a temple so close to his home in Campinas will strengthen him and his Latter-day Saint friends. “It’s hard to get to the temple in São Paulo, but soon we’ll be able to do baptisms for the dead more easily and frequently at the Campinas Temple. And each time you do that, you make a stronger goal to return to the temple, and to be worthy to marry in the temple.”
Whenever challenges seem too much for 18-year-old Janise Figueiró, she looks at a little bottle of red earth she received from her Young Women president in the Higienópolis (Pôrto Alegre) Ward. “Whenever I look at that soil from the temple site, I remember to live worthy.”
Ready to Enter
Fourteen-year-old Juliano Garcia of the Guaiba Jardim Ward was thrilled with the prize he’d won. Although he’d only been a Church member for just under a year, he’d managed to win a scripture chase in his multistake seminary bowl. As he began to look through the pages of his prize, a booklet entitled The Holy Temple, he became fascinated with the pictures of temple baptismal fonts and celestial rooms. Juliano didn’t know much about the temple, but as he read in the booklet about baptism for the dead, his heart immediately turned to his deceased grandparents. “I thought about my grandparents, how great they were, and I thought that more than anything I wanted to go to the temple for them.” Juliano hasn’t been able to travel to the São Paulo Temple, but is now preparing to go in Pôrto Alegre.
As Juliano and other Brazilian teens continue to construct their own temple-worthy lives little by little, they do not doubt that when the doors of the new temples are ready to be opened, they will be ready to enter.
Hearts of the Children
When the Angel Moroni appeared to 17-year-old Joseph Smith in 1823, he told the young prophet about the marvelous restoration that was about to take place, quoting from Malachi:
“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
“… And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers” (see JS—H 1:38–39).
This prophecy is literally being fulfilled in the hearts of young Brazilians. “The Spirit of Elijah is working … especially on the young people, to do work for their ancestors. It’s something that we cannot explain,” says São Paulo Temple President Barbour.
Take 16-year-old Jeferson Montenegro of Canoas and Suelen Alexandre (15), José Meirelles (18), Priscila Cavalieri (18), Carlita Fochetto (14), and Carolina (16), Christiane (15), and Carlos Rodriguez (12), of São Paulo (pictured above). These young people volunteer in their family history centers for 10–20 hours each week, assisting Church members in their research, entering extracted names into the computer system, and searching for names of their own ancestors.
These teens aren’t unusual. Many Brazilian youth have found the names of hundreds of their ancestors and eagerly begun their temple work. Why? “I feel the influence of the spirit of Elijah,” says Jeferson. “It makes me feel a closeness with those who’ve gone before me.”