“Brotherly Love in Portugal,” Ensign, Aug. 1989, 66
For Laurentino Moreira, the gospel was a newfound treasure to give to those he loved. In sharing it, he began a chain of events that has led to more than one hundred conversions—and perhaps saved the life of his brother Joaquim.
Laurentino—Tino to his friends—was at home one day in Porto, the second-largest city of Portugal, when two young women knocked at his door. He told them politely that he already belonged to a church and had no interest in the religion they wanted to discuss with him. But when they asked if he would like to see a film at their chapel, he agreed.
The First Vision was arresting enough that Tino agreed to listen to one of the missionary discussions, and one discussion led to another. By the second one, he was beginning to feel a spirit that he liked very much. He realized that what these young women were teaching could change his life.
“When the missionaries told me I could ask God about the truth of things, this was not a new idea for me,” he explains. Three years earlier, he had read a series of books about ancient civilizations and had concluded that God must have had a hand in their origins. For more than two years, Tino had recited prayers, the way he had been taught as a youth, entreating God to help him learn more about those civilizations. (He feels that those prayers were largely answered when he was taught about the Book of Mormon.)
One night after he began hearing the missionary discussions, Tino lay in bed reading an LDS pamphlet when the missionaries’ teachings about prayer came to mind. He had one basic question about LDS doctrine: Was Joseph Smith a prophet of God? So Tino put that question to Heavenly Father. Immediately, “I began to feel a peace and a great joy at the same time. My lips broke into a smile, and from one moment to the next, I was happy. I said to myself, ‘Well, this is the answer.’”
He couldn’t keep what he was learning about the gospel to himself. The plan of salvation was one example. Previously, “I had believed that life didn’t end with death,” Tino reflects, but he had been left to his own theories as to what came after mortality. Now that he had found the answer, he wanted everyone else to know, too. “I had some great friends. I felt the need to share this good news with them.”
One of those “great friends” was his brother Joaquim. When Tino invited Quim (pronounced “Keem”) to his baptism, Quim was surprised to learn that his brother had even been attending a church.
The brothers’ interests had diverged through the years, and Quim ran with a different crowd. He used drugs, lived a dissolute life, and professed not to believe in God. He was on a downward spiral. “Maybe if I hadn’t learned about the Church, I wouldn’t be alive now,” Quim reflects. But because Tino wanted some of his family to attend his baptism, Quim agreed to go.
The chapel was a different world, with its wholesome atmosphere and clean-cut people. After the baptism, Quim was invited to hear a missionary discussion, so he stayed. He responded positively to all of it. “I was surprised at myself,” he says.
At the end of the discussion, Quim was asked to offer the prayer. “I had never offered a prayer in my life,” he says. But the missionaries taught him how to do it. “I never have offered a better prayer than I offered at that moment,” he recalls. At the end of it, “I stood up—and I felt like I was flying!” He asked the missionaries repeatedly: “What is this? I don’t understand. What is this I am feeling?” A great sense of peace, light, and joy had come over him. All evening, Quim kept talking about what he had felt.
By the next day, however, he had almost convinced himself that the experience hadn’t really been so important. “Listen, Tino,” he said, “I don’t want to go to your church anymore.”
But during the following week, the desire to know why he had experienced such wonderful feelings after that prayer built up in him. Quim’s resolve to stay away from Tino’s church crumbled. It was late at night, Tino recalls, when Quim shook him awake to say, with some intensity, “I want to go to church tomorrow.”
“And from that moment, I wanted to be baptized,” Quim says. “As soon as I heard the other discussions, I believed.” It was a joyful discovery to learn “that our Father cares about each of his children.” He was baptized just three weeks after his brother was.
Tino served diligently in every Church calling extended to him following his baptism; but after a couple of years, he realized that there was more he could, and should, give—the time required for a full-time mission. He felt that, by serving a mission, he would be able to help other young people find answers to the same questions about life that had so perplexed him a few years earlier.
Like Tino, Quim would serve a mission in Portugal. When Harold Hillam, president of the Portugal Lisbon Mission, told Quim, “Brother Moreira, you’re going to be a missionary,” Quim replied: “How? I have no money, my parents aren’t members, and I’ll have to quit my studies.” But the mission president insisted that he must be prepared to go on a mission in a few months, and Quim continued to pray, asking the Lord how it could be done.
One night, in a dream, he saw himself dressed as a missionary, leaving home with his suitcases, and he awoke knowing that it would happen. Financial help was found through the Church, and Joaquim Moreira dropped out of school to accept the call. That is a decisive step in Portugal, for it is difficult to win readmission to a university, and Quim still has not finished his secondary education.
When they talked to their parents about going on missions, the two young men expected sterner opposition. Perhaps the elder Moreiras did not withhold their permission because they were grateful for the Church’s influence on their sons. Nevertheless, the parents—particularly Tino and Quim’s mother—resisted the idea of changing religions themselves.
But the influence of the gospel continued to work in the lives of Quim and Tino’s family. Shortly after Tino entered the mission field, their father was ready for baptism. Tino, who was working nearby, had the privilege of baptizing him. Their mother declined at first even to read her sons’ letters from the mission field. Quim sent one letter home, however, with a special prayer that she would read it and be touched. His prayer was answered, and it was not long until she was baptized by her husband.
Tino and Quim both found treasures of spiritual strength in the mission field. Quim recalls trying to teach one widow whose husband had spent much of his life as a missionary for another church. The woman had agreed to listen to the LDS missionaries because her daughter was a Latter-day Saint. As one of the discussions progressed, however, she found it too difficult to accept the idea that the teachings of her church were not correct. “Elder Moreira,” she said, “I don’t want to hear any more of this doctrine. I am going to labor to finish the missionary work my husband started!” Quickly, Quim offered a silent prayer, asking what to say. He was inspired to assure the woman that her husband had already accepted the gospel in the spirit world.
Later, the woman’s daughter told Quim that after saying her own personal prayers that evening, she lay meditating on how she could help her mother accept the gospel. Suddenly, “I saw my father in my room. He said, ‘That missionary spoke the truth, and I want your mother to be baptized.’”
Because of her daughter’s experience, the mother agreed to listen to the missionaries again. This time, there was a different spirit about her; she was baptized a week later.
For Tino, missionary service took an unexpected turn. Deferment of their mandatory military obligation is not allowed for Portuguese missionaries, and Tino was called into his country’s air force. He still remembers the counsel of R. Perry Ficklin, then president of the Portugal Lisbon Mission, who explained that Elder Moreira’s missionary service wasn’t over, that he was only being “transferred to another area—more difficult.” Tino went on to teach and baptize a number of people in the air force.
Quim, too, has been responsible for introducing several co-workers to the gospel since the end of his mission. The lives of the two brothers have, in fact, continued on parallel paths in several ways. Both are married now—to two sisters, also named Moreira! Both Tino and Quim, now in their mid-twenties, have also been deeply involved in Church leadership positions. Their commitment is such that Quim served concurrently as second counselor in his ward’s bishopric, as a stake high councilor, and as stake mission leader; at the same time, Tino was serving as ward elders quorum president, as first counselor in the stake mission presidency, and as director of Church educational programs for their area. (Tino now works for the Church in Lisbon, while Quim still lives in Porto.)
Was it difficult to fill all those positions and handle their other roles in life as well?
Difficulty was not a consideration, Tino says matter-of-factly. “When we chose a mission, we chose activity in the Church.”
Two of Tino’s friends whom he introduced to the gospel—Jose Gouveia Pereiro and Hernani Cerqueira—also served missions. Tino, Quim, Jose, and Hernani have helped bring more than one hundred people into the Church and continue to be missionaries even now—long after their full-time service is over.
Tino reflects that none of this would have been possible without “that first little seed” planted by the missionaries who knocked on his door.
And now, he says, with a mixture of wonder and enthusiasm, “the tree keeps on growing—so fast!”