Friend to Friend

“Friend to Friend,” Friend, May 1992, 6

Friend to Friend

The worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10).

I served my first mission in Brazil and had some marvelous spiritual experiences. It has been wonderful to see what has happened in Brazil since then. In those days, all of Brazil was just one mission. There were no stakes and only a few branches. Almost every branch I served in at that time is now a stake—or multiple stakes! In São Paulo, the third largest city in the world, there was one little branch when I first arrived; now there are twelve stakes, four missions, and a temple.

During my mission, I had the opportunity of teaching a Protestant minister. My companion and I taught him every week for six months. He attended meetings in our little branch, but he remained a minister teaching in his church. He had been invited many times to be baptized. He had studied, and I knew that the spirit had touched him often, but still he waited. Finally, one evening I reminded him that he knew that the Church was true, because of the inspiration of the Spirit, and that he had sufficient knowledge now to be baptized. Therefore, we would not be teaching him regularly until he was ready to accept the invitation to be baptized.

A short time later my companion, Elder Darwin Christensen, and I were on a streetcar going to a baptism with some converts. When the streetcar stopped, our investigator-minister got on, and upon seeing us, he asked, “Where are you going?” I told him that we were on our way to a baptism. He said urgently, “I have to talk to you Monday night.”

We rearranged our schedule and went to his home that Monday evening. He asked us some questions that were on his mind about the Church. Then, as though he couldn’t wait any longer, he said, “What do I need to do to be baptized?” He continued, “I am sure that you’ve been wondering why it has taken me so long to decide. I wanted to study everything so that I would have the correct answers and never be an embarrassment to the Church. This Wednesday night I am going to the directors of my church and announce to them that I’m leaving my position and joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

On Wednesday he resigned from his job as a minister, and on Saturday he was baptized a member of our Father in Heaven’s true Church. The next week I finished my mission. He was my last baptism.

You are always concerned for the people you have baptized, and you always wonder how they’re doing. About seventeen years after that first mission, my wife, Carol, and I had an opportunity to travel to Brazil. When we landed in Rio de Janeiro, our taxi driver happened to be a Church member. We told him who we were, and I talked to him about being in Brazil on my mission. No sooner did we get checked into our hotel room than our telephone rang. I thought, Who could be calling us here at this hour? It was someone from the mission office, inviting us to dinner at the mission home the next evening. We arrived at the appointed time, the door opened, and there stood my ex-Protestant minister convert. He was the mission president! What a thrill!

Then, while I was attending general conference in April 1985, I heard the name of Helio da Rocha Camargo read, and I had the opportunity to raise my hand to sustain Elder Camargo as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. My ex-minister was now a General Authority! That was another thrill. In April 1990 I was also called as a General Authority, and I was assigned to Brazil. When we arrived at the airport in São Paulo, there to greet us was Elder Camargo, now the Area President of Brazil. What a joy it was for me to serve as one of his counselors in the area presidency.

When Brother Camargo was baptized, there wasn’t even a stake in all of Brazil. There were only a few tiny, struggling branches. Think of all the things that he has seen since then! He has played a major role in the growth of the Church in Brazil. He is a great man. People have much love and respect for him. He is now the president of the temple in São Paulo.

The Lord has told us, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:15–16.)

As a young man I read the above scripture and thought that the promise referred to the kingdom of our Father in Heaven in the next life. I now know of the joy we can share with them during this life also.

It has been a great joy for me to see many souls come into the Church. To be in Brazil and work with Elder Camargo again has been a special joy. And to realize that that joy has multiplied through his service as a leader and through his family is rewarding. His sons have served as missionaries. I was at a stake conference not long ago at which one of his sons presided as stake president.

Our Father in Heaven’s promises of great joy for our labors in teaching and bringing souls unto Him is true in this life as well as in the life hereafter.

1. Elder Hillam and Elder Camargo

2. Elder Hillam, age 7

3. Elder Hillam (9) with his younger brother, Arnold