Church History
Opening the Gates in Portugal
previous next

Stories of Faith

Opening the Gates in Portugal

In April 1974, just three weeks after Church President Spencer W. Kimball expressed his “great faith” that the Lord would “open the gates and make possible the proselyting” of nations that were closed to the gospel, the Carnation Revolution took place in Lisbon. The new government’s interest in establishing religious freedom opened the door for the Church to receive official recognition in August and permission to send missionaries to the country. Church members in Brazil who had friends and relatives in Portugal rejoiced to hear the news. By November, four missionaries, reassigned from Brazil, arrived in Portugal and began contacting referrals from Brazilian members. Unsure of how they would be received in Portugal’s new political climate, Church leaders gave the missionaries permission to make initial contacts individually rather than traveling in pairs as usual.

That December, Inês and Fernando dos Reis Amaral met Elder Paulo Périssé. Though active in their own faith, teaching catechism and volunteering in a hospital, they invited Périssé back for a religious discussion. A few days later, when Périssé returned with his companion, John Joseph, Inês was suffering from a headache, a symptom of a tumor that doctors said would require surgery to remove. “Have you asked your priest for a healing blessing?” Périssé asked. The Amarals laughed and explained that their priest didn’t offer health care. “Do you believe in the power of the priesthood?” Périssé asked. “I do,” Inês answered, “but it does not exist anymore.” The missionaries explained that they were bearers of the Melchizedek Priesthood and taught the couple about the restored Church.

“If you have faith,” Périssé told Inês, “the Lord can heal you.” With faith, Inês accepted a blessing. She slept peacefully that night, woke up with no pain, and believed the pain would be gone forever. Fernando was still skeptical. The next day, however, at Inês’s doctor’s examination, they were told that the tumor was no longer visible. “This was our first testimony,” Fernando later reflected. “This was enough to believe that the Church is true.”

When Inês and Fernando first attended Church, it was held in a rented room at a hotel, and the small branch was mostly made up of foreigners. Ray Caldwell, a Canadian diplomat, was branch president and conducted the meetings in English with missionaries translating into Portuguese. Inês and Fernando were baptized in May 1975. They struggled as many of their friends turned against them because of their conversion. “But in the Church we soon gained many friends,” they later reflected, “and today the work in the Church fills our lives with great meaning.” Inês and Fernando were among the early converts integral to the branch’s transition to operating under local leadership and in Portuguese. Inês was called to lead the mission Relief Society, and Fernando became one of the first men in Portugal to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Both worked closely with branch members from other countries to help find and welcome new converts, and by July 1975 there were over 100 members in Lisbon.