Liahona
The First Brazilian Branch President in São Paulo
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“The First Brazilian Branch President in São Paulo,” Liahona, January 2022

Stories from Saints, Volume 3

The First Brazilian Branch President in São Paulo

Sustaining / Questions

Illustrations by Greg Newbold

Not long after Claudio and Mary dos Santos were baptized in São Paulo, Brazil, mission president William Seegmiller asked Claudio if he would like to be an elder. Claudio was surprised, but he said, “Yes.” Having attended church for only a few months, he was not exactly sure what it meant to be an elder. He knew all the missionaries were called “Elder,” and they were remarkable young men who dedicated their lives to God. If that was what being an elder meant, that was what he wanted to be.1

The following Sunday morning, just before Sunday School, President Seegmiller ordained Claudio to the office of elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. When he finished, he said, “Now we are going to prepare the sacrament and set up for Sunday School.”

Claudio was a little bewildered. Everything was happening so quickly, and he did not fully know what he was doing. But he followed the president’s instructions and performed his first priesthood responsibility.

That evening, during the branch’s sacrament meeting, President Seegmiller recruited Claudio’s help again, this time to interpret for him as he spoke to the Saints in English. Claudio was still learning English and had never interpreted before, but he agreed to try.2

At the start of the meeting, President Seegmiller asked the Saints to sustain Claudio’s ordination. To Claudio’s surprise, he understood President Seegmiller clearly, and he easily conveyed the words in Portuguese.

President Seegmiller then told the congregation about a letter he had written to the First Presidency one year earlier. It had expressed his fear that the Church in Brazil did not have enough worthy Portuguese-speaking men who could be ordained to the priesthood and support the branches. He now felt ashamed for having written the letter.

“Today Brother Claudio was ordained an elder,” he said. “Will you sustain him as the first Brazilian branch president of São Paulo?”

Claudio was stunned as he interpreted the words. He thought of his inexperience. “What knowledge do I have?” he wondered. He knew the story of Joseph Smith, but he had never read the Book of Mormon. The only thing he had to offer was enthusiasm for the restored gospel. Maybe that was all the Lord needed from him.

He looked out on the congregation and saw them raise their hands in support of his call. He felt honored. Maybe he didn’t know much, but he was willing to work.3

Claudio Dos Santos

Claudio’s responsibilities began immediately. He took charge of Sunday meetings and blessed the sacrament. A missionary had taught Claudio to read music, and he soon developed a repertoire of around twenty hymns on the organ so he could accompany the São Paulo Saints. At first, he had only one counselor to assist him, but the two men did their best to juggle work and family responsibilities as they ministered to Saints scattered throughout the enormous city.

Despite his inexperience, Claudio trusted that God had a purpose for calling him to lead the branch. “If it is the true Church, if there is a God in charge, He had to select someone,” he told himself. “He had to choose someone with enthusiasm that could receive authority and do the work.”4

Notes

  1. Santos, Memories of Claudio M. dos Santos, [2]; Woodworth, “Claudio Martins dos Santos,” 2; Santos, Interview, 2.

  2. Woodworth, “Claudio Martins dos Santos,” 2; Santos, Memories of Claudio M. dos Santos, [2]; Santos, Interview, 2; Claudio Martins dos Santos, Ordination Certificate, Jan. 30, 1944.

  3. Woodworth, “Claudio Martins dos Santos,” 2; Santos, Memories of Claudio M. dos Santos, [2]–[3]; Santos, Interview, 2, 5; William W. Seegmiller to First Presidency, Jan. 11, 194[3], Brazilian Mission Correspondence, CHL.

  4. Santos, Memories of Claudio M. dos Santos, [3]–[4]; Woodworth, “Claudio Martins dos Santos,” 2–3; Santos, Interview, 2–3, 5.