Dr. Mark Grover, Harold B. Lee Library
During the months of April and May, 2010, a project to document the history of the LDS Church in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais, Brazil was undertaken. The project was directed by Mark L. Grover and financed by a Mentor’s Grant from Brigham Young University. Assisting in the project was a graduate student from Brigham Young University Portuguese Department, Sean Dahlin The help and assistance from area stake presidents and other Church leaders was appreciated and essential for the success of the project.
The primary task of the project was to visit cities in the state of Rio Grande do Sul where the Church had missionaries and a branch established prior to 1965. In each city early members of the Church were interviewed and documents and photographs digitized. In many instances we were able to interview the origin members of the Church. The expansion into many of the cities occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960. In other instances we were able to interview children who provided a history of their parent’s activity in the Church. Due to a request from the Church Archives we ended the trip by going to the city of Teresópolis, Rio de Janeiro where interviews were conducted. I then spent four days in Belo Horizonte interviewing and giving a fireside. Sean went to Recife, Pernambuco where he was able to interview an important early leader, João Dias. In total fifteen cities were visited, 97 members were interviewed, and over 2956 pages of documents and 2,380 photographs were digitized. The interviews will be transcribed and a copy of the transcript given to the interviewees.
We were able to collect many stories of faith and courage from the early members in this important region of the country. One special experience was to interview two patriarchs in the neighboring cities of Uruguaiana and Alegrete. Both were early members who had struggled economically but had remained faithful. They received their calls as Patriarchs at the same time and since neither had lived in a stake they had little concept of how a Patriarch functioned. They learned the methods of giving Patriarchal blessing by giving each other their blessings. It was touching to hear the story from both sides.
My last interview was with an important leader of the Church in Minas Gerais. It was a moving experience as he recounted an amazing conversion story and experiences with numerous General Authorities. I did not know that he had recently been diagnosed with cancer and passed away one month after the interview at the age of 65. His family was given a copy of the interview and has appreciated having the story of his life in the Church during this difficult time of grieving.
The documents and photographs will be prepared so that the items can be used by researchers. Copies of all interviews and digitized documents will be placed in the LDS Church Archives and the Brigham Young University Library where selected items will be made available to researchers. Access will conform to the regulations established by the Church Historical Archives. A copy of all materials will be given to the Brazil Area Historians Office.
The value of the project is immeasurable. The experience allowed for an increased understanding of the faith and work that resulted in the establishment of the Church in Rio Grande do Sul. Of great research potential was the digitizing of documents that in many cases would be lost. The conducting of the interviews, however, had an interesting effect on the members interviewed. In many cases the faith and spirit of the early members of the Church was validated in their minds because it was deemed important to register their stories. The production of a document including that interview will provide these early members and their families with written evidence of their story. The preservation of the historical evidence of faith and perseverance in a challenging environment demonstrates an appreciation for the faith of these pioneer members in Brazil.
The experience for us was very special. For Mark Grover it was a continuation of work he has been doing for more than 25 years. He has now finished a similar research in the four southern states in Brazil where the Church was established. More than 500 interviews have been conducted with Brazilian members. He is presently writing a book on the history of the Church in Brazil. For Sean it was a chance to learn the craft of the historian while at the same time gaining an appreciation for the faith of the early members of the Church. He will use the interviews in writing his thesis for the Portuguese Department. It was important in strengthening his testimony. He was changed by listening to the history of faith and dedication of these early members. We returned to our homes with greater testimonies and love for the Church and its members.
The following is a statistical report of our activities. The first chart is a summary of our activities including the number of persons interviewed and the number of pages digitized. The second chart is a list by city of members interviewed. We were appreciative for assistance from stake presidents in each city and are grateful for their kind and loving help in this project. We are particularly grateful to the Area Presidency for allowing us to do this project.