Alf Gunn’s Brasulista
Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #114
May 22, 2009
Bom dia, gente!
In this issue:
Missionaries served God and country in WWII
Link to Mormon Times: A Missionary Love Story
A visit with Elder Claudio R. M. Costa of the Seventy
Called to Serve: Charles Walton to the Portugal Porto Mission
Recalling Horace Kearsley (BM 35-38)
Florianópolis: A PowerPoint photo collection
Rio by Air: A PowerPoint photo collection
Visiting President and Sister Turner
The Brazilian Mission song
Thanks to all who contributed to the reunion and purchased mission lapel pins
The following was written as a public affairs article to appear in our local Peninsula Gateway newspaper before Memorial Day:
Missionaries served God and country in WWII
Three years ago I stood at the foot of Brazil’s iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Rock overlooking Rio de Janeiro—a magnificent representation of the resurrected Christ, arms outstretched, the marks of atoning sacrifice in his hands.
In my tour group was Barlow Briggs, then a spry 86 years old, who had been a Mormon missionary in Brazil as a young man. He recalled how one Sunday after church he and his companion rode the Corcovado train up to admire the statue, erected only 10 years before. The next day, he said, bold newspaper headlines announced “WAR IN THE PACIFIC.” Pearl Harbor had been bombed that Sunday.
Barlow’s mission president William Seegmiller counseled his young American missionaries to return to the U.S. and serve their country. Many, many did just that—returning and enlisting in the armed forces. Barlow signed on for Marine Corps OCS and was commissioned a Naval Officer to train ship gun crews. Jim Imlay was a 2nd lieutenant in the Philippines. Ferrel Bybee would win two bronze battle stars in the Army and Davis Grant would serve in WWII and Korea. I don’t know many of their stories. Mostly just what a widow mentions to me or an obituary cites.
Norton Nixon served in both Europe and occupied Japan in the Army. Wayne Johnson fought in Italy along side Brazilian troops and retired a lieutenant colonel. Jim Asper served with the 10th Mountain Division and received the Brazilian Service Cross in 1951. Because he spoke Portuguese, Jack Turner was sent to Washington DC and then guarded President Roosevelt at Camp David. Franklin McKean was in occupied Japan and went on to become a 2-star general in the Army Reserves. Orson Pratt “Bud” Arnold enlisted in the Army Medical Corps and served 4 years.
What impresses me was the courage of these men to serve God and then country, some at the cost of their own lives. While Dee Wilson was a missionary he lost his brother in the war, but Dee went on to serve in the Merchant Marines.
Roger Rose went into France after D-Day with the Signal Corps. Major Calvin “Gail” Cragun flew 21 bombing missions as well as the Berlin Airlift and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Heber Stevenson was in Casablanca and followed Patton across Europe. Max Shirts and James Faust served in the same Army unit. Many went on to lives of service in family, church and community.
I honor these missionaries-turned-soldiers, most of them gone now.
In 1965, when I returned home after 2½ years of missionary service in Brazil, the U.S. was augmenting its military presence in Vietnam and the Church was again limiting mission calls in support of military manpower needs.
On the other hand, a former high school classmate of mine, turned Hippie, was living in a garage with his “old lady.” On learning I was a missionary, he told me, “Hey, you can get a CO!” He had to explain to me that CO meant a conscientious objector draft exemption. I didn’t think so. My people have served in every war America has fought.
Two years after my mission, college degree in hand, I thought perhaps I could fly for the Air Force. At the physical exam in Seattle I learned for the first time that I was color deficient, at least enough that I wouldn’t be flying. The examiner told me just how I had failed to correctly identify the red, green and white lights of the test. A couple months later a vital government bureau was hiring college grads with foreign language skills and they sent me to the same Sand Point Naval Station facility for my physical. This time I called the little lights just as the previous examiner had explained to me, and passed. And so began a 30-year government career, giving me a chance to serve my country in that way.
“When all is said and done,” said Church President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2003, “we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. . . . This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy.”
Barlow Briggs’ generation proved that. God bless those who so serve today.
Barlow Briggs can be reached through his daughter at email@example.com.
Another great Brazil mission story, previously published in the Brasulista in 2006, appeared in Mormon Times last week. I call it a missionary love story. See it at
A marvelous visit at Salt Lake City with Elder Claudio R. M. Costa of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Margareth, reminded me why you 2,000 ex-missionaries who receive this newsletter, including myself, have an enduring love for Brazil and for the saints of Brazil. The occasion of our meeting was a reunion of Elder and Sister Costa with my brother Ronald, visiting from São Paulo. Ronald and Elder Costa had married at the same time in Brazil and shared friendship and church experiences there many years ago. They hadn’t seen each other since 1990 when Elder and Sister Costa had left to preside over the newly formed Brazil Manaus Mission. Of course Ronald has followed Elder Costa’s service as a Seventy over the years. I was able to sit in on their 4-hour visit, including a gracious supper served by Sister Costa, and learn so much from them and hear strong testimonies not only of Elder Costa’s conversion but also of the inspired organization and ongoing revelation received by the Brethren to guide the restored Church today. Elder Costa gained his testimony at age 27 as he read Joseph Smith’s story and prayed about it, and from that day to this one, in all leadership positions he has held, his messages are based on the scriptures and on the words of the living apostles and prophets.
Here is an article that appeared in the February 2004 Ensign reporting some of the Church’s efforts in the South America North Area under Elder Costa’s leadership, which had previously also included delivery of 1,500 wheelchairs:
Lina Maria Moreno de Uribe, first lady of Colombia, and the South America North Area Presidency partnered in October 2003 to grant the gifts of seeing, hearing, and learning to some of Colombia’s needy children and adults through donations.
The Church donated funds to sponsor 60 corrective eye operations, 188 hearing aids, and 5,000 school desks. The donation is in partnership with three social programs sponsored by the first lady.
“We have made it possible for those who could not hear to hear, for those who could not see to see, and for those who did not have a desk to write on to have one. This is a great satisfaction because with people of good will we can change the world,” said Elder Claudio R. M. Costa of the Seventy, President of the South America North Area.
The first lady, accompanied by members of the Area Presidency and their wives, presented the donations at the Alhambra Ward meetinghouse in Bogotá, Colombia. More than 250 people were in attendance, among them Church and government leaders, diplomats, media representatives, and members of the community.
One of the beneficiaries was Cristián Salas Tafur, a man from a town more than 1,000 kilometers (621 mi) from Bogotá, who expressed gratitude for the Church’s donations.
The gathering marked the first time a first lady of Colombia has visited a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse. Her husband, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, later met with Elder Costa and Elder Roberto García, Area Authority Seventy and Second Counselor in the South America North Area Presidency, along with other local Church leaders, in his office.
“We know how hard Lina de Uribe works on behalf of high and noble causes, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined with her. “This labor of love reflects ‘Our Savior’s Love,’” Elder Costa said, referring to a hymn performed by the choir at the meeting.
The first lady of Colombia expressed gratitude to the Church for its support of her social programs. “Everything we are doing is worth doing,” she said.
Elder Costa presented the first lady with a quilt made by the Relief Society.
Called to Serve
Charles Wesley Walton (BrCentralMsn 69-71) and his wife Lizabeth will leave their Campbell, CA home next month to preside over the Portugal Porto Mission for the next three years. Parabens! to them and best wishes. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
President and Sister Turner
Last Monday David Marriott (BSM 62-65) and Glen Weeks (BSM 65-67) and my brother and I had a very nice visit with our mission president C. Elmo Turner and his lovely wife Lois at South Jordan. They have health challenges attendant to age—he uses a Zippie scooter to get to the nearby store and Jordan River Temple—but there was no diminishing their famous smiles that they wore when they presided over the BSM from 1964 to 1967. Send them your best wishes at email@example.com.
Recalling Horace Kearsley (BM 35-38)
Élder Dean A. Packham (BSM 64-66), currently a Public Affairs missionary at São Paulo, shares his remembrance of Horace Kearsley who passed away in April:
Growing up in Blackfoot, Idaho, I dreamed of one day sleeping somewhere other than above the family funeral home, walking the streets of a romantic European country as a missionary, and speaking the guttural language of mysterious WWII scientists—German. Part of my escape plan included taking two years of high school German from Horace Kearsley—followed by another year at Stanford. I was getting ready for Europe.
I remember one day in Mr. Kearsley’s class when he told us he’d learned the language as a missionary—not in the alps of Germany, but in the “jungles” of Brazil. I couldn’t believe it. I’d never even considered such a strange possibility: speaking German in South America!
His revelation was soon forgotten. I didn’t think of it again until three years later when I had been called, much to my surprise, to serve a mission in Southern Brazil. I was sitting on a threadbare sofa in a humble home in Ipomeia, Santa Catarina. As I sipped my heavily-sweetened Q-Suco, I gazed absent-mindedly at the collection of black-and-white missionary photos safely tucked under the glass that covered the living room table….and there was my high school German teacher, Mr. Kearsley. I was sitting on the same sofa where he had sat, and now speaking Portuguese—which he also had learned—and falling in love with the country and people he also came to love.
I was saddened to learn of his recent death. My heart goes out to Bessie Lou and Richard, my high school chums, and to the rest of the family who were in my stake there. (As with other youthful misconceptions, Blackfoot turned out to be a wonderful place to live and rear a family, and I returned to buy the funeral home and serve the community there as a funeral director for more than 30 years.) I had thought to be there one day to lay Brother Kearsley to his rest. He and Freda were devoted and faithful saints of God. Brazil has lost a good friend, and I will miss him.
Élder Dean A. Packham e Sister Ieda M. Packham
Missionários de Assuntos Públicos
A IGREJA DE JESUS CRISTO DOS SANTOS DOS ÚLTIMOS DIAS
Av. Prof. Francisco Morato, 2430
Caxingui - 05512-300 SÃO PAULO - SP
Fone: 11-3723-3331 ou 3723-3334
Cel: 11-8467-6664 ou 8353-3625
Casa: 11-3727-2094...ou VONAGE (801) 649-4304
Larry Stamps (BSM 66-68) of Martinsburg, WV sent me a fine PowerPoint slideshow of photos of Florianópolis, the beautiful island city off the coast of Santa Catarina where many of you served. If you would like him to send it to you just email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for it. I can’t send that much with this newsletter.
Pete Grimm (BNM 71-73) of Holladay, UT, sent me a slideshow of Rio from the air, which is marvelous. If you would like to see that one, email Pete at email@example.com and ask him to send you the PowerPoint of Rio.
Finding music for Elder Brinton
Dear Alf, I am looking for the music of a song written by a Brazilian missionary, before my time. The first line goes, ‘Brasil, bela terra do sul, lindas palmeiras, contra o ceu tão azul'. Do you know where I could get a copy of the music? I know the words, but am looking for the music. We are enjoying our second mission to Brazil as the area medical advisers to the Brazil Area very much.
Abracos, Élder Brinton, Consultor Médico da Área Brasil, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alfred, That was the mission song of the Brazilian Mission. It was written during President Bangerter’s time (1963). The words and arrangement are by our own Frederick Williams. Attached is a copy. Mark
Mark L. Grover
Latin American Studies Bibliographer
Brigham Young University
Telephone: (801) 422-2473
Alf’s note: Frederick G. Williams was spotted in Mozambique with Elder and Sister Cox as of May 2. Brother Williams has translated the works of the great poets of Brazil, Portugal and Mozambique into English and published beautiful books for at least Brazil and Portugal to date. ("Poetas do Brasil" and "Poetas de Portugal" with the poems and bios of the poets in Portuguese and English side-by-side. Find them at BYU Bookstore.)
Dear Alf and all, Glad you found the music. I, too, have a copy. One of my favorite memories of our recent mission at the MTC in São Paulo was playing my guitar and singing that song with President Wilford Cardon, who of course was a contemporary of Fred Williams and one of President Bangerter's missionaries. Wilford also has a great voice. Of course, I am partial to "Nossa Missao Brasileira do Sul" which is on the Mormon Melodaires album and which includes the words "Nao ha noite mais azul do que as noites do Rio Grande do Sul." Two great songs from two great missions. I am also the proud owner of personally signed copies of the two anthologies of poetry translated by Fred. We first met in São Paulo when the Melodaires were invited to tour the Brazilian Mission in 1962, and then afterward were fellow teachers at the Language Training Mission and members of a band that played dance music every Friday and Saturday night for several years. Lots of great connections. Jim Smith BSM 61-63
Alf’s note: Big thanks to all who contributed money to the Brazilian Missions reunion and to all of you who have ordered the Brazilian Missions lapel pins (see attached art) by mailing to my home. Pin sales should continue to generate revenue which goes into our account for the next reunion or expenses related to this project. Buy pins ($5 each) by sending your name, address, and a check to me at
3720 26th Avenue Court NW
Gig Harbor, WA 98335