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Brasulista #168

Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #168
December 19, 2013

Feliz Natal! Boas Festas, tudo de bom e um Ano Novo iluminado e promissor para você e os seus. Com amor, Alf e Marcia Gunn

In this issue:

  • Sister Jeri Bangerter and President Elmo Turner each recuperating
    New Church statement on race and the priesthood
    Missionary note from Manaus
    Called to Serve – Jamaica, Porto Alegre, Portugal, Chile, and California
    Historical Brazil photos link
    Neeleman’s new book: “Tracks in the Amazon”
    Musing on missionary Portuguese, then and now

This and past issues of the Brasulista may be found on, a service provided as a service by Michael Leavitt of Orem, UT.


Sister Geri Bangerter, beloved Brazilian Mission mother, is recuperating from a broken hip resulting from a fall on December 8.  She is at a rehab center in American Fork, receiving some 4 hours of physical therapy per day, morning and afternoon.  She will turn 90 in March.  The family invites her missionaries to include her in their thoughts and prayers. Letters of encouragement and well wishes may be sent to 542 South Alpine Highway, Alpine UT 84004.

President C. Elmo Turner of the Brazilian South Mission and CTM São Paulo, is recuperating at a Riverton rehabilitation center following hospitalization for effects of a strep infection. Letters of encouragement and well wishes may be sent to him at 1616 West Cornerstone Way, South Jordan, UT 84095.



The Church website,, features a new statement concerning “Race and the Priesthood,” found under “topics” explaining LDS beliefs.  This well-footnoted and frank statement provides more details concerning the history of the issue and the milieu from which it proceeded.  It reaffirms the brotherhood of all men in the eyes of the Church, and celebrates the ongoing blessings since the Priesthood was made available to black African males 37 years ago.  Notably, it again disavows theories set forth to justify the restriction.

On a personal note, while locating former missionaries as I do, I became aware of some—at least one I can recall—who had left the Church decades ago, citing objection to the Church’s position on blacks and the priesthood.  Sadly, these persons are still out of the Church as far as I know, while hundreds of thousands of persons of African descent are members of the Church, many serving in leadership roles and in temples worldwide. (Google “Image of the 3rd Quorum of the Seventy” for example, or visit Brazil.) 


This from a Christmas note from Michael (BSM 63-65) and Margaret Dyal, who are serving in the Manaus Temple:  “Here in Brazil, we marvel at the blessing of being able to understand what the people say without understanding all the words they say!  A true miracle!

  • -    We catch rides many times with people or in buses since we don’t have a car.  Many times we have come within a hairs distance of an accident, taking our breath away, but we have been blessed with safety.  Driving here is a dangerous adventure!
  • -   Health and strength here is a miracle too.  We often eat with others and yet remain healthy.  A root canal was necessary and done under substandard conditions yet it worked without a problem.  Our health is a huge blessing!
  • -    Our Amazon jungle experience with Chelon was amazing.  Michael tripped and scraped/cut his arm badly while on a jungle hike.  Our Indian guide got liquid from a tree trunk and smeared in on his arm with his machete then chopped some bark and covered the area with that.  When it all fell off, the arm was completely healed and normal.  No signs of the injury.
  • -     Giving talks in Portuguese and being able to speak the language and being understood is truly a blessing…beyond our own ability.
  • -  Our temple work requires a lot of memorizing in Portuguese and it has all happened so we have been able to serve and do the work required.  So Blessed!
  • -   A young gal, 9 years old, befriended us when we arrived.  She has since been baptized and sits with us at church each Sunday.  And the list goes on.
  •      We cherish our time here in Brazil and love the people who are so helpful, generous and loving.”


Alf, I can't believe how much you do to keep people informed and connected.  I served in Brazil South Mission from '68-70.  I am headed for a PEF/Self Reliance mission in Jamaica on the 2nd of Dec.  The church is growing in all parts of the world, it seems.  Keep up the good work.  Love, Sister Marsha Teichert Kinghorn

Sister Nancy K. (Partridge) Plagge (BSM 65-66) writes:  “Your newsletter in February 2013 about the need for Perpetual Education Fund missionaries led me on a long journey.  In September I received a call to the Porto Alegre South mission working with the perpetual education fund to begin the latter part of February.  Thanks!  Nancy K Plagge  801-863-8596 LC 402 Academic Counselor, M.Ed.”

Hey Alf, This is Don Markham (Brazil Central 68-70).  My wife and I were originally called to work in the São Paulo Area Office in the Perpetual Education department.  We started our mission by working here at the church headquarters.  After waiting for over a year for a visa, we asked to be reassigned to Portugal.  We leave for Portugal next month.  The church is not sending senior couples to Brazil until the visa problem gets better.  There are over 1,200 young missionaries waiting for Brazilian visas.  There is a fantastic missionary opportunity to serve a Perpetual Education Fund Mission in Lisbon.  There is a need in January.  I did not know a thing about Portugal so I started checking.  Lisbon has the climate of San Diego.  The Church there is like the Church when we were in Brazil.  They are striving to build a temple and are working for that goal.  If there is interest, please call Don Markham at church headquarters  801 240-2839.  (

Dedicated missionaries C. Henry (BM 57-59) and Jean Davis, who toured the south of Brazil with our group in 2004, are called on another mission. “Dear Alf, Thank you so much for your reports and carefully prepared Brasulista. We appreciate the way you are encouraging missionary service. We have received another mission call, this time to Santiago, Chile to serve in the temple. Our first mission together was to Venezuela, but since then we have served two missions in Brazil and one in Washington D.C. Therefore our Spanish is so rusty that it feels like it has been buried under layers of Portuguese. We are excited for this new adventure. We start our mission with training in the Salt Lake Temple December 16th and will fly to Chile on the 26th of December. With love and thanks, Carmen Henry (Brazil 1957-1959) and Jean R. Davis
P.S. Five of our grandchildren are currently serving missions: Brazil, Spain, Japan, Texas (Spanish speaking), and Philippines.

Note:  Sister Olson (BM 60-62) of Holladay, UT and Ivins, UT, and her long-time friend, Sister Buss, have served missions in their retirement years, once in Texas and twice in New York. Sister Olson writes:  “Dear Family and Friends, A few months ago we learned of some new opportunities for missionary service for single sisters and decided to give it a try. Today we received a call to the California Oakland/San Francisco Mission.  We were asked to serve in the Oakland Family History Support and whatever else the Mission President asks us to do.  We will and report to the MTC on December 30 and serve for twelve months.  We look forward to the new challenges and hope we will have your prayers and support for the coming year.  Sister Buss and Sister Doral Olson (


From David Richardson:  Historical photos of Brazil, including the time some of us served:

Santos Dumont

TracksInTheAmazonItem:  See information about Rose and Gary Neeleman’s latest book, "Tracks in the Amazon,"


Ten years ago one of my missionary contemporaries, Sam Morrison (BM 61-63), was back in Brazil presiding over the Brazil Curitiba Mission, and one of his young missionaries asked him, “Do we speak Portuguese better nowadays than you missionaries did back then?”  Sam replied, “Oh, we spoke it better.”

Today his opinion may have changed.  “I am not sure I still believe it,” Sam reports. “Today’s missionaries work with more natives in Brazil.  A little over a third of our missionaries were natives and it grew later to over 50% last time I heard.  I believe the missionaries of yesteryear spent more time figuring out the rules in the grammar books and mastered some of the grammatical rules and conjugations better, but I may be wrong.”

There have always been missionaries who really learned to speak Portuguese well or exceptionally well.  Sam, was probably one of those during his first mission, and he later taught at the Language Training Mission.

When I arrived in the Brazilian South Mission in 1962 I didn’t speak the language at all.  They took an hour at the mission home in Curitiba to teach my group of new missionaries to say, “Bom dia!  Somos da Igreja.  Viemos visitar.  Podemos entrar?”  That night I was on a bus heading two states south and trying to remember what comes after “Bom dia.”

The following year (1963) language training in Portuguese began at Amanda Knight Hall, and, after a pause of three months, new missionaries arrived speaking quite a bit of Portuguese.  By then I loved the people of Brazil and spoke “missionary Portuguese” with some confidence.  By the end of my mission I was aware of some of the Elders who, according to the members, could really speak well. We all had to recognize the Lord’s enabling gift of language to the missionaries, especially when comparing our abilities to the new Peace Corps volunteers we met.

After the mission, one year teaching at the Language Training Mission and a couple of courses in Portuguese at BYU would help me learn more. And I learned that language aptitude and intelligence are two different things, both measured by tests.

Some 25 years after the mission I went back to Brazil for the first time to visit my brother (who now has lived there for over 40 years).  For two weeks before the trip I read Portuguese out loud to get the tongue going. When I arrived I was amazed that I could still speak the language.  I acknowledged and thanked the Lord for helping me to learn Portuguese the first time around and for helping me still be able to speak.  

Today, having had the privilege of many visits to Brazil, the language has only improved.  With this newsletter and correspondence, I have had opportunities to write in the language too—something I wouldn’t dare do right after my mission.  Still there is so much room for improvement.

But I am trying to write about today’s young missionaries, not myself. Two years ago I started tutoring a young Sister who was heading to Brazil, the daughter of a friend of mine.  This evolved into teaching Portuguese at the Tacoma Institute of Religion as a labor of love, to missionaries from my area who were sitting at home for five or six months waiting for visas before going to an MTC.  Usually my class was just a handful of highly-motivated missionaries and some other interested students.  I developed a 10-week course, one night a week for 2 hours, with the emphasis on good pronunciation, and 500 PowerPoint slides featuring culture and useful Brazil information.  After two lessons on how to pronounce the vowels, diphthongs and consonants, I would challenge the missionaries to memorize and recite 47 words in Portuguese from the first vision account, beginning with, “When the light rested upon me” and finishing with “This is my Beloved Son.  Hear him!”  Some students came back the next week and passed it off, in Portuguese!  Others took two weeks.  They were marvelous!

On week three or four we would start reading from A Liahona.  I recall when one young Sister read her paragraph and the other Elders in the class looked at her in amazement.  She was way good!  Now, a year and a half later, she is home from her mission.  Only one of her companions in Brazil was an American, but even they always spoke Portuguese one to another!  Today she Skypes with other companions who live in Brazil.  Her mother loves to hear her talking on the phone to Brazil with complete ease.  

One young man only attended two or three of my classes, due to work schedule conflicts, but I knew he was using Rosetta Stone or some program at home or had a tutor by phone.  I saw his dad recently and he told me his son bore his testimony in Portuguese—during his farewell sacrament meeting talk!

On my recent visit to my brother’s ward in Guarujá, I was very impressed with the two American Elders as they spoke the language beautifully.

My missionary students didn’t “graduate.”   They flew off.  I loved teaching them.

I guess it doesn’t matter who spoke better, the old-timers or the youngsters of today, but I expect many of these marvelous young missionaries will make the effort to retain their language ability as encouraged in Preach My Gospel.

On the same subject, I asked Lee Radebaugh (BSM 63-65) of Provo, UT, who presided over the Brazil Porto Alegre South mission from 2000-2003, for his comments.  He is currently serving in a branch presidency at the Provo MTC.  Lee responded:  “Remember that the old missionaries served for 2½ years, and that makes a huge difference. Even though we “90-day wonders” (as the old timers called us) were formally taught at the LTM for 3 months, there is no substitute for immersion.

“I find that today's missionaries really start to pick up the language quickly, but it is still rough. However, we only have them for 6 weeks, and that's not a lot of time. When we dropped from 9 to 6 weeks, I could tell a big difference. The 9-week missionaries had really progressed. The MTC people tell us that in the long run it doesn't make much difference, because the missionaries catch up once they get in the field.

“The main reason why the missionaries come to the MTC is to feel the Spirit and gain a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ and the atonement. The language is secondary. They CLEARLY grow spiritually in the MTC. The Spirit is pervasive, and they can feel it. In their departure interview, I ask them how they are different from the day they walked through the front door. They talk about obedience, feeling the Spirit, their testimonies, their love for the Savior, etc. Although they mention the language, they really understand how important the other things are, and that's what we hammer home. I wouldn't give up the MTC experience for anything.

Keep praying for visas. That's the biggest issue right now. Lee Radebaugh (

Boas festas!

Um abraço,  Alf Gunn (BSM 62-65)
Gig Harbor, WA  253-851-1099

"May your walls know joy; may every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility." - Mary Anne Radmacher

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