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Cristo300Brasulista #204

Newsletter of the early Brazilian missions, #204
April 4, 2017

Bom dia!

In this issue:

Optimistic Elder D. Todd Christofferson visits Brazil (link)
“Sacred places of miracles,” the MTC’s, by President Dean R. Burgess
A new stake organized in Mozambique
Fruits of the Labor – Counting Blessings
Opening the Mission Letter
Story: The American missionary’s football
One perspective:  Understanding Brazil in 2017 (5-minute video links)

Optimistic Elder D. Todd Christofferson visits Brazil (link)

Item: “Elder D. Todd Christofferson assures trouble-weary Latter-day Saints in Brazil that the Lord will oversee a bright future in their nation . . . .”


“Sacred places of miracles,” the MTC’s, by President Dean R. Burgess

The Provo MTC – Dean R. Burgess, 2015-2017

Dean Burgess (BM 65-67) and his wife Annette recently completed their service as president of the Missionary Training Center Provo, and I asked him to comment on their experience there.  Brother Burgess previously presided over the Belo Horizonte Mission (97-00) and was a counselor in the Young Men general presidency.  Sister Burgess is a former member of the Young Women general board.  In the lobby of the MTC is an exact replica of the stone with the message that so influenced Elder David O. McKay while serving his mission in the United Kingdom.  The Burgesses exemplify its message:  “What-E'er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part.”  Congratulations to them on their service!

“Sister Burgess and I are grateful for the opportunity we had to serve as president of the Provo MTC for the past two years.  It was wonderful to be surrounded by thousands of faithful and dedicated young and “older” missionaries (senior couples including former Brazilian missionaries like yourselves).  As we presided over the MTC we were able to witness the miracle of how the Lord is preparing His young members of the Church to help in the hastening of His work.  The fifteen Missionary Training Centers around the world are sacred places of miracles, where missionaries are learning their ‘Missionary Purpose’ and the doctrine of Christ.  From daily experiences, I know for certain that the Lord watches over, cares for, and prepares His missionaries to become His servants.

“It was special to welcome the young native Brazilian sisters and elders who came to learn English, Japanese, and other foreign languages.  You were all part of the planting of gospel seeds many years ago, as you taught and baptized young converts in Brazil.  Now their grandchildren are being called to serve!  It has been a rich blessing for us to witness the fruits of those labors as the Lord calls His young people and others to go to all parts of the world to share and testify of Him and the message of the Restored Gospel.  I would encourage each of us to prepare ourselves to serve again during this marvelous time and season.” Dean R. Burgess, Brazilian Mission (65-67)

Alf’s note:  Also called to the MTC presidency with President Burgess were 1st Counselor Michael Bertasso (BM 69-71) and 2nd Counselor Phillip Trost (BM 70-72), both of whom had served under President George Oaks as young missionaries.  President Bertasso presided over the Brazil SP North Mission 05-08, and President Trost presided over the Portugal Lisbon North Mission 99-02.  All three of the presidency members found that as young missionaries they had all served at one time or another in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Meyer, living in the same apartment of Dona Maria. “It was exciting to learn all of this after we were called,” says Brother Burgess.  “It was fun and interesting, especially when the Brazilian General Authorities would come and spend time with us as a presidency and speak at the devotionals.”

A new stake organized in Mozambique

Mozambique - On March 19, 2017, under the direction of Elder Stan Ellis (BM 66-68) of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency, a second stake was created in Beira, Mozambique, named the Beira Mozambique Manga Stake.  Parabens!  To Elder Ellis and the Saints of Mozambique!  Elder Ellis has served as a General Authority Seventy since 2006.  He previously presided over the Brazil São Paulo North mission (99-02).  The current mission president in Mozambique is President Joni Koch, originally from Joinville, SC, Brazil.  (

Fruits of the Labor – Counting Blessings

Counting Blessings - In 1968 Sisters Marilyn Hartog and Jeanne Sorensen taught the gospel message to Francisco and Eulalia Amato in the Sao Paulo 2nd Ward (Bosque da Saude).  Eulalia and her son, Homero Salvador Amato, were baptized, and Francisco only many years later.  Today Sister Marilyn Hartog Porter and Jeanne Sorensen Willard are counting blessings as they see the faithful members of that family.  Homero Amato served a full time mission (BSM 70-72) married Sandra Puerta, (who served a mission in Uruguay/Paraguay 69-71) daughter of José Benjamin Puerta, now 93, and Diva Puerta .  Homero has served as an area seventy and president of the Brazil Salvador Mission (93-96), and he and Sandra are serving as couple missionaries at the Campinas Temple today.  Now their granddaughter, Sabrina Puerta Amato Fernandes, 19 years old on April 1st, daughter of their daughter Cláudia, received her missionary call to serve in the Nagoya - Japan mission starting May 25th 2017. Their son, Daniel Puerta Amato of Windermere, Florida, raised in São Paulo, is called to serve as a mission president in Peru, starting July 1st  2017.

Reflecting on the fruits of her missionary service, Sister Porter says, “Happiness is...Me!” ( (

Opening the Mission Letter

Note:  Back in the day, as a general practice, all missionaries were interviewed by a general authority for worthiness to serve a mission.  Remember that as you read these accounts of how missionaries received their mission calls.

Elder Ralph W. Thompson (BM 55-57) - Dear Alf,  You asked in the latest Brasulista about unusual mission call letters. Fall of 1954 I was working on the docks in San Francisco for the Southern Pacific Railroad, earning money to return to BYU for a third year. I was tired of going to school so broke, and there was a war on in Korea, so I quit my job and went to the Selective Service office to volunteer for the army, hoping to get a better deal than with the draft.  However, the quota had been filled for the month.  But the SPRR would not take me back without army discharge papers.  Bridges burned!  While vacationing in Utah my Uncle Rees asked me what my plans were.  I had none.  "Why don't you go on a mission?"  No one had ever mentioned a mission to me before . . . no Primary songs, etc.  The idea had been planted.  "I'll go; how do I go about it?"  "Call your bishop."

I returned home to San Mateo, California, on Thanksgiving Day.  Friday I was interviewed by my bishop.  Saturday I was interviewed by my stake president.  It was a stake conference weekend; at that time general authorities presided at all stake conferences, and on Sunday I was interviewed by Elder Spencer W. Kimball.  Tuesday I got my call in the mail; there had been no time to build suspense.  I was called to serve a mission--but which one?  Wednesday I received the letter that said I was called to Brazil and that I would speak Portuguese.  From decision to call took exactly one week!  I was pleased to see I was somewhat prepared: I had studied Latin for four years; I had saved enough money for $50 per month for the 30 months.  My Uncle Rees gathered another $15 or $20 from family; the Elders quorum sent $10.  I was one thrifty Elder.  At that time, the government allowed each LDS ward only one missionary per year.  I was fortunate to get that spot.  I had the usual farewell, complete with photo on the program.  Years later I learned that my future wife had moved into one of the wards in our area and so was present at my farewell. I actually met her the day I returned from my mission, at a Mutual function.  Elder Ralph W. Thompson (BM 55-57)  (

Francis MacKnight Gee (BM 56-57) - Hi Alf,    Reading your note about "opening the letter", I thought you might be interested in my wife's (Frances MacKnight, Brazil 56-57) experience with her mission call.  Frances, a fourth generation descendant of Southerners who went to Brazil after the Civil War, was born in Santa Barbara d'Oeste, near Campinas and Americana, where the "Confederados" settled.  She joined the church as a teenager and came to the USA with her family in 1953.  We met in San Diego in 1954, while I was serving with the Navy.  In January, 1956, Frances went to Brazil on what was to be a one month vacation. While there, she was asked to help with translation work in the Mission Home by President Asael T. Sorensen.  He initiated the request to have her called on a mission, but was denied because Frances was only 19 years old, had not been to the temple and had a boyfriend (me) at home.  Frances remained in Brazil, obviously wishing to serve a mission.  After Elder Henry D. Moyle returned from a visit to Brazil, and after President Sorensen had asked Frances to serve as his interpreter, I received a call from the Church, asking me what I would do if she was called on a mission and remained there for up to two years.  I replied that I would wait for her.  Her mission call was approved and President Sorensen personally presented Frances with her mission call letter.  Following her mission, we were married in the Los Angeles Temple in 1958 and raised a family of six children. Frances passed away eight years ago in June 2009.  I just thought you would enjoy reading of her unusual experience.  Warm Regards,  Daryl Gee (

Alf’s note:  The Gee’s served a mission together in Porto Alegre and then in the Washington DC Temple presidency in 1995.

Larry Storrs (BM 57-60) - Alf,  We still remember fondly our trip with you to the six temples in Brazil in 2012.  Here is my account of my mission call and the impact on my life.  Your mother opened your call with your permission; my mother opened my call without my permission, but I almost expected it.  I was working to make money for my mission when my call came in the mail in late 1957.  So when I got home my mother said:  “Guess where you are going?”  I guessed Hawaiian Islands first because my father had served a mission there in the 1920’s.  She said no.  I asked if it was in the United States or a foreign country.  She said it was a foreign country.  I began guessing European countries---England, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, etc.  She said no. I guessed Japan and she said no.  I think I starting guessing India and China even though we didn’t have missionaries there.  Then she gave me the letter signed by President David O. McKay calling me to serve in “the Brazilian Mission.”  I was shocked.  Brazil and Latin America were not even in my consciousness at that time. To get up to speed, I immediately contacted a brother in our ward who had served in Brazil and even sat in on some Portuguese classes at BYU for a few days.  Then I spent a few days in the Mission Home in Salt Lake before taking the railroad to New York, and flying to Brazil with no language training.  I had wonderful mission presidents in Brazil 1957-1960 when I served under President Asael T. Sorensen and President Wm. Grant Bangerter, but this is not the time or place to tell about my mission.  In short, I fell in love with Brazil and Brazilians and the rest of my education and life was devoted to Latin America.  After getting married and spending another year and a half in Brazil, I completed my dissertation on Brazil’s “independent” foreign policy, 1961-1964.  I taught Latin American politics at Vassar College and George Washington University for eight years, and spent the last 30 years of my career as a Specialist in Latin American Affairs in the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress.  So the call opened by my mother was truly life changing in many ways and I will always be grateful for that moment and calling.  Larry Storrs (

Clinton Lingren (BM 58-60) - Dear Alf,  I enjoy all of your emails and am thrilled with the progress in Brazil, the country we love. I am writing this email in response to your request for indicating unusual ways we may have received our mission calls and opened them. I lived in Idaho Falls and was interviewed in Blackfoot, Idaho, in August, 1958, by a new Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve after the Sunday Morning session of the first Stake Conference at which he had presided – Elder Gordon B. Hinckley. Two days later, on Tuesday, I received a telephone call from Western Union reading me a telegram calling to the Brazilian mission. They then delivered the paper copy of the telegram and I receive my official call with detailed instruction a few days later. The reason for the telegram was to alert me to the process of getting ready, including inoculations, immediately in order to report for my mission in about six weeks. I reported to the mission home in Salt Lake September 21 and was the only missionary that week that was going to Brazil. That was the first time in two and a half years that a lone missionary had arrived in our mission. As a result I arrived a day earlier than President Sorenson was expecting me. I found a stewardess who spoke English and she made a call to the mission home on Rua Itapeva and spoke with President Sorensen. She then gave me the telephone and President Sorensen told me he knew where in the airport I was standing and that I should not move from that spot until he arrive. That was an interesting beginning of a mission that has blessed me in unimaginable ways my entire life.  Keep up the great work. May the Lord bless you always.  Clinton Lingren, San Diego, CA (

Nancy Denhalter Cropper (BM 66-68) - After I graduated from college, I submitted mission papers in the summer.  I also was accepted to go to the Hill Cumorah Pageant with four busloads of girls from Utah, which was how they augmented Pageant casts in those days.  It was a wonderful Church history tour too.  On the last night of the Pageant I knew my call must be there.  Luckily, one of the missionaries in the office on the hill, which had a phone, gave me permission to call home.  My mother read me my call letter over the phone.  After I arrived back home at Salt Lake City I had three weeks to get ready before I entered the Mission Home in SLC, which came before the Language Training Mission in those days. It was quite a scramble, but preferable to the months-long wait for visas since then. Nancy Denhalter Cropper (

Ken Russon, Battle Ground, WA. (BM 59-62) - Dear Alf,  I have been an avid reader of your Brasulista since the beginning. Thank you for your service and keeping us informed. I received my call in a very peculiar way. Because of the use of our chapel as the Los Angeles Stake Center and several upcoming meeting, my Bishop phoned Salt Lake and Gordon B. Hinckley, who at that time was head of the Missionary Dept. for the Church, and asked if he could expedite the mission call information because they wanted to have my "Missionary Farewell" on the upcoming Sunday, only 4 days away.  I received my mission call via a Western Union Telegram (which I am looking at right now).  The Telegram reads..."Kenneth Russon Called Brazilian Mission Report Missionary Home November 16, Gordon B Hinckley." Dated 1959 Oct 14.  Upon reading the telegram, my mother exclaimed, "Oh no... That's the island were Castro is".  That's what any of us knew about Brazil.

Also, FYI, at the end of my mission Pres Bangerter told me that he had received a letter sent to all mission presidents that missionaries were not to travel home by boat anymore, but President Bangerter had already purchased the tickets and had many suitcases of his own for us to take home, so, my companion Elder Ed Moss and I were the last missionaries in the entire Church, as far as we know, to travel by ocean liner upon release from their mission (We started for home May 30, 1962 on an old Japanese freighter called the Argentina Maru that was loaded with live animals for a Zoo in China and it took almost 4 weeks from São Paulo to Long Beach, Calif, and it was not a luxury liner! Only 13 civilian passengers and the only entertainment we had was an old Scrabble board game). Ken Russon, Battle Ground, WA. (

Story: The American missionary’s football

Story:  The American football - Hi Alf,  I served in MBSPN 80-82 and one day in 1981 my parents had mailed me an American football.  In our house in São Jose dos Campos (we were in the Jardim Satelite branch at that time), we had three Americans and one Brazilian, and on one P-Day we decided to play some touch football out on the street in front of our house.  Within just a few minutes, the street was filled with young Brazilian children in utter amazement in watching the American missionaries play futebol americano.  They had seen it on TV, but never in person, so we started to invite some of them to play with us.  They were having the greatest time learning how to go out for passes, field goals, blocking, etc.  Right when they were really engaged, we said "Oh dang it.  We have to go now.  But if you can talk to your parents and ask to have us over to speak to them, we'll talk to them about our church then we'll play football with you afterwards."  They went home and BEGGED their parents to let us come over.  I don't remember the exact number, but we baptized several people because of that football.  So if anyone in your readership remembers being there at that time, I'd love to get in touch with them.  That was a wonderful time in my life.  Keep up the good work!  Jim Cline (

One perspective:  Understanding Brazil in 2017 (5-minute video links)

One perspective with some insights - One 5-minute perspective on Brazil’s experiment with a left-leaning government in recent years, by Felipe Moura Brasil, a Brazilian economist and TV journalist.  It is entitled “How Socialism Ruined My Country.”  The first link is his presentation in English. The second is in beautiful Portuguese.



That’s all folks!  Um abraço,  Alf Gunn    BSM 62-65  Gig Harbor, WA

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