From Marcus Martins: I just read the first submission in your "Worldwide Saints" series, and here are a few items to add to the history contained there:
First, it should be noticed that the vast majority of the Brazilian population in the 1930's spoke Portuguese, and not German.
According to Mark Grover's interviews with some of those early church leaders (are you there, Mark?), the decision to start the missionary work in German was based on the false belief that the majority of the Brazilian population had African ancestry. By teaching the gospel in German, the missionaries would be restricted to the ethnic enclaves in southern Brazil, and would stay away of the major Brazilian cities.
In other words, the work could just as well have started among the Japanese in the states of Sao Paulo and Parana. But since there were members of the Church who had immigrated from Germany ...
Today (1997) there are few German-speaking members in Brazil. The places in which the Church started in the 1930's still have comparatively small LDS populations. In fact, the Church only really flourished in Brazil after the work began in Portuguese.
The major growth occurred after the Revelation on the Priesthood of 1978. But don't think that lots of Blacks joined the Church, because that has not occurred--so far. The vast majority of the Brazilian saints are officially white (although some Americans might disagree with their self-described racial background).
There are Brazilian regions with a larger percentage of Blacks than others, but even there it seems that most of the members either white or indian (i.e. with lamanite ancestry--which over the years missionaries have confused with African ancestry).
Enough of these sociological/statistical/historical details.
The most important thing for me, is to see the miracles happening in the lives of thousands of Brazilian Latter-day Saints because of their faith. In 1995 I visited my country to do research, and I spoke at a fireside in one of the stakes in my hometown, Rio de Janeiro. At that time several among the members were discouraged because they didn't feel they "measured up" to their counterparts abroad (pay close attention to this, "pioneer-trek buffs").
I told them at that time (and still feel this way today) that they were as valiant as those in the past. During the 1980's, to cite only one example, there had been economic turmoil in the country with inflation rates reaching 1200% a year. Yet, for the most part those saints paid their full tithing, attended the temple at great financial cost, served faithfully in many church callings, and exercised the gifts of the spirit while worshiping the Lord.
I knew they were very good members because I had been a Bishop to several of them and served the others in stake high councils and other capacities. I told them that in 1995 they might not have the faith to cross the great plains in uncomfortable wagons or on foot. However, those in 1855 might not have been able to face the challenges and predicaments of modern Brazilian life like that group was facing and overcoming.
So, each time period has its challenges, and I believe that we were all carefully prepared and endowed in the pre-mortal world with the skills and abilities to face those challenges that are unique to our times, not somebody else's.
At the end of that fireside many had tears in their eyes, and in essence they told me that that had been the first time they had looked upon themselves as having a noteworthy place in the contemporary history of the Church.
So, folks, forgive me for the long message, but I had to share with you this insight on WHO we are talking about. We are talking about people who isn't fully aware of how significant their lives are in this kingdom. (And I get every upset with the arrogance of those who travel abroad and then come home only to tell "horror stories" about the food, the water, insects, etc. etc.)
Marcus Helvecio T. A. Martins, Ph.D.