German-born Max Richard Zapf was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany in 1908 and immigrated to Brazil in 1913. Zapf is the first known member of the Church to live in Brazil.
When Roberto Lippelt and his wife, Augusta, arrived in Ipomeia, Brazil, from Germany in 1923, Augusta (a member since April 1923) began asking Church headquarters that teaching materials be sent to her. In response, South American Mission President Reinhold Stoof left Buenos Aires, Argentina, to visit Brazil. He returned in 1928 with missionary elders to teach the German-speaking people in that country. The first converts within Brazil joined the Church on April 14, 1929.
The first branch (small congregation) of the Church in Brazil was organized in Joinville on July 6, 1930. The city of São Paulo was opened to Church missionary work in 1935. A Brazilian mission, with headquarters in São Paulo, was created from the South American Mission in May 1935.
As a result of nationalism that took hold in Brazil starting in 1930, Portuguese became the national language. This marked a shift in Church policy of teaching the gospel in a person’s native language (which had been predominately German). The Book of Mormon was translated into Portuguese, and all missionary teaching and Church meetings in Brazil switched to Portuguese in 1938–39.
Conditions created by World War II impacted missionary work in many countries, including Brazil. The Church closed the Brazilian Mission during this war period.
Numerous Portuguese-speaking small branches continued to function throughout the mission area. When the missionaries began to return to Brazil in 1946, there were several congregations of Portuguese-speaking members waiting to welcome them.
Many missionaries had been involved in sports in the United States and then continued to participate in basketball in Brazil. The mission invited the national champion University of Utah basketball team to Brazil to play club teams and then invited the Brigham Young University basketball team the next year. These visiting basketball teams brought much public exposure to the Church.
In March 1959, the first meetinghouse constructed in Brazil (in Ipomeia) was ready for occupancy.
Brazil’s first stake (group of congregations) was organized in 1966 in São Paulo. Ten years later, Brazil had 10 stakes and a temple was announced for São Paulo. The temple was dedicated on October 30, 1978, by Church President Spencer W. Kimball.
In 1971, the Church initiated the seminary and institute programs in Brazil. These programs provided moral and spiritual training for youth. Saul Messias de Oliveira, president of the São Paulo South Stake, took over as full-time Church education administrator in 1972.
In 1977, the Church set up a regional office of its Presiding Bishopric in São Paulo to speed up communication with Salt Lake City. Most temporal activities of the Church were brought together in this office under the direction and control of Osiris G. Cabral, a 1958 convert to the Church.
Hélio R. Camargo, who served in the First Quorum of the Seventy (a leading council of the Church) from 1985 to 1990, was the first Brazilian to serve as a general authority.
On February 2, 1986, Brazil became the third country outside the United States to have 50 stakes. That number doubled to 100 by 1993 with the organization of the São Leopoldo Stake. In October of 1993, construction began on Brazil’s new missionary training center, the Church’s second largest.
Hundreds of thousands of Brazilian women who were members of the Church’s Relief Society were recognized by the Brazil Chamber of Deputies in a special session on March 20, 2001. This recognition came via a live television broadcast throughout Brazil, which praised and extended thanks to the Church and the Relief Society for service rendered to communities around the world.
60,000 members attended the celebration for the rededication of the São Paulo Brazil Temple on February 22, 2004, by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. This was the first temple built in South America and was originally dedicated in 1978.