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Scott G Winterton, ©Scott G Winterton/Deseret News 2014
The Sousa family of Brazil, Carlos Eduardo de Sousa, Fatima Rodrigues de Silva Sousa, Antonio Sousa Neto, and friends Ludimila Pinto, Anna Carolina Russo and Dirce Almeida Furian pose inside the Conference Center Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, after listening to Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Seventy give his talk in their native language of Portuguese as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather for the 184th Semiannual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

Sitting in the LDS Conference Center Sunday afternoon among more than 20,000 faithful, Brazilian Fatima Rodrigues da Silva Sousa and her husband Antonio removed their translation headphones — and smiled.

The Sousas — attending their first general conference — didn't need a translator to know what Elder Carlos A. Godoy, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, was about to say.

Elder Godoy literally spoke their language, delivering his address in Portuguese, the language of Brazil and the 1.25 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who live there. His was among four sermons delivered at the 184th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the speakers' native languages instead of English — a first for the worldwide church.

"His talk was powerful," said Fatima, speaking with her son, Carlos Eduardo de Sousa, acting as translator. "I believe all of the Brazilians here (at general conference) felt that way."

Antonio, wearing a gray suit and red tie, was still grinning after the session ended. "I was very happy and joyful to hear an address in Portuguese," he said, quickly adding that hearing LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson in person was a particular highlight of his visit.

And Carlos, a fluent English speaker who has attended conference before without his parents, said hearing Elder Godoy speak in his native tongue "was the first time I felt the Atonement was worldwide and universal, but also personal."

Fulfilling a dream

For Fatima Sousa, the dream of visiting Salt Lake City was birthed in her heart 44 years ago, when at age 15 she first became acquainted with the LDS faith. As a young adult, she was baptized. Fatima wanted to marry in the church, which she did. She wanted to raise her children in the church, and she did that, too.

"But I never imagined being here," said Fatima, a secretary from Jundiaí, a city in the Brazilian state of São Paulo.

That desire to visit church headquarters was fulfilled when her son, Carlos, a human resources executive for ETIHAD Airlines' Brazilian group, organized the trip that brought her husband and two friends, Ana Carolina Cesar da Cunha Russo and Dirce Almeida Furian, to Salt Lake City.

"The years can never kill our dreams," Fatima said, her eyes moist and her smile evident.

Their visits come 85 years after the first Brazilian converts joined the LDS Church in 1929.

Spiritual journeys

Furian, a 66-year-old homemaker from the city of Campinas, wearing a white dress and a smile to match its brilliance, was glowing after hearing Elder Godoy's talk. She was equally excited just to be at the epicenter of her faith.

Furian, who joined the LDS Church 15 years ago after 36 years as a Baptist, believed she would come here the first time she saw a picture of the Salt Lake Temple: "One day, I'll be there," she told herself.

"Since then, I was working on the dream," Furian explained, with Carlos' translation. "I tried to come here last year, but the Lord's timing was different."

Her time Friday in the Salt Lake Temple, Furian said, was "a very emotional moment."

Asked why, with six LDS Temples in Brazil, coming to Salt Lake was particularly important, Fatima smiled and simply said, "This is the place!"

For Russo, an aspiring dermatologist, whose family was inactive for several years, coming to Salt Lake City was the culmination of a process that brought her family back into active membership.

She said excitedly that Elder Godoy's message "was just for me," her happiness still evident after the two-hour afternoon session.

Russo was born in Itajubá, a city in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. At one point, she said, her family became inactive, but her parents continued to teach LDS principles at home. Russo considered herself Mormon, although her connections to the church — which only has a branch in Itajubá — were tenuous at times.

After finishing her medical studies, Russo said, she faced a crisis of faith while dating someone who was involved with Spiritualism, a relatively common practice in Brazil. When she sought out the LDS Church in Jundiaí, she found an oasis in the midst of her personal trial, she said.

But church leaders could not find her baptismal records, which Russo believes may have been lost in a citywide flood in Itajubá years earlier. So she was rebaptized in March 2014, a move which led to her parents, her older brother and the brother's girlfriend, to commit to active church membership.

"In the six months after my baptism, my entire family returned to the church," Russo said.

Though only able to perform baptisms for the dead, Russo said the experience at the Salt Lake Temple strengthened her faith: "The church is real. This brought me a testimony I couldn't have had anywhere else; it solidified my testimony."

Email: mkellner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @Mark_Kellner