114–116: Brazilian Mormonism

This three-part episode features a wonderful discussion about some of the peculiarities about the LDS Mormon experience inBrazil, as well as the many ways that LDS experience seems universal. In doing so, it introduces Antonio Trevisan and Marcello Jun de Oliveira, two Brazilians who are leading the ABEM–Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons (Brazilian Mormon Studies Association)—a fledgling group modeled somewhat after Sunstone as a similar effort to explore Brazilian Mormonism through historical inquiry, scholarship, and other mediums, including an annual conference. It also features a terrific young scholar moderator, Rolf Straubhaar, who served his mission to Brazil and has returned several times as a graduate student doing ethnographic work in comparative education.

In many ways, the first two parts of this episode will feel much like Mormon Stories episodes as we  explore the lives and faith journeys of our two panelists. The final part features an exploration of the Brazilian Mormon experience, paying close attention to those intersections between the wider, largely North American, church and the particularities of Brazilian culture. It touches on everything from congregational dynamics to doctrinal issues, and attitudes about sex to certain aspects of the Word of Wisdom. One other major focus is the reasons Brazilian Mormons drop out of the church, in which one factor is the lack of resources for these saints to discuss the issues that trouble them. For that reason, it’s with great admiration that we celebrate and advertise the ABEM and its blog, Vozes Mórmons.


Part 1. Introduction to topics, Antonio’s story, rise of the ABEM

Part 2. Marcello’s story

Part 3. Mormonism Brazilian style



Vozes Mórmons, the blog associated with ABEM (Associação Brasileira de Estudos Mórmons—or Brazilian Mormon Studies Association). In Portuguese. The part of the page where they describe ABEM in more depth

The Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference webpage. In English.

The 2013 conference call for proposals page. In Portuguese.

The blog is the real hub for the discussions, lots of comments typically. Most posts are by Marcello, Antonio, and Kent Larsen, with notable exceptions. The blog is always anxious for more submissions, of anything, really—they do posts on cultural items, short almost article-like reports on historical or scriptural issues, poetry, and more.

If anyone who listens to this podcast would like to contribute an item for the blog, send to:  BMSC10@gmail.com



25 comments for “114–116: Brazilian Mormonism

  1. Ryan Comins
    August 2, 2012 at 6:02 am

    I just finished listrening to the first part of the podcast. The church really is the same everywhere! It’s been interesting to learn that, while we generally see South America as a fairly strong area of the Church, even people there are going through periods of questioning, doubt, exploration and even some disaffection from the Church.
    I really hope you carry on with this series, and would especially love to see a podcast devoted to the church in my country (the UK).
    By the way, Dan, I sent you an email recently containing some thoughts and suggestions for possibilities of future podcasts (to mormonmatters@gmail.com). I wonder if you could just check that you’ve received it? It would be from ryancomins@gmail.com. I only ask because a couple of the emails I’ve sent recently don’t seem to have reached their destinations.

  2. August 2, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I disagree Ryan, the church is very different in different countries to reflect the differences of different cultures and I thought this pod cast illustrated that.

  3. LW
    August 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

     The church is the same everywhere because the manuals loaded with the same cultural crap or indoctrination were translated into these other languages. I think it is sad.

  4. Ryan Comins
    August 2, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Christopher, my comment was intended to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, though reading back I can see it doesn’t really come across that way. But to be perfectly honest, I do think the church is uniform in a lot of important ways, especially since all of our manuals and resources are centralised and uniform and mass produced in Salt Lake. I wish there was more cultural variation so that the church leadership doesn’t impose US cultural values on nations with cultures very different from the USA. However, I am happy to say that I think that as more and more local members are placed in positions of authority, we are beginning to see more significant cultural variation, which I am very glad about. I think the church needs to get rid of this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when producing materials for use in church settings.
    Having said that, if you’ll re-read my comment you’ll see that when I wrote it I had only listened to the first section. Having now listened to all three parts, I found that the rest of the podcast (particularly the third section) really fleshed out some of the more significant differences that exist between the church in Brazil and the Church in the US. However, I still think there needs to be more room made for cultural variation, and the differences which currently exist are really quite insignificant compared to the vast degree of uniformity. 

  5. Dad Primal
    August 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    I served a mission to Brazil in the 80’s and then later taught ESL in Japan in the 90’s. 

    In my Japanese ward, the Brazilians, Americans and New Zealanders formed the “gaijin” coalition. We were a tight knit group and the culture clash was ever so evident. I don’t think you get any more polar opposite than the cultures of Brazil and Japan…especially within the church. For example, among the single adults at the time we ‘gaijin” were shocked  when a single adult man and woman announced their engagement. We’d never even seen them together! Not sitting together in church, not talking together at activities…NOTHING!In the meantime a casual relationship had developed among two of the Brazilians who found each other attractive. They’d sit next to each other and caress each other’s back during sacrament meeting and be seen leaving together. SCANDALOUS! They were accused of fornication and all sorts of indiscretions… but they were mostly things that wouldn’t have caused a Brazilian, or even an American Mormon, to bat an eye. We Americans often found ourselves in the middle of such culture clashes.

    I’d also love to hear a podcast that contrasts, say a Provo UT or CA ward with a Manhattan ward. I grew up in CA but went to NYC for college in the mid 80’s. It was a shocking and yet a loving and exciting difference. I went from a very legalistic, patriarchal environment to once the was decidedly more liberal. For example, my home teaching companion was living with a woman in a NYC apartment as were several students and young professionals at the time. They kept temple recommends and ward callings. Anywhere else they would have been called in for discipline for the appearance of evil alone. There were openly gay members, professional wage earning women and instruments other than piano and organ played during sacrament meeting. And leaders were often creative folks rather than bankers and insurance executives. I loved that ward.

    • August 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      Dad (is that your real name?  Because if so that’s awesome),

      Awesome anecdote about the dating norms in Japan,
      and the culture clash between Brazilians and Japanese—I wonder what those ward
      members would think of one of the US singles wards where half the congregation
      is massaging each others’ backs! 
      Sometimes it seems, um, vigorous enough that you have to wonder how much
      sexual tension is getting worked out there…

      I hear you on there being some great material for
      podcasts comparing church culture in different regions of the same country, or
      profiling the church experience in some of the more multicultural or
      notoriously interesting parts of the US (in addition to Manhattan, maybe the
      Boston Cambridge ward, Bay Area wards, etc.). 
      Sometimes I wonder if Dan has a list of all the suggestions people give
      him on some giant poster or white board with a couple thousand possible podcasts
      waiting to happen on it, staring at him and keeping him up at night.  Dan, you deserve some mad props for juggling
      it all.

      • Dan Wotherspoon
        August 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

        No big whiteboard, but it’s a big list of topics in my “future episodes” computer file, for sure! Lots of fun. Will add these. Thanks!

        Since this one was released, a bit of momentum has picked up for one on church experience in Great Britain.

        • Ryan Comins
          August 7, 2012 at 5:33 am

          Speaking of which, have you finalised the panel for the GB episode yet? I sent you an email a few days ago (I’m not sure if you received it; again, there’s the possibility that it may have got lost in the murky waters of gmail; my email’s still playing up), but I was just wondering if you’d be able to give me some indication or hint of who you were considering (I guess I’m just curious). If you’re still considering, I have a couple ideas of people who might be quite good to have on a panel about British Mormonism. Email me?

  6. nielper
    August 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Great podcast!  I have a couple of questions.  I am in a Spanish ward in the USA and I have noticed some significant differences between our Spanish and English wards: 
    1. Home teaching and Visiting teaching. In our Spanish ward we have been visited about five (5!) times in the past 15 years.  We joined an English ward for a couple of years in 2004-2006 and we had home teachers and visiting teachers every month.  On the flip side, I went for about 6 years without being called as a visiting teacher in our Spanish ward, but in our English ward I was called to be a visiting teacher right away.  I wonder how successful is Home teaching and Visiting teaching in Brazil?2. Family size. The families in our Spanish ward tend to be much smaller than the families in the English wards.  In the Spanish ward most families have 2 or 3 children, but in the English wards many families have 4 or more children.  How does this look in Brazil?  I suspect the families are quite a bit smaller than the typical Utah Mormon family.  Once again, this is a very interesting podcast and a fascinating view of how the church plays out in places outside of the Mormon corridor. 

    • August 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm


      (1) it’s not succesful but strongly emphasized.Here in Brazil church leaders have a very, very strong emphasis on home/visiting teaching. Next to tithing and “modesty” I’d say it is one of the most frequent topics at church. It’s almost impossible to go to Sunday meetings and not hear it at least mentioned during a class or sacrament talk. Once in a while wards or stakes will give specific trainings on that too. The rank and file have some resistance to doing it. I am not sure about the reasons though.(2) In general, Mormon families here don’t tend to be very different in size from the average Brazilian family. Speaking from anecdotal evidence, it’s also common to see at church young couples – sealed in the temple, etc – in their 20’s that remain childless for some years.


    • Carmina
      August 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Nielper, I have attended both Spanish and English ward in USA and the visiting teaching and home teaching was as you described. In a rural area it was hard to travel with little kids to go and visit. Most of the times I had to provide rides and it took a lot of time to do.cebada i

  7. August 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    the less educated the country  the better the church does. it doesnt do well in sweden denmark or belguim 

  8. Paul Barker
    August 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    My favorite part was… “we are going to call you Brother Silva, because we don’t want to take the lord’s name in vane”

  9. M. L.
    August 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I was married to a Paulista, who served in Salvador. Understanding the Mormon experience in Brazil, especially the greater orthodoxy that exists in SP helped shed light on some of his behaviors and attitudes. (e.g. getting upset when I would dress more casually for church events, who he would sit with at church, the need to compulsively be involved in “everything”, getting upset with me when I would choose to attend community events over church events, especially when we were still YSA). Muita obrigado, Antonio, Marcello e Rolf. Estou ansioso para ler o Vozes Mormons. 

    I look forward to more podcast exploring the church internationally. 

  10. Brian T
    August 9, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I thought this was an interesting podcast. It was interesting to hear the guest’s story, but I’m not sure any significant differences were discovered between the church in brazil and the church in the US. What we got was a picture of the church through the lenses of 2 people, one of them a Marxist. From this podcast the only difference I could see between the church in the US and Brazil is that Brazilians are more likely to drink coffee. Everything else mentioned could have happened anywhere. I do think some insights on Brazilian culture were learn, but not necessarily Brazilian Mormonism.

    • August 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm

      Thanks for sharing your opinion, Brian–I agree that a lot of the social dynamics described in the podcast could be found in most places where the church exists, but I found it a bit odd that you say you didn’t hear anything beyond the use of coffee that seemed to be very “Brazilian.” I definitely feel there are a lot of places we could have gone in the third part of the podcast, which focused more predominantly on the way the church looks in Brazil, had we had the time, and hindsight is always 20/20 in spotting things you wish you had mentioned, but I was curious what you felt was lacking that could have provided some real insight into Brazilian Mormonism.

    • Luana
      August 21, 2012 at 10:21 am


  11. Marcio Versuti
    August 21, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Hi there and congratulations on this interesting initiative. I’m a 30-year-old Brazilian who’s been serving as a bishop for the last 4 years in the countryside São Paulo. I confirm some of the cultural attitudes described by the Brazilian participants of the show. However, I couldn’t help but notice you guys had 2 less-active members talking about how church is in Brazil. Maybe, next time, it’d be a good idea to have an active member sharing his/her views too. Some of the things said were biased (and sometimes recognized by the participants) and not necessarily are the reality in our country. Anyway, it’s always good to discuss the church and

    • Marcio Versuti
      August 21, 2012 at 7:21 am

      Sorry.. I meant “it’s always good to discuss the church. (period)” =)

    • Guilherme Kuceki
      January 19, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      I agree with you Marcio. If I am not wrong both were excommunicated from the church. Marcello is an active supporter of the gay marriage in the church.

  12. Carmina
    August 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Cebada is “barley” what Postum is made of. So it is the same as drinking Postum. Pero and other brands of the hot drink and it is OK to drink, It is NOT coffee, and it is actually great.

  13. Carmina
    August 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    I was baptized when I was a teenager in mid 80’s in Argentina)and I liked going to church. A lot of the boys, including my brother wore jeans and white shirts and ties. I wore sleeveless dresses at times and other fashions and I don’t remember ever hearing anything about it. However, there were “family dynasties” in the church that drove me crazy, until their kids got drunk, pregnant, divorced or left the church and then I realized they were just like the rest of us.

  14. September 24, 2012 at 9:01 am

    My bishop in Sweden did not allow me to drink Coke, while my bishop in Arizona told me I had to agree with George W Bush’s war-doctrine. (I could not imagine the opposite happen!!!) In both examples I had to cave to the bishops for my temple recommend…

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