As Elder Dallin H. Oaks referenced in his 2016 October General Conference, Manoel Bezerra is a Brazilian cab driver who makes a habit of handing out copies of the Book of Mormon; especially when the Rio Summer Olympics were in town. He is passionate about missionary work because he remembers fondly his own conversion to the LDS Church in New York after honest prayer and meeting the missionaries. He now serves as a member of his stake’s high council.
Ashley Kewish of KSL News put a spot light on him when she was in Brazil for the Olympics. She was originally planning on interviewing an Area 70 of the Church, but when she found her cab driver to be LDS and a strong missionary, she knew she had a story to bring back to Utah.
Manoel always heard of people who had never heard of the Savior and after a brief car ride with a Chinese individual, he was determined to carry around copies of the Book of Mormon in every language possible so he could be ready. He put his card inside of every book so that anyone who receives it has a way to contact him with additional questions. He strives to let the spirit be his guide as he brings up the gospel with clients who ride in his cab and in his everyday life.
Manoel has had many experiences sharing the gospel as a cab driver. He’s always looking for a moment where he can bring up the gospel and share his testimony. Manoel has helped his family join the church. He’s held many callings that have strengthened his desire to serve and find the joy in each calling. He recognizes that he’s on the Lord’s errand to share the message of the gospel and he’s been blessed with the opportunity to share with so many different individuals.
The following is a rough transcript of the interview. Please excuse the many grammar mistakes or misspelled words. It is our intention to make the transcript available as soon as possible rather than perfect.
Kurt Francom (LS): Today we are headed down south to the beuatiful land of Brazil to Copa Cabana Beach just outside Rio De Jenero to talk to Manoel Bazerra. How are you, Manoel?
Manoel: I’m doing very well, sir! I’m doing well, Kurt.
LLLD: We are recording this at the beginning of September of 2016 so how is the weather down there in Rio De?
Manoel: It’s cloudy, it’s drizzling. You know it is not one of those gorgeous buatufil days. As I’m a cab driver, raining is a wonderful day because people have need for the cab.
LLLD: So you pray for rain as everyone else prays for sunshine?
Manoel: Well, I just let it come. When it comes I appreciate it.
LLLD: I bet! That’s fantastic! The original way I got in contact with you, I saw a story on KSL here in Utah and I am sure there were other news outlets that carried this story of you being a cab driver during the Olympics that just ended there a few weeks ago and sharing the gospel through sharing copies of the Book of Mormon. It was a wonderful experience. How was the experience of having the Olympics there?
Manoel: Oh it was fantastic, Kurt. It was really amazing seeing the whole world was here. So many people; different people, you know, they are all very excited and having fun and having a good time. We showed them a lot of hospitality and good manners, it was amazing! I really appreciated it.
LLLD: Was it quite busy for you then as a cab driver? Is that the busiest you have been in a while?
Manoel: It was very nice, it was very busy and especially because of my cab it is written “English Spoken” so people really reach and want, “Hey, come over!”
LLLD: They like to have the cab driver understand them?
Manoel: They prefer, yeah, because they can have a conversation. I show them the sights of the city. I tell the people of the history, you know it is a very interesting cab drive when you are a foreigner and the cab driver can communicate with you. It’s quite interesting. It’s very nice.
LLLD: Now I definitely want to talk about your efforts in sharing the gospel during the Olympics, but just generally speaking what organziation did the Church take down there to leverage the Olympics and hopefully share the gospel through the Olympics? Where there certain programs or things that yoru local leaders encouraged you to do as a membership body?
Manoel: I’m not aware of… we were told to, you know if we could, become volunteers. Lots of volunteers work on this event. I didn’t because I had to work. I don’t have in mind anything special that the Church leadership told us to do. Just be Mormons, be yourself.
LLLD: And obviously you worked a lot, you also shared the gospel a lot. Was it intentional or is this something that you always do outside of the Olympics. You always have copies of the Book of Mormon ready to be handed out?
Manoel: Let me tell you, I am a cab driver for less than 2 years. Brand new. I’m a baby cab driver, and I always heard about people that have never heard about the Savior. I hear about these people and I have never met one of them. One day in my cab a Chinese person came in, and as we were talking I understood the man had never heard about the Savior. I couldn’t believe it! He was in my back seat, and what could I do about it. I spoke to him about the statue, and he said yes I was there, but who is this guy? I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t have anything else to show him. From that moment on I decided I would have a Book of Mormon in Chinese because that is what … and I didn’t have it, so I went to the mission office and they got me Chinese and Japanese because they didn’t know the difference. And then we found out that one of them was written in Chinese. It started right there and then after that experience I have already given one Chinese. I gave one Book of Mormon in Chinese, but then I realized, what about Italian, and Spanish, and English, you know, and Portugese, and now I have 9 different languages in my cab. That’s the way it started.
LLLD: Can you list off all the 9 languages you have?
Manoel: Let’s try… Chinese, Japananese, Portugese, English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and we are missing one… maybe it is eight?
LLLD: Alright, that is pretty good, nonetheless. At some point you ahve given out a copy of each language?
Manoel: No, I havne’t given them all. I’ve never given one in Italian. I really don’t know.
LLLD: But nonetheless you are ready to go if they do speak both languages. So are you an independent contractor or do you have a contract through a certain cab company there?
Manoel: No, it’s not a company, I don’t want a cab. The medalillion is not mine, I just have permission to drive it. So it belongs to someone else, this guy is just an investor, so he bought the cab, he bought the medallion and he needed someone to driver for him.
LLLD: So there wouldn’t be any restrictions on you sharing the gospel. You are sort of yoru own boss to that extent?
Manoel: Yes, Yes, I am.
LLLD: Any specific story? You talk about the first one that influenced you to get the copies of the Chinese Book of Mormon. After that as you have shared copies of the Book of Mormon, any experiences stand out over others?
Manoel: Yes, some people I feel, I know that some people are ready, you know. They are searching, they are looking for it. And then they find me and somehow they say, they do something different inside my cab, I listen to classical music and I know how to talk a little bit. And usually cab drivers don’t.
Yeah, they take the money and that is it, and if they can make more money than it is better. You know if they can make another extra… it doesn’t happen in my cab. So you know, people see the difference, and people always ask, “How long have you been a cab driver?” You know and some people say, I came inside so upset and listening to the music, so I am always looking for, you know, where can I come in and give them this book.
LLLD: It sounds like, regardless if you share the specific principles of the gospel, nonetheless, as people come into your cab you just try to lighten their day and create a happy atmospher so that they can obviously be open to the Spirit if that opportunity gives itself, right?
Manoel: That’s what it is, exactly, you said it right.
LLLD: Have you ever stayed in touch with anybody that you have given a Book of Mormon to?
Manoel: My card is glued to the book, so I tell them, “Listen, if you need any other information, you know, here I am, this is my card, I glue it there. But nobody got back to me so far, nobody.
LLLD: I’m sure you’ve planted a seed and down the road they will have a phone number to call.
Manoel: That’s true.
LLLD: I remember from the KSL report that you are a convert to the gospel, is that right?
Manoel: 25 years ago it was in New York. I was living in New York and I had so many problems. In my own life and in my family’s life. One day I knelt down and I asked for help for the first time I prayed vocally and I said, “Listen, can’t you see that I need help. You got to help me.” And amazing enough one week from the day the Sisters knocked on my door and five minutes talking to those sisters I knew that was the answer to my life, and to my problems, and I just knew. I become very obedient to whatever they say, I would do. One month after that I was baptized and this is a nice story and I’m going to go ahead and say I was baptized July 7, 1991 very early in the morning, like 7 o’clock in the morning. I was baptized by Elder Merino and then we went to sacrament and after sacrament in priesthood I got the priesthood and i was ordained a priest. And then I got to baptize my kids’ mother at 5 o’clock in my evening. I have never seen this happen. I always tell the missionary I am a good man, and that I am doing this because this is amazing. I didn’t know what I was doing, exactly, but I knew I was baptizing and good enough… And President Child was the mission president, Sheldon F. Child participated with me in baptizing my kids’ mother. And then I had to leave for one week, one or two weeks, my brother went to visit me and there we were, so I said I won’t be here for two weeks and then I came back two weeks after that I parked my car, President Child parked his car ahead of mine and he come out of the car and says, “Brother Bezerra, how are you?” I coudln’t believe he knew my name. I didn’t know his name. That impressed me a lot. So it was lots of great experiences.
LLLD: And I believe President Child went on to become a 70, right?
Manoel: Yes, Yes, and he was in charge of Asia and the Phillipines, it’s wonderful.
LLLD: And I belive he was the Temple President of the Salt Lake Temple.
Manoel: Oh, good information, I didn’t know.
LLLD: Yeah, a good man. He’s the brother of the famous owner of the RC Willey stores thoughout Utah. And you converted to the gospel in 1991 and never looked back?
Manoel: Oh no, no, no, I used to say, Kurt, I had been to hell and I don’t want to go back there. I’m good here.
LLLD: You raised your family in the gospel? You said you had children?
Manoel: Yeah, I had 1 child by then, my oldest. She is 25 now. I had to get the gospel and the priesthood to raise her. She was the main reason for me to, Father knew that. And then we tried, you know, it’s completely different, your best and my best and someone else’s best. I made so many mistakes in the last 25 years, but I am still trying my best. My daughter is still active, my second daughter is not active right now, she doesn’t want to know anything about the Church. Their mother is also inactive and my son, I just ordained him a Teacher last Sunday. He just turned 14. He is going to the temple tonight. He’s always looking forward to going to the temple and temple trips.
LLLD: Since you were baptized what have been some of your favorite callings over the years that you have had?
Manoel: I can tell you that secretary, ward secretary.
LLLD: The Executive Secretary or clerk?
Manoel: Yeah, I’m sorry, secretary in portuguese. Ward Clerk, I did financial and membership. This is an amazing calling. Knowing the records of the members and helping them out.
(Manoel’s phone begins to ring and he has a brief conversation with Elder Pinto, an Area 70)
The KSL interview happened because Kewish, the sister Ashley Kewish was an hour an a half, at least, away from this brother that is calling me right now. He is our former stake president, Elder Pinto, he was called as an Area 70. So the interview should have been done with him and then I kept driving to take Kewish to him. But traffic made it impossible she said, “Well I can’t, I can’t drive an hour and a half there, and an hour and a half back. This is going to take too long. Are you LDS?” I said, “Yes, I’m LDS. So you going to going to do the interview?
LLLD: This is a book that tells about the history of the Church in Brazil. You should try reading it.
LLLD: I will definitely link to it so that others can check it out. It sounds like a great part of Church history.
LLLD: The last few questions Manoel… Just to help others that are striving to be better missionaries in their day-to-day life. I like how you mentioned you simply create a positive atmosphere where they feel happy in and where they want to be in. Any specific ways you start that conversation that leads to you handing them a Book of Mormon.
Manoel: You know, sometimes you will see families coming in… mom, daddy, the kids.That’s all we need, right? Good families, you know, sometimes we see people that you can feel and sense that they are not so well, they need some help. No, there is not any specific way, you just go by the Spirit. Most of the time it leads to the Spirit guides both of us, me and the passengers. The conversation moves to the principles, you know, how to live right, how to get away from this big problem that are everywhere. You know, I don’t have a technique.
LLLD: You just be yourself, and you are obviously very friendly and you don’t mind talking and being open to them sharing their personal feelings and hope things from there things turn into a discussion about the gospel. That’s inspiring.
Well Manoel, just a final question here, as you look back on the 25 years of being a member of the Church, and now sharing the gospel in such a fun and unique way, as you have shared the gospel how has that made you a better disciple of Jesus Christ?
Manoel: Good question.
You feel humble right, you feel you are part of the biggest defense to humanity. I’m just nothing, I’m just Mr. Nobody, but I have the priveledge of helping the Greatest of all. I don’t think He needs me, but I still want to help him, you know, being able to portray his message and to share… it’s… man, it’s amazing! The promise is all that the Father has, and I want it so much, all that he has is really everything. There is nothing left. It amazes me. I stand all amazed. I can say that.