From a childhood on the streets of Santos, Brazil, where he scrabbled out spending
money as a street vendor and shoeshine boy, to the halls of management, to the ranks of the General
Authorities as an especial witness of Jesus Christ... such is the life journey of Elder Claudio Roberto
Mendes Costa of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Claudio R. M. Costa was born March 25, 1949 in Santos, Brazil to Nelson Mendes
Costa and his wife Luzia Tassar Simones. The elder Costa, an industrious upholsterer, but with meager
means of support, inculcated a strong work ethic in his son, and in early childhood young Claudio took
to the streets to supplement the family's income selling ice cream and shining shoes. By the time he
was seventeen, he had worked his way up from a part-time custodian of a department store to the full-time
As a twelve-year-old, Claudio met the missionaries, who were helping to build a
meetinghouse in the neighborhood. A friendship was struck as they invited him to play basketball with
the youth of the Church. Impressed with his new friends, young Claudio wanted the missionaries to meet
his family. As the family was taught the discussions, most of them joined the Church some five years
later. Ironically, it was young Claudio, the one who had brought the missionaries home, who held out.
At the age of seventeen, he left his job as store manager to join the military for the mandatory one-year
of service. It would be ten years before he returned to his home.
Claudio did not find military life to his liking, and on completing his obligation,
left the army to resume his quest to earn money. He moved to São Paulo, where he first found
employment in the mail room of the branch office of a bank. Within six years, he was managing the branch.
When he left the bank, it was to take over the management of five different companies. Three years later
he was financial director and administrative manager of each.
Meanwhile, his family had grown into faithful members of the church, his father
serving as ward mission leader. Thus, when Claudio returned home, he was fully immersed in the culture of
the Church. Shortly, he was immersed in a different manner as he entered the waters of baptism at the
age of twenty-seven.
After viewing the film, "Man's search for happiness," Claudio was troubled. His
life had been devoted to earning money, but was there something greater? He determined to pray concerning
the Prophet Joseph Smith. In an interview with a Church News reporter,
Elder Costa recounted, "I had a very spiritual experience; I don't talk about it because it is very
personal and sacred to me. The next morning I had a strong testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith." And
with that testimony, Claudio requested to be baptized that very day. "Because I received a strong
testimony, I have never been inactive for one second."
Claudio brought the same drive that had impelled him to sucess in the business
world to the Church. "I worked hard in the Church," he said. "I love to serve the people." It was while
serving as Young Adult Representative that he was brought into contact with Margareth Fernandes Margado,
also a young adult, but from São Paulo. The two began a correspondence which grew into a courtship. He moved to São Paulo and the couple were married July 4, 1978. Later they were sealed in the São Paulo Temple. Over the years, they would give birth to four children.
Now, with a wife and living in a new city, Claudio returned to the business world. He secured employment with a jewelry firm, then attended the Paulista Institute of Gems and Precious Metals where he learned the science of gemology and the art of diamond cutting. Thus prepared, when an opening for store manager became available, Claudio was one of sixty people who applied for the position. The owner, a Jewish gentleman, had visited Salt Lake City years earlier and had left impressed with the honesty and integrity of the Latter-day Saints. "I chose you because you are a Mormon," he told Claudio. Claudio remained with the firm another three years.
But if Claudio was firmly esconsed in his comfort zone, that was not where the Lord wanted him. After three years Claudio was offered full-time employment by the Church as Associate Area Manager for the Church Education System. Claudio did not hesitate to accept the new position, which carried an eighty percent reduction in pay! But the rewards of working for the Church were great. After working with the youth and young adults of the Church, he found that over one hundred and seventy of them had married in the temple.
"This is the most important to me," he said. "They are in the correct way of the Gospel. I am now seeing my students become bishops and stake presidents. It is the same experience the sons of Mosiah had, to see people after many years, and verify that they are in the way of the Gospel." As part of his duties with CES, Claudio taught goal setting in the Brazil Mission Training Center.
Now in a further ironic twist, in 1990 this man who had spent so much of his life in the pursuit of money was called to serve the Lord full-time without financial recompense whatsoever as the first President of the newly created Brazil Manaus Mission. This mission gave him responsibilty for northern Brazil which includes the basin of the Amazon River and the surrounding rain-forest. Elder Costa recounts the experience of flying over the rain-forest and looking down to see a clearing in which was built a small house hundreds of miles from any other structure, and the flooding realization that he was responsible for teaching the Gospel even to these so far removed from civilization.
Typical of the dificuties faced in opening a new mission was the city of Itacoatiara. "When it was opened," Elder Costa explained, we didn't have a single member there, absolutely no one. Today we have two branches, and soon these will be divided into four branches. The Church is now the second strongest church in the city. I believe it is possible tht everyone in this city of 75,000 will someday be a member of the Church."
But it was the growth of the missionaries themselves which most pleased Elder Costa. "They arrived as young men and young women and returned home as men and women prepared to be leaders in the Church, to get married, and to continue to live a good life. My missionaries are my good friends, and sometimes like my sons and daughters." After three years, Elder Costa was released from his duties as mission president in 1993.
With scarcely a year to rest, Elder Costa was called once again into full-time service to the Lord, this time in April of 1994, he would join the ranks of the General Authorities as he was sustained to a five-year call in the Second Quorum of the Seventy. But when his five-year term was ended, Elder Costa was not released. Instead, in April of 2001, he was called into an indefinite term of service in the First Quorum of the Seventy.
This was not to be the penultimate call for Elder Costas. On August 1, 2007, he was called into the Presidency of the Seventy. He was fomally sustained October 6 in the 177th Semi-annual General Conference of the Church and continues to serve at this writing.
Elder Costa served in the Presidency of the Seventy until 2011, when he was appointed president of the church's Brazil Area.