Elder Jairo Mazzagardi: Seeds of service planted early in leader's life
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
Elder Jairo Mazzagardi may have joined the Church as an adult, but the seeds for his service as a General Authority were planted much earlier when he began acquiring a rock-solid work ethic at a very young age.
Sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy at April general conference, Elder Mazzagardi was 5 years old in 1952 when he got his first small job: helping to deliver government-issued formula supplements for infants in Itú, Brazil. Later, in Jundiaí, Brazil, he worked first as a shoeshine and then a delivery boy for a laundry service. By age 12, Elder Mazzagardi had already embarked upon a career in the meat business that would eventually span more than 40 years.
As a boy working in the meat industry for local businessman Carlos Ienne, Elder Mazzagardi met Mr. Ienne's youngest child and only daughter, Elizabeth. In time, romance blossomed, and they married in 1970.
The young couple initially made their home in New Jersey while Elder Mazzagardi worked for four years for Jewish butchers preparing kosher food. By their own account, the Mazzagardis were fairly happy as newlyweds. But deep down inside, they knew something was missing from their lives. They just didn't know what — at least not yet.
'Like quenching our thirst with a hose from a fire hydrant'
By 1978, the Mazzagardis again lived in their native Brazil. They knew about the Church, having heard the missionary discussions off and on for a couple of years, but possessed no firm desire to be baptized.
That all changed in October 1978 when a friend, Nei Tobias Garcia, invited the Mazzagardis to attend the open house for the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple. Both Elder and Sister Mazzagardi felt strong spiritual impressions during their tour of the temple.
"When my wife entered the temple baptistry," Elder Mazzagardi recalled, "right there on the first steps she said, 'This is the Church I want to be baptized in. This is it.'
"In the sealing room, when they spoke, my body was filled with the Spirit to know that was the place the family could be sealed together forever. That was a real turning point for my life."
The experiences in the temple that day spurred Elder and Sister Mazzagardi toward the waters of baptism. But before being baptized, they wanted to have the firm foundation of strong personal testimonies.
"I still had to experience my own testimony of the gospel," he said. "I started praying fervently. But it was not a common prayer — it was like I knew beforehand that I would have the answer. I trusted in the Lord in a way that I knew He would answer me. Not long after that, I had all the answers I needed and the sure knowledge to be baptized."
A spiritual feast commenced when Elder Mazzagardi received the answer to his prayers on a Sunday. He and his wife were baptized the next day, Oct. 31, 1978. Tuesday, they attended the dedication of the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple, and on Wednesday they heard President Spencer W. Kimball speak at an Area Conference.
"Spiritually, it was like quenching our thirst with a hose from a fire hydrant," Elder Mazzagardi mused.
Called to serve
The most memorable phone calls are often the ones least expected. Such was the case for Elder Mazzagardi when, in early 1990, he received a call out of the blue from President Thomas S. Monson, then second counselor in the First Presidency. President Monson phoned to extend to Elder Mazzagardi the call to open the new Salvador Brazil Mission.
Elder Mazzagardi was shocked. He had only been serving as a stake president since 1986, and less than 12 years had transpired since his own baptism. Despite his inward reservations, though, Elder Mazzagardi relied on faith and testimony to accept the new calling.
"I never dreamed that I would be a mission president," Elder Mazzagardi said. "I had been a stake president less than five years. Things were busy — and good — with our business. Accepting this call (meant) leaving everything behind."
In many ways, the call to be mission president represents a point of demarcation for Elder Mazzagardi. For a 43-year-old entrepreneur who joined the Church as an adult, it represented the first chance he ever had in his life to consistently dedicate significant chunks of time to serving the Lord — much less all his talents and energy.
"Until that point in my life, the only thing I did was work and work and work — even having many callings in the Church," he said. "But then (as a mission president) I could consecrate my time totally to the Lord.
"The experiences that came to my life at that time were just marvelous. I think I'm entitled to be here as a witness to the Lord because of that call. I had a testimony before, but it was then that I got to know the Lord … through sacred experiences."
Elder Mazzagardi will serve as the second counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency beginning in August. After finishing his time as mission president in 1993, he subsequently served as a regional representative, Area Seventy, temple sealer and, from 2006-09, president of the same Sao Paulo Brazil Temple where he and his wife so strongly felt the Spirit more than 30 years ago.
FAMILY: Born April 10, 1947, in Itú, Brazil, to Antonio Massagardi and Margarida Prestes Massagardi. (Elder Mazzagardi took the spelling of his family name from his grandfather.) Married Elizabeth Lenne on July 14, 1970; they joined the Church on Oct. 31, 1978, and were sealed in the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple on Nov. 7, 1979. Parents of three children: Jairo Jr. (Adriana), Alexandre (Camila), and Caroline; five grandchildren.
EDUCATION: Left school early to help support his family.
CAREER: Entrepreneur who spent more than 40 years in the meat industry and later owned a real estate company.
CHURCH SERVICE: Area Seventy; president of the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple from 2006-09; counselor in the Campinas Brazil Temple presidency; temple sealer; president of the Brazil Salvador Mission from 1990-93; regional representative; stake president; counselor in stake presidency; high councilor; bishop's counselor.
MILITARY SERVICE: Artillery sergeant in the Brazilian army from 1965-66.