For decades, the Church News has dispatched its reporters to all corners of the earth to cover the dedications of temples. It’s not cheap to staff dedicatory events happening thousands of miles away, but for our writers — and hopefully for our readers — it is money well spent. Each temple trip allows our reporters to witness, first-hand, the value of the Lord’s most sacred edifices in the lives of Latter-day Saints from Guatemala to Ghana — and in scores of countries in between.
In 1975 there were 16 temples in operation. Today, 40 years later, members across the globe worship in 148 temples. The 149th will open in a few weeks following the dedication of the Tijuana Mexico Temple. Temples now dot the planet in ever-growing numbers. But the dedication or rededication of a temple will never become commonplace. Each new temple remains cause for celebration. Each new temple marks a path to salvation for the tens of thousands of people living in the new temple district.
The accounts of members making staggering sacrifices to worship in the temple have become staples of the Church News and other Church publications. Here are a few examples:
On the day the Merida Mexico Temple was dedicated in 2000, Sister Celia Carillo de Torres’ thoughts turned to many of her fellow Latter-day Saints from the Yucatan Peninsula who had long proven their willingness to give all to be in the temple. She shared memories of temple trips to Mesa, Arizona, aboard rat-infested trains and the terrifying moments in the aftermath of a temple-bound bus accident.
In 1965, faithful Japanese members set out to raise money for their nation’s first organized temple trip. They put together a local choir and recorded an album of Church hymns that they sold to raise money to go to the Laie Hawaii Temple. Others pooled earnings from sales of homemade pearl jewelry. Their devotion was rewarded 15 years later when President Spencer W. Kimball dedicated their nation’s first temple, the Tokyo Japan Temple.
In 2001, about 140 Peruvian members from the remote city of Iquitos accepted a divine challenge to be sealed to their families for eternity in the temple. Iquitos sits on the banks of the Amazon River in northeastern Peru, separated from the rest of the country by some of the world’s largest waterways and the Andes Mountains to the west. Traveling to the temple in Lima via air was expensive and, for most of the members, not an option.
Still, they resolved to be obedient and claim their temple blessings. Under the guidance of local leaders, the members embarked on the first full-fledged temple trip from Iquitos. They spent several days traveling west on boats on the mighty Amazon and Maranon rivers before climbing aboard buses that would ascend the treacherous dirt roads snaking high into the Andes. After a week of exhausting travel, the Iquitos members arrived in Lima. “The Israelites arriving in the promised land could not have had more euphoric looks on their faces than these people from Iquitos arriving at the temple,” said J. Marlan Walker, the president of the Lima Peru Temple in 2001.
Latter-day Saints in western Africa once had to travel to South Africa or England to worship and serve in the temple. This presented an impossibility for most of the western African members. Still, they remained faithful, obtained and retained their temple recommends and then waited for the day when a temple would be within their reach. On Jan. 11, 2004, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Accra Ghana Temple. On the first day the temple was open for members to attend it, Doris Sakiua Aidoo arrived several hours early and took a seat on a bench facing the new temple. “We wanted to just sit and look at the temple,” she told a Church News writer. “We wanted to see the beautiful temple. We are so happy to be here.”
In an interview with the Liahona magazine, Elder Adhemar Damiani of the Seventy spoke of sacrifice and the temple. For many years, he worked in the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple where he witnessed many families arriving to be sealed. “I remember one family who had traveled for three days to get to the temple,” he said. The father was embarrassed that only two of his six children had shoes to wear, four had only sandals. “He knew that coming to the temple was more important than having shoes. It was a wonderful experience to see this beautiful family sealed together in the temple.”
Then Elder Damiani offered this counsel: “You [too] can make a difference by making sacrifices. You can give up some of your free time to help others. You can work hard to do well in school and reach your goals. You can pay tithing to help temples be built and pay a fast offering to help poor people have food to eat.”
President Thomas S. Monson has played an essential, shepherding role over the past two decades of temple building. Since 2000 alone, he has presided over 20 temple dedications. In general conference last April he called the blessings of the temple “priceless.” “One for which I am grateful every day of my life is that which my beloved wife, Frances, and I received as we knelt at a sacred altar and made covenants binding us together for all eternity. There is no blessing more precious to me than the peace and comfort I receive from the knowledge I have that she and I will be together again. May our Heavenly Father bless us that we may have the spirit of temple worship, that we may be obedient to His commandments, and that we may follow carefully the steps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”