"Hello, wet Latter-day Saints!"
President Gordon B. Hinckley's comment at the groundbreaking ceremony at the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple Nov. 10, drew smiles from rain-drenched members.As President Hinckley began his remarks in the rain, he faced a sea of umbrellas across a field of mud. An estimated 3,000-4,000 members from the farthest reaches of this mountainous South American country of 8 million people gathered on a hillside at the Church's only temple site in Bolivia. Early that morning, a heavy rain began, ending a serious drought for the area, thereby creating a drenched setting for the outdoor ceremony.
Most of those gathered had come by bus. Some had trips upward of 20 hours. After arriving at the Cochabamba bus station, many walked or caught city buses to attend local sacrament meetings, held before the groundbreaking ceremony. Afterward, they walked or caught buses to the base of the mountains on the eastern side of the city. Most waited several hours in the rain.
Leaders viewing the congregation quickly decided to cut the service short. President Hinckley was the only speaker. He was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie, and by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy and president of the South America North Area conducted the meeting.
"Thank you for being here," President Hinckley said. "We know that many of you have come from very long distances to be here. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the great efforts you have made today as we break ground for the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple of the Church."
President Hinckley read a letter from a young mother who had grown up near the Guatemala City Temple and later was married in that sacred edifice. She expressed her deep satisfaction with the blessings of the temple. President Hinckley recommended her example and issued a challenge.
"Get a temple recommend now," he said. "Be worthy of a temple recommend now. If you are not worthy, get yourselves worthy. You won't be able to go to the temple here for at least two years. But let that temple recommend be a reminder of that to which you look forward.
"And we will come and dedicate this sacred building. And it will bless your lives. We will then be able to have a temple in the nation of Bolivia. You will no longer have to go all the way to Lima, Peru. What a marvelous and wonderful thing that will be, my brothers and sisters. May God bless you, every one.
"Please know of our great love for you and of our prayers in your behalf. We will look forward to seeing you in about two years when this magnificent building will be dedicated as the House of the Lord."
Before concluding his remarks, President Hinckley told the Bolivian Saints: "I leave my love and my blessing upon you, and pray that the Lord will keep you in the hollow of His hand, and guide and direct and bless and protect each one of you."
In his dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley said, "The rains are falling upon us and we regret that they have made necessary the shortening of this service, but we know they are bringing great blessings to the people of Cochabamba.
"We thank Thee for this beautiful site, and that the temple will stand here where it can be seen by the people of this great city. It will stand as a memorial to the testimony we have in our hearts that life is eternal and everlasting."
Members who attended the brief goundbreaking ceremony said afterward that neither the rain nor the shortness of the ceremony detracted from the significance of the prophet's visit.
Just prior to the groundbreaking ceremony, President Hinckley spoke at a missionary meeting in a nearby meetinghouse. "You are my companions and I am your companion in this great missionary service. The people of Bolivia soon will have all the privileges and blessings of any member any where in the world. How marvelous this will be. The temple ought to be completed in two years. You won't be here. Make the most of your time.
"We love you - please know that. We pray for you. You are one of the groups in all the world that is prayed for all the time. You can't afford to let your parents down, or your brothers and sisters, or your friends, nor the wards from which all of you come. God bless you with every blessing. You are His missionaries, ambassadors of the Church of Jesus Christ. Never forget that."
He concluded by issuing a special charge to the missionaries.
"Will you please see that every convert who comes into the Church while you are here on this mission is so taught that he or she will grow in faith, and the year after baptism he or she will be ready for a temple recommend. When this temple is complete, he or she will be ready to go to the House of the Lord. That won't be easy . . . but you can do it."
Because local Bolivian missionaries and their families from throughout the country both attended the groundbreaking ceremony, fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters were brought together with their missionaries. But because mission rules prohibit reunions, missionaries stayed on one side of the road while their families remained on the other. Tender looks were exchanged across the road.
In an interview Nov. 11, the day after President Hinckley's departure, Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy and president of the South America North Area reflected on the prophet's visit. President Hinckley's visit and message emphasizing temple worthiness "will add to everything we have been doing, and it will give them [Bolivian members] hope.
"The groundbreaking made tangible the promise of a temple. This is such a blessing for them. It makes their membership very real and solidifies their faith," said Elder Jensen. The temple was announced Jan. 21, 1995.
"Whenever we can get people under the blessings of the temple, maturity deepens. We can really see the impact of the temple on the maturity of the Saints in Lima, and throughout Peru. When we get Saints who not only receive their temple blessings, but return to do temple work, that's when the Church really solidifies its roots.
"It was phenomenal. The members came [to the groundbreaking] from La Paz, Orura, Tarija, Santa Cruz, Potosi - 8, 10, 12 hours by bus, they spent the whole time in the rain, and when it was over they turned around and went back."
Elder Jensen's wife, Lona, commented that many of the members who came from small wards in distant areas saw for the first time a large group of Latter-day Saints. "When they see how many other members of the Church there are in this country, that gives them a feeling of not being alone in their testimonies."