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Sacred edifice to 'change lives' of many in Spain

MADRID, Spain — The public open house of the Madrid Spain Temple commenced under sunny skies Feb. 20, and will continue through March 13. The temple will be dedicated March 19-21.

Representatives from all of Spain's 44 major television, radio and newspaper outlets, and government and political officials, community leaders and educators were hosted on special tours of the temple during two days prior to the public open house.

Leading the media and special guests during visits to the temple, with its white marble exterior, were all three members of the Europe West Area presidency: Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, area president; Elder Gene R. Cook, first counselor; and Elder F. Burton Howard, second counselor. All three are members of the Seventy. They were accompanied by their wives: Harriett Uchtdorf, Janelle Cook and Caroline Howard.

Elder Uchtdorf presented Jose Maria Alvarez Del Manzano, mayor of Madrid, with a small statue of the family.

Among prestigious visitors was Bartolome Vicens Fiol, personal confessor to the king of Spain. "He is as good a man as I have met and is certainly trying to reflect the love of Christ in all of his actions," Elder Cook said of the special guest. "He was very touched by the beauty of the temple and especially the spirit he felt therein. He remarked that to the best of his knowledge, he was the first official visitor sent years ago by the Vatican and received by the Church in Salt Lake City. He indicated he was treated with great love and kindness everywhere he went and was touched by the spirit of the members."

Some 7,000 Spanish, Portuguese and French members, their friends and interested neighbors visited the temple on the first day of the public open house. They also visited a stake center and Missionary Training Center that are part of the temple grounds complex. The stake center and Missionary Training Center, with their burnt-orange brick exteriors, blend with surrounding apartment buildings.

President Gordon B. Hinckley broke ground for the temple June 11, 1996, and construction was completed in November 1998.

A display and introductory film about the Church are features of the open house. Church leaders and missionaries are helping with hosting and directing traffic and answering questions outside the temple.

Typical comments from people exiting the temple were "elegant," "peaceful," and "unlike anything I've ever seen before."

Many people worked almost around the clock to help put everything in readiness for the open house.

The temple open house has been a means not only of bringing non-members to a greater awareness of the Church but also in reuniting long-time friends. Gilberto Baptista joined the Church in Portugal 24 years ago. He is responsible for the audio-visual operations at the open house. When he saw, unexpectedly, an old friend from Portugal, they embraced spontaneously with such joy that Brother Baptista said he realized the blessings of the temple extended across the European borders — country to country, brother to brother.

The president of a 600-member women's organization in Spain telephoned to make reservations to attend the open house. In making the reservations, she said, "I have one bus load coming already and will be bringing more. My daughter went to Utah to study and lived with a Mormon family. They have had such a wonderful influence on her and were so kind that I want to find out more about your Church."

Vicente Clemente, who is retired and lives in Alicante, Spain, has been a member of the Church for 26 years. He said that until now the highlight of his life was attending a session in the Salt Lake Temple. "I never thought I would live to see our own temple in Madrid," he declared. "It is incredible."

Spain Madrid Mission Pres. Steven R. Shallenberger noted that missionaries have heard many faith-promoting stories relating to the building of the temple in Madrid and the temple open house. He referred to one man who saw an article about the temple in a newspaper and then saw a newscast about it on television the next morning. Pres. Shallenberger said that the man commented, "Something made me want to see that temple." The man and his wife invited two neighbors to drive with them from Avila, an ancient walled city an hour-and-a-half away, to attend the open house. After they toured the temple, his wife asked how she could be baptized for her ancestors. The couple made an appointment for missionaries to teach the discussions.

The presence of the temple has played a powerful role in the reactivation of a member, Luis Torres, who had been less active for three years. His route as a truck driver often took him past the temple during its construction. He said his daughter was getting married and his son was preparing for a mission — both would be attending the Madrid temple. He has become active in Church again and is preparing to go to the temple and even serve therein.

Raymon Ike, a young track and field athlete from Nigeria who lives in Madrid perhaps expressed the feelings of the 30,000 members of the Church in Spain when he exclaimed, "What a glorious thing to have this temple! It will change the lives of many people in Spain."

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