MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay The dream of many people for many decades became a reality March 18 as President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Montevideo Uruguay Temple, the 11th in South America.
"It is a day of significance, a day of glory, a day of miracles, a day of peace," were often repeated expressions by those attending the dedication.
In attendance were President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie; Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Kristen; Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy, president of the South America South Area, and his wife, Lona; Elder Keith Crockett of the Seventy, counselor in the area presidency, and his wife, Kathleen; and Elder Claudio Zivic, Area Authority Seventy, counselor in the area presidency, and his wife, Dina Noemi.
Deep appreciation for the temple was felt by members, said mission presidents, missionaries and pioneer members. Some 7,655 members attended the four dedicatory sessions.
Following the services, Elder Jensen observed: "If abundant tears of joy, radiant smiles, and loving hugs for us as their leaders can be interpreted as their depth of feeling and convictions for the Lord, the restored gospel and the blessings of the temple, the temple has made a great impact on the Uruguayan saints who attended the four dedicatory sessions.
"We, the area presidency who followed Presidency Hinckley into each session and when leaving the temple, noted that they were so anxious for a glimpse of the president that it was hard for them to leave.
"As we parted, hundreds gathered around the temple entrance to bid farewell. Many of them will be in attendance at the first ordinance sessions Monday morning."
Now, just one nation in South America Paraguay does not have a temple. However, a temple is under construction in that country.
Early members often told stories of traveling long distances to a temple, and of the sacrifices required. They said that as more and more Uruguayan members receive the blessings and ordinances of the temple, they will be blessed temporally and spiritually and the Church will become stronger.
"Now, the members in Uruguay do not have to travel long distances to Buenos Aires (Argentina), reducing the cost and possibility of accidents," said Elder Zivic.
He said that in 1999, the Uruguayan saints were moved by the tragic accident of a group traveling from Uruguay to the Buenos Aires temple; seven members were killed. This experience was vividly recalled by the members whose tears of sorrow were transformed to tears of joy, peace and faith.
President Huber Chineppe of the Rivera Uruguay Stake, who lost his 15-year-old son, Matias, said that upon "entering the celestial room, our feelings were very close to our loved ones who are not with us now in life; we will not forget them this day."
The Duarte family had been members of the Church for one year and were traveling to the temple for the first time. In the accident, their daughter Ana Gabriela, 14, died and her brother, Julio Cesar was gravely injured. Sister Mirta Da Rosa de Duarte said, "It was a very hard trial for us, but later we felt the spirit of the Comforter many times and we were strengthened by it. Today, we are in the temple at last, and this has been a sweet experience, and we have had an opportunity to be close to President Hinckley and feel that he is a representative of the Savior on this earth."
Her husband, Hugo I. Duarte, added, "We feel gratitude for the blessings we have; we feel that we will be an eternal family and that our daughter is waiting on the other side of the veil, where she is doing the work of the Lord."
Located within the Carrasco Ward, the Montevideo Uruguay Temple stands in a beautiful residential district east of the nation's capitol. The site has been owned by the Church since 1960, and today also houses two mission homes, a distribution center and a regional Church service center.
Uruguay is one of the smallest countries of South America with a population of 3.2 million people. The Uruguayan mission was the third created in South America, after Argentina and Brazil, and was organized in 1947 by President Frederick S. Williams. Today, there are 73,000 members in 15 stakes, six districts and two missions in this nation.
Members in 1978 began to attend the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple, which is more than 72 hours away by automobile. In 1986, the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple shortened the distance. Now, most members will be able to attend the temple and return home the same day. A new vigor has come to the Church in Uruguay with a future described in inspired words in various sessions of the dedication. The past pioneer struggles are now but a sweet memory of the legacy that has been passed down.
"This morning, in my mind, I thought of all of our loved ones that I have known since my baptism in 1949 the missionaries who taught me, those who ordained me to the priesthood, including Elder A. Theodore Tuttle and others who have died," said Cesar Guerra, one of the first members in Uruguay. "I am grateful for all of them, and their efforts that made possible the events of today. I have a special feeling also for those who we do not know, whose tithing made this temple possible."
Also in attendance was Sister Marne Tuttle, widow of Elder Tuttle who died in 1986. He was the first General Authority called to live in Montevideo, and directed missionary work in South America in 1961. Sister Tuttle reflected on their move to South America with seven children, and living here for four years.
"We did not know if we would ever see a temple here," she said. "But here I am with this glorious view of the temple with the flag waving over it. This has touched my heart deeply. My husband left part of his heart in South America; he had a great love for all members in all places."
Elder Keith Crockett also shared memories. "Some 46 years ago as a missionary in Uruguay, I directed a choir for the dedication of the first chapel, Deseret, and I remember what a thrill that was for me as a missionary and for the members. Now, as a member of the area presidency, I have this opportunity to participate in the dedication of this beautiful temple, and it is truly a great blessing in my life."
Elder Antonio Cappi, Area Authority Seventy and temple committee coordinator, said, "On this glorious day we hear the voice of the Spirit indicating that through the temple we can come closer to the Lord and be better people, better fathers and better husbands. We will be more humble, forgiving and more willing to give others that which is good that we have in our lives."