Breaking ground, whether for a new crop of corn or a new temple, is an act of faith. And on Saturday, Aug. 18, some 2,000 Latter-day Saints gathered in East Tijuana to dedicate the site of a new temple and turn the soil again with hope.
Elder Benjamin De Hoyos of the Seventy and first counselor in the Mexico Area Presidency, presided at the gathering with second counselor, Elder Jose L. Alonso, also of the Seventy, directing. Meanwhile, like the pioneers of old, the LDS faithful stood or sat in the dusty desert sun, fanning themselves as they listened to testimonies, counsel and expressions of gratitude. Colorful umbrellas, to ward away the rays, sprouted here and there like wildflowers.
A robust choir sang "An Angel from on High" and "High on the Mountain Top" to set the proper tone for the day.
Dominga G. Sifuentes, who was baptized in 1964, saw the whole scene as the culmination of a lifetime of faith.
"I remember when the first chapel was built here," she said. "We had 30 members then. Now we have a temple. I've watched the Church grow and have seen many chapels constructed, but the temple brings a special air of peace and tranquility."
"We've seen in other Mexican cities where a temple has been built that there is a new found peace in the city itself," he said. "Not only in Mexico, but in other Latin American countries I've visited, a temple can be a real factor in bringing a sense of security and prosperity. And we feel certain much the same thing will happen here."
For the members, however, Elder Hernandez was quick to add that the temple will not be a call to peaceful relaxation, but a summons to action.
"For the Saints," he said, "this temple is a call to the work. The stakes are already organizing to get 300,000 new names for the temple roles."
Tijuana and its temple appear to be at the gateway of a new era.
In his remarks, Elder Alonso told about arriving in Tijuana as a young missionary and standing near the current temple site to take the measure of the town. He said he and his companions never imagined they were trodding on what would become sacred ground.
Elder Hernandez addressed the congregation, as did Sister Evelia De Hoyos, wife of Elder De Hoyos. She spoke through tears, pleading with the youth "not to do anything that will impede your ability to enter the temple and receive its blessings."
Elder De Hoyos then spoke briefly, bore testimony and offered the dedicatory prayer.
The opening prayer at the ground breaking was given by President Heriberto Sanchez Z., president of the Tijuana Insurgentes Mexico Stake. Sister Alma Obeso de Casillas from Mexicali offered the benediction.
During the 90-minute program, an artist's depiction of the new temple graced the stand. Elder De Hoyos told the Church News it bears a resemblance to the old Spanish Missions and colonial churches in the area for a reason.
"Those early Spanish friars were very valiant in their preaching and building," he said. "And today, we in Mexico are very comfortable with the style of those churches. The temple will be an emblem for the entire Tijuana community."
Set on Insurgentes Street, in the Insurgentes Ward and in the heart of the Insurgentes stake, the new temple is in a historic location for the Church here. It will also be a landmark — an ebeneezer of sorts — to show just how far the Church has come, how much the gospel has taken root in the fertile soil of Mexico. It is the 13th LDS temple in the country and also one of the most striking. One 14-year-old girl, looking at the picture of the temple after the groundbreaking, exclaimed, "This is where I hope to be married."
In Spanish, the word for "groundbreaking" is palada inicial — the "first shovelful."
The Saints in Tijuana are banking on the ceremony being the first of many shovelsful for constructing a better world.