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Cordoba Argentina Temple: All ready uplifting spirits, changing lives

CORDOBA, ARGENTINA

A few minutes after the third and final session of the May 17 dedication of the Cordoba Argentina Temple, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stepped out its front entrance.

The second counselor in the First Presidency was likely a bit tired. He had good reason. He had presided over each session and that morning’s traditional cornerstone ceremony. The night before he had offered words of loving counsel and support to about 1,000 young Latter-day Saints at a nearby cultural event. He knew a long flight back to Church headquarters awaited.

But President Uchtdorf did not appear to be a man anxious to get on his way. He walked slowly down the path that led to his waiting van. Frequently, he stopped to shake hands or offer a pat on the back of someone lined up along the path. He offered smiles to youngsters and encouraging words to older folks.

A fellowship had rested upon Cordoba’s new temple that afternoon and people seemed reluctant to leave — including President Uchtdorf. Finally, he reached the van. As he was about to step inside a reporter asked for his final thoughts on the day’s historic events.

“It was wonderful — the spirit could not have been better,” he said, fighting emotion. Then he added: “It felt like Elder Scott was here.”

Elder Scott is, of course, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The veteran Church leader has faced health challenges in recent weeks. He was unable to return to Cordoba for the opening of the temple, but he was found in the hearts and minds of many here during this weekend of dedication.

Elder Scott’s shepherding “footprint,” for example, can be easily traced here at the Church’s 145th temple. The local mission home borders the temple grounds. Fifty years ago, on the same plot where the current mission home stands, stood the mission home where President Richard G. Scott lived with his family and presided over the Argentina North Mission.

The Church in Cordoba (and across all of northern Argentina) was different then. There were no stakes, and North American missionaries generally led the districts scattered across the vast mission. The missionaries could not fathom a temple in Cordoba. They simply went about the work of searching for converts, one man and one woman at a time.

Counted among President Scott’s missionaries was young Elder D. Todd Christofferson, who spent part of his mission working in the mission office.

Decades later, Elder Christofferson would be reunited with his president as a fellow apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve. He assisted President Uchtdorf with the May 17 dedication of Argentina’s second temple. Elder Christofferson’s ecclesiastical duties have taken him across the globe, but this would be the first time in a half-century that he was back on Cordoban soil. (See accompanying report on page 7.)

Also participating in the Cordoba Argentina Temple dedication was Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and the executive director of the Church’s Temple Department. The South America South Area Presidency — Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, Elder Jorge R. Zeballos and Elder Francisco J. Vinas, all of the Seventy — also attended.

It’s autumn in Argentina, and members participating in the dedication — either in person at the temple or in meetinghouses across the country — were treated to pleasant, sunny weather.

During the traditional cornerstone ceremony at the beginning of the first session, President Uchtdorf noted that many Christians around the world were observing Ascension Day to commemorate Christ’s ascension into heaven 40 days after His Resurrection on Easter morning.

“There could not be a better day to have a temple dedication than Ascension Day because the temple is a connection — a bridge — between earth and heaven,” he said.

The Church’s newest temple, he added, is the house of the Lord “whom we know lived on this earth and blessed our lives because of His Atonement and because of His sacrifice.”

The dedication of the Cordoba temple is the latest chapter in Argentina’s rich Latter-day Saint history. In 1925, Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated Argentina and all of South America for the preaching of the gospel. He later prophesied that the continent would become a “power” in the Church.

Elder Ballard’s prophecy continues to be fulfilled. The Argentina Cordoba Temple is the 14th temple in operation in South America, with several more announced or under construction.

The lives of Argentine Latter-day Saints were forever changed in 1986 with the dedication and opening of the Buenos Aires temple. The members in Cordoba and neighboring communities to the north have come to love Argentina’s first temple and have, over the past three decades, made frequent trips to attend. But it wasn’t easy. Flights were costly and bus or car trips could take 10 hours or more.

They wept and rejoiced here when, on Oct. 4, 2008, President Thomas S. Monson announced in general conference plans to build the nation’s second temple in Cordoba.

“We’ve waited so long for this temple, it didn’t seem like it would ever really open,” said Grisilda Morena de Martinez, a member of the Nueva Cordoba Ward, Cordoba East Argentina Stake. “We watched the temple being built through every stage of construction.”

Others have also been watching, as evidenced by the almost 50,000 people who attended the temple open house in the weeks leading up to the temple dedication.

The open house guests were welcomed to a quiet place of worship ornate in carved exterior stone, inlaid marble flooring, intricate woodwork and art glass windows. The Cordoba temple is a good fit in this town of soccer-loving Argentines who treasure their country and their families. The 34,369-square foot, gray stone building is beautiful without being extravagant.

Cordoba member Christian Navarro has grown to love the Church’s newest temple. He understands well the life-changing spirit that President Uchtdorf described during his time at this sacred edifice.

“During the construction period I passed the temple every night and it always made me feel good,” he said. “But now that it is finished, I feel so blessed. The city has all ready changed. People know about the temple. They want to be around the temple.”

[email protected] @JNSwensen

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