Elder D Todd Christofferson dedicates the San Juan, Puerto Rico Temple

Elder D Todd Christofferson dedicates the San Juan, Puerto Rico Temple

Between tears of joy, smiles of gratitude, and warm Caribbean hugs of affection and brotherhood, thousands of members of the Church in Puerto Rico gathered this Sunday, January 15, for the dedication sessions of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple, held under the direction of Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who gave the dedicatory prayer.

Along with Elder Christofferson and his wife Katherine, other General Authorities participated, including Elder Benjamin De Hoyos and his wife Evelia, Elder Kevin R. Duncan – executive director of the Temple Department – and his wife Nancy, Elder Jorge M. Alvarado – first counselor in the Caribbean Area Presidency – and his wife Carilú, as well as Bishop W. Christopher Waddell – of the Presiding Bishopric – and his wife Carol.

The dedication ceremony was conducted in three sessions held at 9:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 3:00 pm. As is customary, the temple cornerstone laying ceremony was performed first, a tradition that has been maintained as an essential symbolic part in the construction and consecration of temples from ancient times to today. Regarding the traditional ceremony, Elder Christofferson explained:

“We are here for the purpose of sealing the cornerstone of the temple; although we do not have a cornerstone as such, it is a custom that we still keep today. With this, we are recognizing the role and place of Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of our faith and in the life of each one of us.'

The cornerstone ceremony usually occurs during the first dedication session of the temple and includes inspirational music by a special choir, a brief commentary by the presiding authority, and then the placement of some concrete on the edge of a capsule enclosed in the structure of the temple to introduce different objects of a historical nature.

“It is a waterproof metal box built for this occasion in which various representative objects of our faith and the Church in Puerto Rico are placed. On this occasion, we have included three volumes of the book Saints, copies of the book Hymns of the Church, a copy of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a triple combination of the Scriptures, an account of the history of the Church in Puerto Rico, the written testimony of a missionary who served in Puerto Rico, a text with the dedicatory prayer delivered by Elder D. Todd Christofferson , various digital files, copies of the Ensign and Liahona magazines featuring stories of the Saints in Puerto Rico, a copy of the book The House of the Lord by James E. Talmage , and a pamphlet with temple preparation instructions ”, reported Héctor Remigio Llanos, historian of the Church in Puerto Rico, during a ceremony to unveil these objects carried out by the Organizing Committee of the Open House and the Dedication of the Temple on Thursday, January 12 in preparation for the dedication.

During his participation in the dedication program on the significance of the temples, Elder Christofferson stated:

“By entering the temple, we leave the world temporarily. We leave our problems and challenges at the door and focus our minds on the things of God, on the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation. We refocus our thoughts and desires with a divine perspective.” Then, he added: “When we leave the temple, we notice that the problems and challenges that we left at the door are still there. We are forced to carry them again, they have not changed, but fortunately, the time we have spent in the temple has changed us. Our perspective is sure and more accurate. We begin to see that what seemed impossible, with the help of the Lord, can find a solution, and we have a greater certainty of His help.

For his part, Elder Jorge M. Alvarado, who is Puerto Rican, expressed his sentiments through tears of emotion at this historic event for the island of Puerto Rico:

“The power of the Lord is over this land and over this temple. The Spirit that is felt here is extraordinary and I have been able to feel the difference that there is when the Lord comes and accepts His House. It moves me to think of the blessings that the Lord has for the Saints on the island of Puerto Rico. I have been to several dedications and I have felt an incredibly spirit, but this day I have had a powerful feeling that the Lord is pleased with His people and that He is going to help them grow and prosper.”

“After my baptism, I thought about that day when I was going to enter the temple and it happened that a year and four months later, I served as a missionary and was able to go to the temple. So, I was wondering when a temple will be in Puerto Rico; I waited for forty years and the opportunity finally came. The feeling that filled us in there continues with us now being in the temple grounds. The experience we had was unique and we know these things are true.” Brother Rivera was overwhelmed with emotion that barely allowed him to articulate his words.

“Heavenly Father let me know once again that he loves us with all his heart. We were getting ready to go watch the broadcast in our stake and we got a call inviting us to come and participate inside the temple. Then, while we were seated, we were called to watch the ceremony live inside the celestial room, which was a great blessing for us. I know that our Heavenly Father loves us, listens to us, and answers our prayers in many ways. Not only were we able to see the ceremony inside the temple and greet an apostle of the Lord, but one of our grandchildren had the honor of accompanying him to place the cement on the cornerstone. Today, we have been greatly blessed,” Sister Lilly Rivera, his wife, added gratefully.

In order to provide a greater number of people the opportunity to participate in the dedication ceremony, Church leaders set up different facilities in the arrivals hall of the temple and in the five stake centers around the island, including in the Virgin Islands (St. Croix and St. Thomas) attended by some 2,122 Church members to participate remotely. Through this modality, temporarily, the meetinghouses became 'an extension of the temple,' as expressed by Héctor Álvarez, who together with his wife Amarilis Santiago served as event coordinators served as event coordinators for the open house and temple dedication for just over a year of preparation.

“It has been a very beautiful assignment that the Lord has given us, being day by day, week by week and month by month with very dedicated brothers who have done a great job, especially the sisters, who have given a very special touch to everything what has happened here, we have seen miracles in the process, we have felt something very special, the Lord has changed hearts and accomplished wonders in the people we have participated in, and that is our reward, for which we are extremely grateful,' affirmed the moved brother Alvarez.

“Coordinating all these efforts with twelve committees, with three weeks of open house and now the dedication, has been an arduous experience, but at the same time a very beautiful one. We have met many people and we have culminated in a glorious, emotional, and spiritual dedication that will now allow the Saints in Puerto Rico to perform the ordinances of exaltation for themselves and for their ancestors,” added his wife, Amarilis.

In addition to those present at the temple facility, thousands of other brethren from the rest of the country and from other neighboring islands that will belong to the temple district – including St. Croix and St. Thomas – watched the broadcast of each of the dedicatory sessions. Among them, Sister Lizette Román Collazo, from the Ponce IV Ward, who joined the Church 29 years ago and indicates that her main reason was to have an eternal family:

“For me, it is a great joy that we are celebrating the dedication of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple today, because it is something that we have all been waiting for a long time. Now, my greatest joy is knowing that the ordinances that we will be able to perform in this temple will serve to continue forming eternal families.”

Furthermore, in the days prior to the dedication, a group of pioneers of the Church in Puerto Rico met to remember historical moments of the beginnings of the Church in the country and the way in which the efforts made over the years have given put an end to this historic day. Such is the case of brother Héctor Alvarado Aponte, from the Santa Isabel branch, father of five children (some have served as missionaries), who describes his 43 years in the Church as 'the best years of my entire life' and expresses his satisfaction by indicating:

'I feel very happy that we can have a temple in our country, because that was our hope and now we will be able to more easily fulfill the responsibilities that we have towards our ancestors', referring to the vicarious work that is performed in the temples in favor of relatives who have died.

Despite the challenges that the island's inhabitants have gone through in recent years as a result of natural phenomena, the faith of the Puerto Rican saints is renewed by the advent of this sacred building, in which some have already been called to serve as temple workers, while others look forward to serving in the House of the Lord. This is how María Carrasco Caraballo tells it, who joined the Church 42 years ago, who has been 'praying for a temple to be built in our land', who is also grateful to be able to perform the ordinances of salvation for her ancestors. 'I am happy, excited and I hope in the Lord that I will have the opportunity to serve in His House for the rest of my life.'

Many other people linked to Puerto Rico for having previously served as missionaries or in leadership positions did not miss the opportunity to live this historic day for the country they love so much and traveled to be part of the ceremony. Among them, Clate W. Mask , Emeritus General Authority, who served as the first president of the Caribbean Area when it was organized in 2006 and someone who recounts many spiritual experiences that foreshadowed this glorious day:

“I remember when in 2006 I visited the country as area president, and we talked about one day there would be a temple in Puerto Rico, then we see that today we have strongly felt the Spirit of the Lord in his House, so the promise made decades ago is fulfilled in this wonderful day.'

For her part, Sister Paula Mask indicated that 'returning to Puerto Rico is like coming home to sing with the angels inside the temple, giving thanks to the Lord for this great blessing and privilege of finally having a temple on this beautiful island.'

Regarding the events of the dedication day, thousands of members of the Church have filled social networks with beautiful images of hugs between brothers, reunion with old friends and brothers in the faith and the feelings experienced during the sessions, as well as numerous expressions of gratitude to the Lord for the fulfilled promise of a temple in his country.

Elder Christofferson 's relationship with Puerto Rico is not new, but he has visited several times before and had served as its area president when the island was still in the North America Southeast Area prior to 2006. At the conclusion of the temple dedication, he commented :

“When participating in a temple dedication, one might think that it is an experience that one has already had and that one knows what to expect, however, almost infallibly, I get that feeling of pleasant surprise time after time, which comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. For example, the choirs are usually small, but when we sing the closing hymn The Spirit of God we always have the sense of other voices joining us, which is a powerful testimony to me that the Lord is aware of what happens at that moment, that He is there and accepts the offering.”

Regarding the particular experience of the dedication of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple, he expressed:

“What has impressed me the most today is that the Saints of Puerto Rico consider this temple as an offering before the Lord, which moved me. They pray and hope that the Lord will consider their offering as worthy of Him, and that He will receive it as the best they can offer. That attitude and feeling of presenting an offering by coming to the temple today and then returning to present additional offerings in the form of covenants for your ancestors will maintain a deeper spirituality than has ever existed among the Saints on this island, especially among those who come to the temple. It is something that I have not experienced before in other dedication ceremonies, so I sincerely believe that the Lord receives your offering and that it has been accepted by Him on this day.”

Operations start on Wednesday

Now dedicated, the temple will go into regular operation for personal ordinances beginning Wednesday, January 18, with endowment sessions on Wednesday and Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., as well as Friday and Saturday at 8: 00 am, 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 2:00 pm 'The vicarious ordinances will be available from February 8.'

Justo Casablanca, president of the temple, reported that they already have more than a dozen endowments and 5 sealings (marriage ceremonies) scheduled for the first day, in addition to baptisms throughout Saturday, expecting a great demand of people who will receive ordinances for the first time, in the first days of operation.