Ground broken for temple in Madrid

The Church observed twin milestones June 11 as President Gordon B. Hinckley became the first president of the Church to visit this land. During his historic visit, he broke ground for a new temple.

President Hinckley came to Spain twice in 1992 as a counselor in the First Presidency to select a temple site. He previously visited as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve to encourage members and guide the growth of the Church.During this visit, the first leg of a five-country European tour June 11-16, he attended a luncheon of local priesthood leaders, talked to missionaries of the Spain Madrid Mission, and spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. His trip to Spain came on the heels of an eight-nation tour through Asia May 16-June 2.

Accompanying President Hinckley were his wife, Marjorie; Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, June; Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Seventy and president of the Europe West Area and his wife, Geneal; and Elder Francisco J. Vinas, one of the newest Seventies and the first native of Spain to serve as a General Authority, and his wife, Cristina.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on a graded site in Mortalez, an area in the west part of Madrid. The elevated location is near dozens of brick high-rise apartments.

Members arrived early despite the wilting heat of Madrid's summer. More than 2,000 people stood beneath umbrellas in the open space below the speaker's stand.

Attending the groundbreaking ceremony were two prominent government officials, Dona Carmen Alvarez Arenas, vice president to the president of province of Madrid; and Alberto de la Hera, general director of religious affairs of the Spain Ministry of Justice. Jose Cardona, Evangelistic Churches Federation representative, and Daniel Basterra, magistrate of Spain, were also guests at the ceremony, as well as architects and representatives of the construction company.

"The temple is invested with a particular sanctity," said President Hinckley. "This is a happy day for me. I came here in 1992 to find a site where this temple may be built. After looking at many areas we felt that this would be an appropriate place.

"I hope we will be good neighbors to those who live around here. I promise you and the officials of Madrid that what is built here will be beautiful. We will build a temple, a stake center, and missionary training center, and some other facilities to accommodate the needs of our people. The structure will be beautiful and the ground will be beautiful. This will be a hallowed and sacred place."

He encouraged the members to begin immediately to set their "lives in order, to live the gospel of Jesus Christ more fully, to show an increase of love in our hearts, in our families and in all our associations. We are a Christian people who believe and teach the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The measure of our faithfulness will be the degree to which we live the gospel."

In the prayer of site dedication, he petitioned, "We have taken upon ourselves the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and in this House, we will someday renew and confirm and extend our covenants with God; to be His sons and daughters, truthful and true to the teachings of His Beloved Son and worthy of His love at all times and under all circumstances."

After the closing prayer, President Hinckley and others turned over the first shovelsful of soil, symbolic of beginning construction. After the officials, a young boy and young girl were each invited to come forward and take a turn on the shovels.

As the youngsters joyously prodded the dusty soil, a cheer rose from the crowd, and a seasoned photographer from the city's press corps shouted, "Bravo."

Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the visit came at the end of the groundbreaking. President Hinckley waved farewell and began to move toward his car when he stopped, returned and waved again and again to the congregation. Many were weeping when he left for his car.

Spain's first visit by the president of the Church evidently will leave a lasting impact.

In his remarks at the groundbreaking, Elder Oaks observed, "A great and holy building will be built on this site. When it is completed, it will bear the name: House of the Lord." This is the same name that was placed on the Temple of Solomon and all temples of the Church, he said.

"What does it mean? The Lord said if the people would build a house He would have a place to make Himself known to His people. There are hundreds of people here today who will realize the fulfillment of that promise. The Lord our God will manifest Himself to you in this temple. It is a holy place. It will bless you and its presence will bless this city and this nation."

Elder Larsen said the approximate two-year period of temple construction will also be "an epoch of preparation in our personal lives to enter into the House of the Lord to receive for ourselves, our families the blessings and covenants that pertain to eternal life."

He continued, "The construction of a temple is always accompanied by special blessings, not just for members, but blessings for the city, the community, and country - all the inhabitants who live in this part of the world."

Elder Vinas encouraged members to prepare their lives for the temple. "I give thanks to the Lord for giving me the opportunity to be here," he said. "My heart is filled with gratitude."

The new temple will serve Spain, Portugal and southern France. It has been well-received in Spain, where the first convert was baptized just 30 years ago. The Church now has some 28,000 members in four stakes, five missions and 16 districts.

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