Ground broken for Caribbean's first temple

More than 4,000 Santo Dominican, Puerto Rican and Haitian members gathered Aug. 18 to witness the groundbreaking by Elder Richard G. Scott of the first temple in the Caribbean.

The site for the new temple is on a tree-covered, slightly elevated location in a southern, upscale area just a few minutes from the center of Santo Domingo. The site offers an expansive view of the Caribbean Sea to the south.Many of the Saints made a great effort to come to the groundbreaking ceremony, traveling winding roads from the mountains for three to five hours. They left early in the morning to participate at 4 p.m. in the groundbreaking ceremony, the beginning of fulfilling a dream and desire of the members to have a House of the Lord in the Dominican Republic. In most cases, their limited economic resources prevent them from leaving the country to obtain their temple blessings.

The new temple will be constructed of local material and will be similar to the St. Louis Missouri Temple, currently under construction. Local members expect the structure to be among the most beautiful buildings in the country. The construction will also include a residence for the temple president, visitor housing, a distribution center, parking areas and beautiful gardens with palm trees and Caribbean plants.

Accompanying Elder Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve, who gave an address and dedicated the site, were Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy, president of the North America Southeast Area, who also spoke, and Elder Dale E. Miller, area authority. Elder Miller conducted the ceremony and spoke briefly.

The invocation was given by Pres. Jose A. Martin Castro of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Stake, and the benediction by Pres. Miguel A. Lee Bruno of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic San Geronimo Stake. A choir of 150 members from Santo Domingo and Santiago stakes performed with quality and contributed to the spirit of the meeting.

Also in attendance and participating in the groundbreaking was Eduardo Selman, technology secretary in the cabinet of Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, who was sworn in just two days earlier.

Elder Scott explained to the congregation, which included some 600 full-time missionaries, that temples are special places where families will be able to make covenants with Heavenly Father in order to become eternal families. He also counseled them to resist temptations that would rob them of the opportunity to be sealed as a family.

Temples are different than meetinghouses, Elder Scott continued. While everyone is invited to attend the meetinghouse, only worthy members may participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple.

He invited all members of the congregation to imagine that they were with him in a private interview of worthiness. He explained the purpose of eternal marriage, and contrasted it with a worldly ceremony based on a contract, "till death do you part."

Elder Scott challenged members to have a temple recommend with them at the time of the temple dedication and keep it renewed from then on. He offered several suggestions.

These suggestions included:

Make Christ the center of your life.

Determine to follow His teachings.

Seek His will and make it your will.

Elder Scott invited the members to serve with all their hearts and be aware of and thankful for their blessings.

Elder Howard also gave teachings and counsel. He noted that family ties are stronger than any other relationships.

He pointed in the congregation to the large group of full-time missionaries. The missionaries had walked to the ceremony about three miles from a nearby meetinghouse where they had attended a countrywide, three-mission conference. They assembled on the east side of a rope barrier, across the way from many of family members missionaries from the Caribbean had not seen for a long time.

"Many of the parents strained to wave to the missionaries when they came on the site. Many parents, who had not seen their sons and daughters for some time, were anxious to reach them, but they could not because of the barrier that had been placed there for the ceremony," said Elder Howard.

He used this analogy to explain the purpose of temples. "How tragic it would be if, in the life after this, families were separated," he said. "The purpose of temples is to enable families and loved ones to live together. This cannot be done without the ordinances performed in the House of the Lord."

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