SANTIAGO, Chile — Tens of thousands of Chilean members gathered inside Santiago's Monumental Stadium on March 11 to listen to the devotional address of President Gordon B. Hinckley. It was impressive in scope, yet also intimate and personal. The large gathering sitting beneath the late Chilean summer sun signaled a unified salute of respect and appreciation for President Hinckley and his efforts to be in Santiago. Alone, each individual's attendance seemed to express a singular "Thank you."
"I wondered whether I would be able to get here," said President Hinckley in his first public appearance since undergoing surgery for colon cancer. "I pondered over it. I prayed about it. I decided I would make the effort. I am so grateful that I have done so."
President Hinckley and several other Church leaders were seated for the devotional assembly on a temporary dais built near the top of the north section of the stadium that usually plays host to the country's most popular soccer club, Colo-Colo. A large choir seated in a section below the dais added a spiritual tone inside the normally raucous outdoor stadium. The Andes mountains could be seen from many areas of the venue.
President Hinckley appeared thinner than he had at his last major public appearance during the activities commemorating the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth in December. But he walked to the dais on his own power and spoke at the pulpit for about 10 minutes with a clear, strong voice. His familiar humor and personableness was evident as he thanked the many folks seated in the sun-drenched sections of the stadium who endured the heat to listen to his words. He told the people he loved, admired and respected them.
The news-savvy Church leader then alluded to the history that had been made in Chile earlier that day with the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet, the country's first female president.
"I congratulate her and pray that the Lord will bless her as she leads this great nation and that the people may be blessed with the blessings of freedom and peace and prosperity," President Hinckley said.
The 95-year-old Church president said he began traveling to Chile over four decades ago when there was only a handful of members and a few missionaries. "We now have 74 stakes of Zion, and 25 districts and nine missions."
With faith, the Church will continue to grow and prosper, he added. "Where we have thousands, we will have tens of thousands."
President Hinckley spoke of visiting Chile years before the announcement to build the Santiago Chile Temple. He remembered feeling that a small temple should be built in Chile. Later, while in Mexico, President Hinckley said he further developed the plan to build smaller temples.
"Out of those efforts have come scores and scores of temples across the world," President Hinckley said.
President Hinckley also spoke of the Santiago Chile Temple that he himself dedicated in 1983. "Now it has been beautified and enlarged and strengthened."
He challenged each of the members gathered in the stadium to become worthy to enter the temple. The youth should prepare to perform baptisms on behalf of the dead. Activity in the temple, President Hinckley said, "is the greatest blessing that can come to any couple. Don't put it off. If you need to repent, repent today and qualify to receive a temple recommend."
Blessings, he added, will come to Chile if the members live the commandments and pay their tithing.
"That's (the Lord's) promise — and it is my testimony that He keeps His promise."
Another speaker at the assembly, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve said he had spent much of the week visiting members and missionaries in Chile. He told President Hinckley that many prayers had been offered on the Church president's behalf.
"There was no doubt you would be here, because (the Chilean members) were praying for your safety and health," Elder Perry said.
Elder Perry spoke of President Hinckley's aptitude for construction and how he often discusses gospel principles by enlisting construction terms. A cornerstone, he continued, forms the foundation of a secure building. So it is with the securing cornerstones of one's own life.
Testimonies should be built upon four cornerstones of faith, Elder Perry said.
First cornerstone: a faith on Jesus Christ. "Indeed, He is our anchor; our chief cornerstone."
Second cornerstone: the First Vision of Joseph Smith. Through the boy Joseph's essential First Vision, faith and understanding of Deity was brought to a new era. Once again, mankind could know the nature of God.
"How important it is that we anchor ourselves in the glorious vision of Joseph Smith," Elder Perry said.
The third cornerstone: the Book of Mormon. Another testimony of Christ, the Book of Mormon is the most convincing truth available of the mission of Joseph Smith, Elder Perry said. "How important it is that we make a daily practice of reading that great book."
And the fourth cornerstone: the holy priesthood. Through Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the holy priesthood was again restored to the earth. The priesthood governs all things. It directs all things. It sustains all things, Elder Perry said.
Through the priesthood, "our commission is to represent (Christ) as we preach His gospel and perform His sacred ordinances."
Other speakers at the March 11 devotional included Elder Francisco Vinas, Elder Carl B. Pratt and Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the Seventy; Elder Oscar W. Chavez, an Area Seventy; and Elder Perry's wife, Sister Barbara D. Perry.
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