SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR
The dedication on Aug. 21 of El Salvador's first temple was a memorable event for all the general officers who traveled here to participate. But for one in that group, the opening of a temple on Salvadoran soil marks a moment she once could not have imagined.
Sister Silvia H. Allred, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, is a native Salvadoran and a convert. She remembers when the Church in San Salvador was so small that the capital city's entire membership was found on the rolls of a single branch.
Today there are more than 100,000 members in El Salvador. Today there is a temple here, and Sister Allred — an elegant and articulate woman — is almost speechless.
"There are simply no words to explain how I am feeling," she said following the third and final dedicatory session. "It's a feeling of gratitude and love … this is a tender moment."
Young Silvia Henriquez joined the Church in 1959 when she was 15 and began attending San Salvador's one and only branch. Years later, she traveled to Mesa, Ariz., to visit what was then the nearest temple from her home in San Salvador.
The Church was so young and small in her homeland "that I would have never dreamed we would have a temple. It just seemed so far removed, so remote."
But the years passed and the Church did grow here. By the 1970s, she began entertaining the notion of a Salvadoran temple. The members had become a faithful people even as they endured troubled times.
Sister Allred believes such difficulties helped turned hearts to the gospel.
"When people are facing challenges — be they political or economical — they will seek out hope and better things. The gospel gives them that. It softens hearts and [helps] people search for God."
Many here, she added, are naturally drawn to the teachings of the Church.
"Salvadorans are spiritual people," she said. "They are believers."
As a counselor in the general Relief Society presidency, Sister Allred has strong interest in the female Latter-day Saints here. She has simple counsel for her fellow Salvadorans now that a temple is in their midst.
"Come frequently and enjoy the blessings of this temple," she said. "We have waited so long for this."
As she walked along the gardens outside the Church's newest temple with her husband, Brother Jeffry A. Allred, Sister Allred pondered the possibilities of this stunning edifice.
"I think this temple will be a symbol of peace and hope for all Salvadorans," she said.