SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR
Not long after President Walter R. Petersen arrived here to begin his duties as president of the San Salvador El Salvador Temple, he met the 7-year-old son of a local bishop.
The little boy told him he would soon be baptized and that he also planned to serve a mission. Then the youngster looked at the temple president and in a remarkably authoritative voice announced: "And when I'm 12, I'm going to the temple to do baptisms."
That declaration of devotion only fortified President Petersen's conviction that the Salvadoran people were ready for a temple of their own.
On Aug. 21, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, presided over the dedication of the San Salvador El Salvador Temple. Each of the three dedicatory sessions signaled a new day of opportunity and responsibility for the more than 100,000 Latter-day Saints living in Central America's smallest country.
Now the Salvadoran members have a temple in their own land. The edifice features lush gardens and beautifully crafted glass, stone and interior woodwork. Folks both in and outside the Church are calling the new temple a local treasure.
"It is a remarkable building," said President Eyring moments after the final dedicatory session. "And the Spirit was so evident that it's hard to adequately describe."
President Eyring was joined at the dedication by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve, along with Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, and Elders Enrique R. Falabella, Elder James B. Martino and Elder Carlos H. Amado of the Seventy and members of the Central America Area Presidency.
Sister Silvia H. Allred, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and a native Salvadoran, also participated in historic event.
The El Salvador temple becomes the Church's 135th temple in operation and the fourth in Central America. A second temple in Guatemala is scheduled to be dedicated later in the year and the first in Honduras is under construction.
For Rosa Solis, a temple in El Salvador is a dream she admits she never entertained when she was baptized in 1959. She was living in the town of Santa Ana and belonged to a tiny group of Latter-day Saints who met each Sunday in a rented house.
Sister Solis was teaching Relief Society before she celebrated her 17th birthday. She was the only Latter-day Saint at her school and her classmates never missed a chance to poke fun at her peculiar religion. "But I could not have cared less," she said with a defiant grin. "It didn't matter what others said because I knew what I had was the truth."
Sister Solis would make her first temple trip to Mesa, Ariz. Later she traveled to worship in newly dedicated temples in Mexico City and then to Guatemala City. She could not have known she would one day be called to serve inside the walls of a temple in her own country. But she did know she would prosper if she remained worthy to hold a temple recommend.
"I don't have a fancy car and I don't own a big house on the beach, but the Lord has helped me prosper," said Sister Solis. "I have children, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild that love God. And now there is a temple in El Salvador."
El Salvador's first temple holds the promise of such prosperity for all Salvadorans, said Elder Christofferson. "I feel the temple will have a positive impact in every sense — economic, spiritual and social — for El Salvador."
The dedicated house, he added, "opens new horizons" for the future of this developing land.
Longtime Salvadoran member Fidel Bonilla remembers listening to a live general conference broadcast in 2007 and hearing the happy news that a temple would be built in his homeland.
"We all started to cry," he said.
Now Brother Bonilla will forever call Aug. 21, 2011, the most important date in the history of El Salvador. "The temple is the only place in the country where we can find exaltation. The temple is the door to exaltation for my country."
As executive director of the Church's Temple Department, Elder Walker knows well the impact a temple can have on a country. Lives will be bettered, he said, because a temple operates in El Salvador.
"I expect the Church here will grow and strengthen and the members of the Church in El Salvador will be a great strength to this entire country," he said.
On the morning of the dedication, member Julio Hernandez walked deliberately around the corners of the stately granite building. He considered the events of the day. Then he considered his own life.
"This is a special chance," he said, "to rededicate our own lives to this work."