In a region known for its life-giving water and flush rainforests, 1,200 Latter-day Saints danced to the song of the birds and the music of the rain on June 9 — celebrating not only their cultural heritage, but also a new temple -- the Manaus Brazil Temple -- built in the Heart of the Amazon. The temple is to be dedicated Sunday, June 10.
Making reference to the river that defines this area, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told the Latter-day Saints during the cultural celebration that they are strong. "The Amazon River, in very many ways, represents your faith," said President Uchtdorf, who presided at the event.
Noting that he had seen some of the area along the Amazon River a day earlier, President Uchtdorf said the fish, animals and plants of the region are "impressive and beautiful."
And, he continued, just as the rainforests are essential to the world, "your example of dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ will be a blessing to the world."
He closed by promising Latter-day Saints in Manaus that future generations will look back and "thank you for your dedication and faithfulness to make a temple possible."
Edith and Marcelo Gall, directors of the cultural celebration, said they hoped the production communicated the richness of the Amazon and beautiful animals, forests, and plants. The musical celebration also highlighted French, English and the American West cultures that have come together in Manaus.
The celebration ended with a tribute to the missionaries, who have helped the Church grow in Northern Brazil, and to pioneer members in Manaus, who traveled long distances by boat and bus to attend the temple.
"We wanted to show the growth of the Church in Manaus and the challenges of the members of the Church to go to the temple," Sister Gall said.
In the final moments of the production, more than 1,000 choir members spread a huge image of the temple across one section of the arena. Dancers, representing the rainforest and cultural influences of other nations, came together — signifying that there is unity among Latter-day Saints in Manaus.
Brother Gall hopes the production left those who saw it with a simple message. "We are happy," he said. "We are united. We have a desire to serve the Lord."
The unity and commitment was demonstrated when the missionaries serving in Manaus walked across the stadium to the music, "Hark, All Ye Nations." In a sign of respect for those working full-time to spread the gospel across the world and in the Amazon Basin, President Uchtdorf stood. Every member of the congregation followed and remained standing as the missionaries left the arena and actors paid tribute to those in early temple caravans.
Yan Guimaranhaes, 18, of the Manaus Brazil Cidade Nova Stake said she felt peace while performing. Through dance, she said, "I could show my country to [Church leaders] but more important, I could show it to God."