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How a death provided perspective as Elder Soares leads out on Rio de Janeiro temple tours


RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — For the past two years, Wilson Valle has been working at the completed but undedicated and still-unopened Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, having left an electrical technician’s job at a local baby products plant to be first a facilities assistant, then the senior assistant and most recently the temple’s lead facilities director.

The Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple.

The Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Monday, March 21, marked the official and much-awaited opening of the Rio temple, with Elder Ulisses Soares, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presiding over the day’s media tours and subsequent media and VIP tours in the days to follow.

At last, the Rio de Janeiro temple has opened to visitors, with a public open house running Saturday, March 26, through Saturday, April 30 — excluding Sundays — and preceding the temple’s Sunday, May 7, dedication by Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

But on what should have been a happy Monday and start of a special week, Valle reported to the temple to help with facilities oversight carrying tender feelings.

He had, as the hymn says, “a wound concealed” (“A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” Hymns, No. 29).

His mother, who lived next door to him, had passed away the previous week. Monday was his first day back at the temple — and the return gave him special meaning.

“It’s an opportunity to feel closer to her,” said Valle through an interpreter — and through tears.

‘To keep this temple holy’

Over the two-year period, the lifelong Rio resident had dutifully checked mechanical and operational systems, helped keep an unoccupied temple clean and watched the grounds’ plants and shrubs to see which adapted best to the environment.

Elder Ulisses Soares, center right, walks out of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple with Cardinal Orani Tempesta, archbishop of Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Elder Ulisses Soares, center right, walks out of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple with Cardinal Orani Tempesta, archbishop of Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

He had started two months before the temple’s “turn over” — when it transitioned from a construction project under the Church’s Special Projects Department to the Temple Department to oversee its open house, dedication and start of operations.

That was early 2020, with plans for an open house to start that April and a May 17 dedication. But the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled that, as the Church quickly closed its operating temples and halted planned dedication events worldwide, as well as closing its meetinghouses, worship meetings and regular activities.

For two years both inside and outside the completed-but-closed Rio de Janeiro temple, Valle strived to learn more about his duties and to be ready to help Latter-day Saint temple patrons have a positive experience.

“During the past two years, I had a big concern to keep this temple holy, even though it was not dedicated yet,” said Valle, adding that he wanted to avoid having his work become routine and regimented, which might spill over and spoil the temple experience for others. “I always had this concern not to let this happen to me, to not make it a casual place.”

‘Like a dream’ in Rio: Elder Soares, Sister Soares return to mission roots to meet with members, missionaries and leaders

With his mother’s passing, with his understanding and testimony of the plan of salvation and with his workplace being the house of the Lord, Valle acknowledged his service now carries even more meaning.

‘Holy,’ ‘meaningful’ and ‘family’

Joined by Brazil Area presidency members and their wives, Elder Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, led Monday’s first of a number of temple tours, hoping to convey the power of the words “holy,” “meaningful,” “not casual” and “family” to the media members and dignitaries set to pass through the entrance of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple through the end of this week.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left, visits with a Brazilian TV reporter, right, while Sister Rosana Soares listens Sduring the first of several days of media and VIP tours for the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple on Monday, March 21, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left, visits with a Brazilian TV reporter, right, while Sister Rosana Soares listens Sduring the first of several days of media and VIP tours for the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple on Monday, March 21, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Credit: Tad Walch, Deseret News

Elder Soares said questions during Monday’s first tours included what the purpose of the temple is and what is done inside. “My wife and I both started explaining how important and sacred a temple is for us and what is done inside. But for us the most important thing I need them to know is that this is the house of the Lord and it is a place where we learn more about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the plan They have for us in this life.

“Everything else is connected with this foundation — the love of our Father and the Son for us, as children of God, and also what They promise to us if we are faithful to the principles we learn in the Church.”

As he directed tours through every room, he explained the ordinances performed in each as well as the commitments and promised blessings. One national TV representative said he was impressed that promises come with the invitation to act and obey, and he commented about the focus on families in the temple and through the tour.

“We explained the importance of sealings, the importance of the ordinances and how they impact families,” Elder Soares said. “He was very engaged in this matter, because this people are very connected with their families.”

Elder and Sister Soares share family and spiritual roots in Brazil during Family Discovery Day

An Apostle before a Brazilian

Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Brazil Area,  said having Elder Soares in Rio for the week’s events — leading media and VIP tours at the open house, delivering an address at the country’s first symposium on religious freedom, and presiding at five weekend meetings with members, missionaries and leaders — was special, not solely because of his heritage.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles points out the inscription of “Holiness to the Lord, The House of the Lord” on the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple to Cardinal Orani Tempesta, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro Archdiocese, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles points out the inscription of “Holiness to the Lord, The House of the Lord” on the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple to Cardinal Orani Tempesta, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro Archdiocese, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Elder Soares is first a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who happens to have been born in Brazil, so we receive him as one of those who hold all the keys of the priesthood — it’s so meaningful because he’s a prophet, seer and revelator,” he said.

“And at the same time, he was born and grew up in Brazil — and that definitely helps members and nonmembers (here) to catch the vision of what the gospel and the Church is all about.”

Elder Parrella singled out how Elder Soares has been talking to people and shaking hands after almost every gathering. “You can tell not only the love he has for the people, but you can see how the people reach back with the love to him and to what he represents. …

“It’s been a blessing to watch people see and tell the difference between Elder Soares being a Brazilian and Elder Soares being a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

‘Feel His Spirit, feel peace’

Sister Elaine Parrella, wife of Elder Parrella, said she hopes Latter-day Saints in and around Rio will understand the importance not only of the temple but also of worshipping inside and participating in the ordinances.

Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella and Sister Elaine Parrella are interviewed on the first of several days of media and VIP tours for the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple on Monday, March 21, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella and Sister Elaine Parrella are interviewed on the first of several days of media and VIP tours for the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple on Monday, March 21, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Credit: Scott Taylor

“It is the house of the Lord, and we can feel His Spirit, feel peace, resolve our problems,” she said. “The challenges get easier for us to solve, and we feel the Spirit in our homes when we go to the temple and do the work for our family members who have passed. And they are helping us in whatever we’re doing outside the temple.”

Elder Benjamin De Hoyos, a General Authority Seventy and assistant executive director of the Temple Department, saluted Brazil as a growing Church area that can benefit from temple ordinances and worship.

“It has a big potential to help more members of the Church here, and they need to understand the importance of the temple and make any effort possible to help people to come, to understand and to learn, he said, underscoring the spiritual and temporal blessings available from the Lord.

Temple background

President Thomas S. Monson announced a temple for Rio de Janeiro at April 2013 general conference. When it is dedicated nine years later, it will be the Church’s 171st operating temple — and the eighth in Brazil, with others in São Paulo, Campinas, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Recife, Manaus and Fortaleza. An additional six temples are either under construction or announced — for Belém, Brasília, Salvador, Belo Horizonte and Vitória and a second in São Paulo.

A statue of the angel Moroni, an ancient Book of Mormon prophet, is atop the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple.

The angel Moroni, an ancient Book of Mormon prophet, is atop the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The 29,966-square-foot new temple in Rio features a design with art deco influences and colors — blues, aquas, purples and soft golds — representative of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean just beyond the Barra da Tijuca beaches. The building includes Jequitibá hardwoods native to Brazil and the Branco Ceará granite from the country’s northeastern region, the latter having been used also in temples in Recife, Campinas and Fortaleza.

The 9.44-acre grounds — which house a full meetinghouse and parking for both structures — are furnished with native plants, trees, shrubs and flowers.

Elder Soares to address first BYU religious liberty symposium in Brazil

The Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple district is comprised of 45,000 Latter-day Saints in a dozen stakes and one district. Some members in the district have had to travel from eight to 10 hours each way to attend the temple, with Latter-day Saints in Rio facing a drive of more than 300 miles — or about 500 kilometers — to attend the temple in Campinas.

The Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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