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Look back on the journey that led to the dedication of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple

The temple is a symbol of hope for Puerto Rico, which has endured a series of challenges and catastrophic events

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Almost one year after Hurricane Maria — one of the worst storms to ever strike the Caribbean — tore through Puerto Rico, President Russell M. Nelson visited the United States island territory. From the Coliseo de Puerto Rico arena he taught divine lessons of peace during a Sabbath-day member devotional.

Maria had left the island with prolonged periods of water and power outages and extensive damage. Still, President Nelson promised members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that they could find joy by living the commandments and asked them to be kind.

Then President Nelson dismissed his interpreter and shared his testimony and apostolic blessing in Spanish.

President Nelson “taught us today that we could find peace during difficult times through Christ,” said Anali Ojeda after the devotional. “That’s how we overcame this past year, through Christ.”

One month after that historic visit, on Oct. 7, 2018, President Nelson announced a temple for Puerto Rico — the Church’s third in the Caribbean.

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The temple is a powerful symbol of hope for Puerto Rico, which has endured a series of challenges and catastrophic events following Maria — including Hurricane Fiona, two magnitude 6.0 earthquakes in 2019 and 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic that claimed more than 5,000 lives.

During this time, Latter-day Saints have also witnessed hope and healing.

Following is look back on Church News coverage of Puerto Rico during the past five years.

Church leader in Puerto Rico: ‘We don’t want to be forgotten’

Following Hurricane Maria, the Church’s Welfare Department dispatched 40 containers of ocean shipments to several Caribbean islands hammered by the recent hurricanes. A Church-chartered plane filled with 80,000 pounds of food and water was also dispatched to Puerto Rico. | Church News archives

One month after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, Wilfred Rosa still waged daily battles with food and water shortages, power outages, gas lines and spotty cellphone service.

Such challenges came to define life in the days and weeks since Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico. But perhaps his greatest fear was “that people will forget about us. We don’t want to be forgotten. We will have needs here for months to come.”

The San Juan resident’s worries stretched beyond caring for his family and reinvigorating his robotics business. As president of the San Juan Puerto Rico Stake, he was responsible for the temporal and spiritual health of thousands of Latter-day Saints living in 10 wards and branches in and around the capital city.

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Church leader in Puerto Rico: ‘We don’t want to be forgotten’

President Nelson promises Puerto Rican Saints ‘better days are ahead’ after previous year’s deadly hurricane

President Russell M. Nelson greets a young mother and her child following a member devotional in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 2, 2018. | Church News archives

On Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018 — almost a year after Hurricane Maria’s arrival — President Nelson met with members in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico arena for a member devotional.

During his remarks, President Nelson noted his deep admiration for the Puerto Rican Latter-day Saints who served and remained faithful during the awful weeks and months following the hurricane.

Better days await, he promised.

“As you individually grow to become more of the person God wants you to be, you can know for yourself that better days are ahead for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said. “You can face your tomorrows with great optimism, knowing that the best days of your life are ahead for you and for your loved ones.”

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President Nelson promises Puerto Rican Saints that ‘better days are ahead’ after last year’s deadly hurricane

Situation remains seismic and ‘desperate’ for Latter-day Saints in southern Puerto Rico

On. Jan. 9, 2020, Elder Jorge M. Alvarado visits with people in southern Puerto Rico gathered in an open space being utilized as a tent community following a series of earthquakes. | Provided by Franki Ruiz

For casual news watchers, the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Puerto Rico on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, may not have registered as a major catastrophe because there were relatively few deaths or serious injuries.

But look a bit closer. 

Because of relentless seismic activity over several days, people living on the south end of the island remained frightened and exhausted. 

Many were simply praying for the shaking to stop.

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Situation remains seismic and ‘desperate’ for Latter-day Saints in southern Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona strikes Puerto Rico, knocks out power for Church members and neighbors across the island

A home is submerged in floodwaters caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. According to authorities, three people were inside the home and were reported to have been rescued.  | Stephanie Rojas, Associated Press

In September 2022, Latter-day Saints in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands were working to recover from a catastrophic storm.

Hurricane Fiona struck the southwest coast of Puerto Rico on Sunday, Sept. 18, knocking out power to the island, causing flooding and landslides, and washing away roads and bridges.

Reports from the Church’s Caribbean Area presidency were that all full-time missionaries were safe and accounted for, with no known major damages reported to members’ homes or Church buildings. 

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Hurricane Fiona strikes Puerto Rico, knocks out power for Church members and neighbors across the island

How the Church is providing humanitarian aid after Hurricane Fiona’s damage in Caribbean

Latter-day Saint volunteers help provide service and humanitarian aid in the Caribbean islands after the damage caused by Hurricane Fiona in September 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Humanitarian services and volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have responded to help those affected by the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Fiona throughout the Caribbean region in September.

The Church reported Thursday, Sept. 22, in a news release that projects totaling $475,000 will provide aid to about 65,000 families on the French island of Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The humanitarian aid will provide food, water, hygiene items and other emergency supplies, as well as human assistance, through Helping Hands volunteers, who will clean, remove debris and distribute supplies.

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How the Church is providing humanitarian aid after Hurricane Fiona’s damage in Caribbean

Elder Soares visits Cuba, Puerto Rico

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets children before a devotional in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 9, 2022.  | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint

During a visit to Puerto Rico in November 2022, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called it an extraordinary experience to meet with members, missionaries and leaders of the Church on the island. 

“We recognize the power that the Gospel has brought to their lives, through their obedience and dedication. It is a wonderful land that has many resources and many good, kind and friendly people,” Elder Soares said to the Church’s Caribbean Newsroom in an article first published in Spanish.

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Elder Soares visits Cuba, Puerto Rico

Sister Dennis and Sister Browning teach women in Puerto Rico about the power of covenants

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks during a devotional for women in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 10, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In September 2022, as Milagros Ramos de Llanos listened to Sister J. Anette Dennis of the Relief Society general presidency and Sister Tracy Y. Browning of the Primary general presidency testify of God’s love and the power of covenants during a women’s meeting in Puerto Rico, she wrote in her notebook: “I am a daughter of God and God loves me.”

“I felt that deep in my heart. It was one of the strongest impressions I felt,” said Llanos, a member of the San Juan Puerto Rico Stake. 

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Sister Dennis and Sister Browning teach women in Puerto Rico about the power of covenants

Puerto Rico prepares for new temple and the Christmas season with #LightTheWorld celebration

The SUD Puerto Rico Choir and the Estacas Dance Group with the collaboration of Kamillas’s Dance Studio perform at a Light the World concert in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 5 and posted online Dec. 12, 2022.  | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Puerto Rico held an event not only to look forward to their new temple, but also to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, in December 2022.

A Light the World concert was held on Nov. 5 and posted on the Church’s Caribbean Area YouTube channel on Dec. 12. While celebrating Puerto Rican roots through songs and cultural dances, the program also focused on the Savior and sharing His light. 

The show revolved around six characters in different circumstances, who, through prayer, asked God to help them find solutions and share light with others. Music and dance groups were interspersed through each scene. 

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Puerto Rico prepares for new temple and the Christmas season with #LightTheWorld celebration

See interior, exterior photos of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple as its open house begins

The San Juan Puerto Rico Temple is pictured in November 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The San Juan Puerto Rico Temple is the first in the territory and the third in the Caribbean, with dedicated and operating temples located in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

“Imagine everything that we have gone through with the difficult situations of Hurricane Maria, the earthquakes and the emotional troubles we had,” said Nidza Henriquez, a Latter-day Saint for nearly a half-century. “Getting the news of the temple, that we no longer have to travel far away [to attend the temple], is a wonderful blessing.”

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See interior, exterior photos of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple as its open house begins
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