Having a temple so close has given the northern Mexican saints in the San Diego temple district cause for rejoicing.
And rejoicing is exactly what they did as they held a celebration feast in the cultural hall of the Tijuana Mexico Stake center on Tuesday, April 27."We should rejoice because we have a temple close to us," Pres. Arturo de Hoyas of the Mexico Tijuana Mission told a large gathering of members from the Tijuana and Tijuana LaMesa stakes. Tijuana is located just across the U.S.-Mexico border from San Diego.
He said that the Israelites celebrated for 14 days after the dedication of Solomon's temple: "And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days." (I Kings 8:65.)
Although the Mexican saints did not feast for 14 days, they brought in huge amounts of food, and for two or three hours they rejoiced in the dedication of the temple as they enjoyed the food and visited with each other. Several members of the San Diego Temple Committee joined in the celebration, and were given letters of recognition by the Mexican stake presidents for their help in involving the Mexican saints in the temple activities.
"There has been great anticipation by our people for the completion of the temple," said Pres. De Hoyas.
Among those attending the feast was Elmer Monroy and his wife, Carolyn. Brother Monroy, second counselor in the bishopric of the Tijuana LaMesa 3rd Ward, is a great-grandson of Rafael Monroy, who was executed by revolutionaries in 1915 in San Marcos, Mexico, along with Vicente Morales, for their faithfulness to the Church. The story of the martyrdom was later made into a film by the Church, titled And Should We Die.
"When I was young, my father would tell me the story of my great-grandfather," said Brother Monroy. "It helped increase my testimony and made me feel closer to the Church."
Speaking of the San Diego temple, Brother Monroy said: "It's a great feeling to have a temple close to our house. Now I can go anytime I want to. The temple is something special in my life. I really can't explain in words what I feel in the temple. It is such a special feeling for me."
Juan Machuca, president of the Tijuana La Mesa Stake, said the temple in San Diego is not just for Southern California members, but it "is also our temple." He said members south of the border "worked shoulder to shoulder" with the members north of the border on various phases of the open house and dedication. "The temple is for every member of the Church, for all people." He said that 22 members of his stake have been called as temple workers.
A. Delbert and Mable Palmer particularly enjoyed visiting at the fiesta. They were called last June on a mission to help the Mexican saints feel that the San Diego temple was also their temple. They were finishing up their mission and would return to their home in southern Alberta after the week of dedication. For them it was a time of farewell and there were plenty of abrazos (embraces) between them and the people with whom they served.
It was their seventh mission call. Brother Palmer previously served as president of the Chilean Mission, president of the Missionary Training Center in Sao Paulo, a full-time regional representative in Chile and executive secretary of the South America South Area.
During the 10 months they served in this assignment, they worked with the Spanish-speaking Church leaders and members in the five stakes and one mission district in northern Mexico that are included in the San Diego temple district.
"Everything the Anglos were involved in, the Spanish were also involved in," said Brother Palmer. That included attending monthly meetings with the temple committee, receiving instructions and assignments in connection with the open house and dedication, and involving Spanish-speaking members in the family history program so they could learn how to research and clear names for temple work.
Because the Spanish-speaking members were involved in the temple activities all along the way, "a great bonding was created between the two cultures," said Brother Palmer.
After the feasting, the gathering assembled in the chapel where the Tijuana area choir sang several hymns, under the direction of Gemma Ramirez, with her husband, Fernando Ramirez, at the piano. The hymns included the Hosanna Anthem, with the congregation joining in for the singing of "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning." It was a hymn they sang just two days earlier in the third dedicatory session of the temple, and was a fitting culmination to the celebration fiesta.
Three of the 23 dedicatory sessions were held for Spanish-speaking members.
"Having the temple so close to our home is an opportunity of a lifetime," said Arnold Felix, a high councilor in the Tijuana Mexico Stake and an insurance businessman, as he waited in line to attend the dedication. "In 40 minutes we can be here," he said. "We definitely can come more often, and because of that we can become closer to God."
Echoing his feelings were two young people, also waiting to enter the temple.
Michel Ivan Zura Durantes, 13, from the Alisos Ward, Ensenada Mexico Stake, said, "Going to the temple is an important experience because I can be closer to God in His house."
Gloria Campos Mejia, 18, from Centro Ward, Ensenada Mexico Stake, said, "The temple is very important in my life." She said the young people in her stake are going to the San Diego temple on May 9 to be baptized for the dead. "That is really important to me."