Ground was broken for a temple in this Mormon colony March 7, blessing the efforts of faithful Latter-day Saints over the past century.
About 800 people attended the ceremony on a hilltop location overlooking the Juarez Academy, an LDS preparatory school. They braved a weather melange of sleet, snow, rain and wind, with a few minutes of sun.The unpredictable March day marked the historic start of small temples in international locations. Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy spoke and dedicated the site. Elder Call, president of the Mexico North Area, was accompanied by special guest Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy who was in the area to reorganize the Dublan stake. The ceremony was kept brief because of the inclement weather.
Elder Dale E. Miller of the Seventy, first counselor in the area presidency, also spoke. The ceremony was conducted by Elder Tomas Valdes of the Seventy and second counselor in the area presidency.
"The site location is beautiful, and it will be a remarkable blessing to the people," said Elder Christensen. "I don't know when I have seen a group of people more excited about the prospect of having a temple. It was a great experience."
Soon after the ceremony was completed, heavy equipment began leveling the site. The contractors, Cobaco of Chihuahua and Jacobsen Construction of Salt Lake City, expect the building to be complete by the end of summer.
Members gathered to attend the historic event from throughout the state of Chihuahua, from such cities as Ciudad Juarez and Delicias. Some were in bleachers or chairs brought to the site for the occasion, but others preferred the warmth of their cars.
"It was cold and snowy all during the prayers and during the singing of the choir," said Pres. Meredith I. Romney of the Colonia Juarez stake. "As soon as Elder Call got up to speak and give the dedicatory prayer, the sun came out and all the time he was speaking it was just like another day. As soon as he sat down, it clouded up and started snowing."
In his remarks, Elder Call told of the importance of the colonies in Church history that established an outreach in Mexico in the late 19th century. He spoke of the many hardships the settlers endured to build the colonies. The colonists instigated a spirit of Church service that has grown and provided a great number of leaders in Spanish-speaking areas throughout the world. Many of these are currently serving in a variety of capacities in many locations, he said.
"This seems to be a culmination of the Lord's blessing on the colonies," he said.
"The groundbreaking will start the construction of a beautiful temple in this beautiful site. We have seen an increase in the number of temples in this dispensation. Just a few days ago, the prophet announced that another temple would be built in Africa. This [temple in Colonia Juarez] is the second of the three small temples that he announced in October conference."
Noting that President Hinckley said that the small temples would be open only according to need, Elder Call encouraged members to attend the temple frequently after it is dedicated.
"These three temples are to be models for those to follow," he said. "Let this temple be a model of frequent use."
In his remarks, Elder Miller recalled that a week earlier he had been in the colonies to preside over a stake conference.
"I felt the Spirit as I have never felt quite so strongly at a stake conference," Elder Miller said. "It think it was a prelude to the ground-breaking ceremony that had not been announced at that time.
"It really felt like the Lord's Spirit came resting down on the colonies very, very strongly during that stake conference."
He told the members that if Zion is to be built locally, the center of that Zion has to be built at the temples, "and to be able to establish a temple in the colonies and other places hereafter, is really the signature of the Lord on the land of Zion. We as members of the Church need to become a Zion people by purifying our hearts. That is what the Lord requires of us to enter into the higher covenants."
Pres. Romney commented after the event was over, "Everyone is just as excited as they can be, members and non-members alike. The temple has already made changes in people. A lot who have been less-active are getting interested in becoming active in the Church. A lot want to prepare to enter the temple. It is just amazing the feeling and spirit that are around the whole town and around the whole area."
The plan to build small temples in distant locations was announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the priesthood session in October 1997 conference:
"There are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of temple ordinances?'
"While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer came bright and clear."
During a visit to Colonia Juarez at the commemoration of the centennial of the Juarez Academy in June 1997, President Hinckley commented about the possibility of a temple in this location.
"I would like to see the time come when all of our people throughout the world could get to a temple without too much inconvenience," he said. "I think you are about as far away as anybody. And I don't quite know what to do about you. There aren't enough of you to justify a temple. Now if you'd multiply the membership, and get about 20,000 members of the Church here, or 30,000, we'd build a beautiful temple. That's a challenge for you. You may decide it is easier to keep going to Mesa."
Currently, members of the Church here are in the Mesa (Arizona) Temple district, some five hours away.