COLONIA JUAREZ, Mexico Nearly 11,000 people from many areas of Mexico and from the United States attended the Feb. 25-27 public open house of the new Colonia Juarez Chihuahua Temple, an elegant white marble edifice impressive on its hilltop setting.
"It is still like a dream, one I hope I never wake up from," said Rea Schmidt of Colonia Juarez about the new temple.
"It's a miracle," said Wesley Bowman, a longtime member in nearby Dublan. "We never dreamed we would have such a beautiful temple."
The new temple will be dedicated March 6-7 as the Church's 55th temple, and Mexico's second. It is the third of the first three small temples announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the October 1997 general conference. The other two small temples announced at that time are already in operation in Monticello, Utah, and Anchorage, Alaska.
Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy and president of the Mexico North Area, spoke to representatives of local newspapers and radio stations Feb. 25. He explained the importance of temples in members' lives, what members needed to do to become worthy to attend the temple, and briefly discussed the difference between temples and meetinghouses.
He also hosted 150 religious, civic and business leaders who attended a VIP open house that day. Among those who attended were Chihuahua Gov. Patricio Martinez and his wife.
"It has been an extraordinary experience and an honor for my wife and me to have been invited to visit this temple," the governor said. "It is a place that reflects pure joy from the time you walk through the doors until you enter the last beautiful room adorned in crystal and white.
"Congratulations to the Church and to all the members in this area who are people worthy of their religious and hard-working inheritance, which has been a part of the land of Chihuahua for more than a century."
In a press conference held after the tour, the governor also recognized the history of sacrifice, hard work and sufferings of the early colonists and acknowledged the hand of Christ in their prosperity.
Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy, who was in Colonia Juarez to reorganize the Colonia Juarez stake presidency, said: This is a remarkable event that has come to this part of Mexico. I think that this is a special site that will bless not only this valley, but all the surrounding valleys. This seems to me that the prophet of the Lord has been inspired to choose this unique spot to overlook this community."
Many members from Casas Grandes, Colonia Juarez, Dublan, and Nuevo Casas Grandes spent hours helping to prepare the grounds and other areas of the temple for the open house.
The youth were especially grateful for the opportunity to serve. Many stayed up until midnight on some nights working to clear rocks, rake, lay sod and plant trees. In addition, many women spent days sanding and cleaning. Their feelings are reflected by David Wills, temple construction manager, who said, "It wasn't work at all, but a labor of love."
"The Spirit of the Lord was there. As the construction date neared, the Spirit grew stronger. Without the Lord's help, and that of the members, we would have never finished on time. There's a spirit here that isn't felt in many areas, a spirit of cooperation. We could not have done it without the members. The poignant words from a 4-year-old boy as he was working side-by-side with his father epitomized this feeling of cooperation: 'We are finishing our temple, aren't we, Dad?' "
The tour of the temple began at the Colonia Juarez stake center, where visitors viewed a video in which President Hinckley explained the temple's connection to the eternities. Approximately 40 people gathered in each of four video sessions before boarding buses that took them up the newly constructed road to the top of the hill to the temple. Faced with marble from Torreon, Mexico, the temple is a brilliant white. Each of the inside furnishings was carefully chosen and many pieces were selected to create a subtle flair of Old Mexico. Ana Molina Garcia Ontiveros of the Nuevo Casas Grandes 1st Ward, said, "I couldn't believe that in one year we could have a temple built here in Mexico that was so beautiful."
Visitors couldn't help but be impressed with the elegance of the building. Some general comments were: "It's truly spectacular. The details! It went far beyond our expectations."
Some of the youth, who were assisting in placing plastic slip covers or "magic shoes," as one 3-year-old called them, over the visitors' shoes, noticed that the people were visibly touched. Many did not speak after exiting the temple; they continued to maintain a spirit of reverence even on the temple grounds, and many were still wiping tears from their eyes as they left.
Piti Zelaya of the Colonia Juarez 2nd Ward, who recently lost a son, expressed her love for the temple. "The temple allows me to have a place to go and talk to Heavenly Father and receive His comfort," she said.