CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico The Ciudad Juarez Mexico Temple, sheathed in white marble, is like a pearl of great peace in a border city bustling with commerce and challenges.
President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the temple, presiding at the first of six sessions Feb. 26-27. Subsequent sessions were presided over by President Thomas S. Monson after President Hinckley left on other Church errands, including the dedication of the Hermosillo Sonora Mexico Temple the following morning.
The two temple dedications were the first of nine expected to be dedicated this year in this nation of some 850,000 members. The nine temples comprise a large part of the more than 40 temples under construction and likely to be dedicated this year.
President Hinckley was accompanied in Ciudad Juarez by his wife, Marjorie; President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Kathleen, and Elder David R. Stone of the Seventy, counselor in the Mexico North Area presidency, and his wife, Rosalie.
Members from both sides of the border the United States and Mexico gathered early for the 11 a.m. cornerstone ceremony and first dedicatory session of the Church's 71st temple, located near the downtown area behind a high school and a park. Stake members from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, who worked together on last-minute details, sang together in the choirs. Members from El Paso were well represented at the dedication as well. Some 8,161 attended the sessions.
When President Hinckley applied the mortar to the cornerstone cover, he did so with great care. After the other leaders and their wives participated, he invited two youngsters, Samuel Lehi Terrazas Carrasco and Brenda Lizeth Cortes Lizarraga, to also apply mortar. After the ceremony was completed, President Hinckley cleaned the excess mortar off with a cloth.
Buses from many areas in the temple district brought members to the dedicatory services. Some of these members viewed the proceedings from a nearby stake center, to which they were brought by satellite from the temple.
Temple President Gerald M. Pratt said that members in the city are very excited. "Emotion is running high, and everyone is expressing a desire to participate. Many of them don't have very much time, but they are willing to give what they have."
The temple presidency, he said, hopes to make the temple experience pleasant enough that patrons will want to return. President Pratt said that the members in Ciudad Juarez have been active in taking temple excursions in the past and he expects the temple to remain busy. Over time, he said, the number of recommend holders will increase and the surrounding stakes will be stronger.
"One of the strengths of the Church is the annual temple recommend interview," he said. "It brings a person to the point of looking at his own life."
President Jorge Alberto Morales Sanchez of the Ciudad Juarez Mexico North Stake, the owner of a computer support company who attended the Church's Benito Juarez School which once stood at the Ciudad Juarez temple site, said that there is a "reaction of great gratitude" among the members in the city for the temple.
"As members in Mexico, it is difficult for us to go to a temple. It takes a lot of money and a lot of time, and it is difficult to get a passport." Still, he said, many of the members have been to a temple. He recalled as a youth traveling with his family in an old car to the Mesa Arizona Temple, and the car breaking down on the way.
"I think that the experiences we had as youth have made us strong and faithful in the Church."
The new temple, he said, "is a blessing for all who live in the area. There were many tears of gratitude to know that the Lord had confidence in us here in the community of Ciudad Juarez to have a temple."
The open house, he said, was attended by some 25,438 people. Among these were professional associates of his who had not been eager to attend. Once inside, one of the professional associates commented, "I don't need to die to see heaven. This is heaven."
Another associate who came said, "If all the people in this city could come here and feel what I feel, Cuidad Juarez would be a much better city."
One less-active member who had not participated in the Church for 25 years came reluctantly to the open house. Inside the celestial room, he began to weep and said that he wanted his family to know about the Church.
Some 647 referrals were received from the open house.
President Morales said that many people from the interior of Mexico come to Ciudad Juarez seeking a better way of life. From this city, many enter the United States where they can increase their wages substantially. Often, however, this comes at great cost to their families as husbands and fathers are separated from their families for years.
He said that with the temple in Ciudad Juarez, perhaps the members among these people will choose to stay.