TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico "It was a divine experience."
Jorge Antonio Feliciano of the Cordoba Ward, Tapachula Mexico Iztapa Stake, stood quietly reflecting on the first dedicatory session of the Tuxtla Gutierrez Mexico Temple. "This is the first time I have seen a temple," he said. "I have never seen anything like it."
Brother Feliciano was one of many members from the far reaches of Mexico near the Guatemala border drawn to this white marble temple. The impressive building stands on a hillside prominence overlooking this city and, for a number of members, this nearby temple holds for the first time access to the promise of an eternal family unit.
The milestone 75th temple of the Church was dedicated March 12 in four sessions by President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency. The sessions were attended by some 3,316 members from the five stakes and one mission district of the temple district in Chiapas, Mexico's southwestern corner state. President Faust was accompanied by his wife, Ruth, by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve, and by Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy and president of the Mexico South Area, and his wife, Karen.
At the cornerstone ceremony, President Faust invited several children to come forward to participate. A few extra volunteered, so Elder Scott and Jack Okland, chief operating executive of the Okland Construction Co. that built this and 19 other temples who was also attending the dedication, helped the youngsters apply mortar. After the ceremony, the group enjoyed the singing of a large choir from Tapachula. Members watched the cornerstone ceremony from the temple grounds, from the street, and even from the roof of a house across the street.
"Having a temple here is incredible," said temple President Enrique Sanchez. "It is a dream come true."
This was the fourth temple dedicated in Mexico in a two-week period, bringing the number in this country to six. Another five have been announced and are likely to be completed this year.
The new temples are compassionate gifts to a most appreciative people. This was especially evident among the members in the mountainous and somewhat isolated Tuxtla Gutierrez region. Many of the members, such as Brother Feliciano, saw a temple for the first time March 12. Several members from the Tonala Branch, Arriaga District, related that only one member from their branch had made the 20-plus hour trip to the Mexico City Mexico Temple, while the great majority of branch members had never seen a temple. In the last minutes before the dedicatory session began, some of these members were brought from the adjacent meetinghouse and seated in the temple where extra seats were available. For them, as for Brother Feliciano, it was a rich experience.
Esau Dominguez Nukamede from the Emiliano Zapata Branch, Arriaga Mexico District, said that most of the members from his branch would come back to the temple and receive their endowments as soon as they could, but they had to work on Monday; therefore, they could not stay to attend on the first day the temple was open for ordinances.
"At the first opportunity, I will come and be sealed to my family and gain my endowments," he said.
A number of those living along the west coast delayed their plans to attend the temple in Mexico City because of severe flooding in 1998 that destroyed homes and possessions. They received food assistance and were helped by other members in rebuilding their homes.
In 1997, the members in the area of Tuxtla Gutierrez were expecting a visit from President Gordon B. Hinckley. However, a hurricane threatened to come ashore and his airplane was diverted to another area. Lelia Esten Magro de Cruz, director of the choir at that time, described the situation. "We had choirs in Tapachula and Tuxtla Gutierrez that had prepared separately. They came together to practice just one day. It was a very good choir filled with enthusiasm, faith and happiness." When the visit was precluded by weather, the people were deeply disappointed. Many wept and the choir had difficulty singing at first, she said.
A year later, Sister Cruz was appointed chairman of music for the temple dedication. She again organized choirs from Tapachula and Tuxtla Gutierrez. Many of those who sang in the first dedicatory session and at the cornerstone were those who had been in the choir two years ago.
"They sang with all their hearts, with all their love, and with all their feeling, and in their best manner," Sister Cruz said. As the choir sang inside the temple, most of the choir and congregation wept.
"We are very pleased," said Sister Cruz of the experience of attending the dedicatory events.