OAXACA, Mexico Dedication of the Oaxaca Mexico Temple opened new possibilities for service among a dedicated people.
The Church's 74th temple was dedicated March 11 in four sessions by President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, providing this nation with its fifth temple. The dedication was attended by 18,030 members. This was the first temple to be dedicated by President Faust, who was accompanied by his wife, Ruth, and by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy and president of the Mexico South Area, and his wife, Karen, who live in Mexico City, also participated in the event.
At the cornerstone ceremony, President Faust invited a few young men and young women along with a few children to take part in applying mortar to the stonework, which they did with great enjoyment. Afterwards, a choir near the cornerstone area performed with feeling and enthusiasm.
The temple, widely appreciated as one of the most beautiful buildings in this city, is located on a major boulevard near a university in the Candiani sector of Oaxaca, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. With more than a million residents, this centuries old city is known throughout Mexico for its colonial architecture and religious traditions.
As a temple was added to the cityscape, local members enjoyed watching the construction. But after the structure was mostly erected, on Sept. 30, 1997, a three-minute long, 7.6 earthquake struck Oaxaca. Jay Erekson, project manager for Okland Construction Co., was in front of the temple at the time.
"I saw the building shake," he said. "The tower was whipping back and forth about a yard and I watched the windows going in and out of plumb." He said the earth in front of the temple seemed to rise in waves 8 inches high. More than 100 buildings in the city were destroyed by the quake or damaged to the degree that they were later condemned. But the temple, which was built on pilings to accommodate earthquakes, was perfectly square and undamaged when the earthquake stopped.
The new edifice on the isthmus of Mexico has opened the door for frequent temple attendance for members whose pattern of obedience in the past has been demonstrated in their willingness to expend their time and resources in traveling as often as possible to the Mexico City Mexico Temple. Now they will be able to spend their time in attending the temple rather than on trips lasting days.
These members have come from what three decades ago were several small branches scattered over a great distance. The several branches used to gather occasionally for district conference and social events in numbers that often didn't exceed 200. These members gathered again for the dedication sessions. Bus after bus came carrying members of multiple stakes from cities where just branches once existed, and members streamed out in considerable numbers. Among them were those from Juchitan on the Gulf of Tehuantepec, where the women traditionally dress in colorfully embroidered dresses and wear ribbons and ornaments wound in their hair.
President Howard G. Schmidt, who was a temple sealer in the Colonia Juarez Mexico Temple before being called to head the new Oaxaca temple, said that from among the members in the temple district there was an outpouring of volunteers to serve in the temple.
One of the long-time members who hoped to be a temple worker was Cleotilde Alvarez de Melchor, widowed mother of 13 children who lives near the temple. She remembered the members working together to build the first meetinghouse in Oaxaca, which now serves as a stake center. The men, women and youth provided the labor while the Church provided the materials. They worked long and hard to finish the building. When the building was complete, however, local leaders asked each family to donate a small sum of cash so the meetinghouse could be dedicated.
"We sold our television, our watches, rings and our jewelry," she said. They also made and sold food on the streets until the goal of 6,000 pesos was met. Sister Melchor said that from that sacrifice, "We have had more blessings than I can enumerate." One of these blessings, she said, is the new temple, which stands not far from her home.
"I have all the time I need," she said. "I have been interviewed to be a temple worker and I am available. I have no children at home and I want to work in the Lord's house. I have great peace and tranquility and I feel very close to God."
President Israel Rubalcava Lopez of the Oaxaca Mexico Stake, director of the Church Educational System's institute here, said that a number of members planned to receive their temple blessings when the temple opened on Monday. The temple will also help the average of 80 new members stay active who join the Church each year in his stake, he said. Some 10 percent of the less-active members have responded to set a goal for temple worthiness. And the temple will be available for the 300 young people from the three Oaxaca stakes who attend local institute classes.
"They will grow up with the temple," he said.
With family history centers in each stake, this work has also increased as members seek to achieve 1,000 names per ward to submit for temple work. In addition, some 10,658 people attended the open house and many referrals have been received.
"We are very happy to have the temple here," President Rubalcava said.