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Distant members in north Brazil 'closer to heaven'

In a day of emotion and joy for those present, the Recife Brazil Temple was dedicated Dec. 15, 2000, by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Twenty-two years after the dedication of Brazil's first temple, the second temple here was dedicated, in four sessions, as the 101st of the Church, presided over by President Hinckley.

He was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie, and President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency. Also at the dedication were Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Seventy, president of the Brazil North Area, and his counselors, Elders Robert S. Wood and Darwin B. Christenson of the Seventy and their wives.

Even in a heavy downpour of rain, more than 7,100 members from throughout northern Brazil attended. While participating at the cornerstone ceremony, President Hinckley thanked the children, teenagers and adults for braving heavy rains to attend; some 100 youth sang at the ceremony.

The new temple serves members in north and northeast Brazil, some of whom had made the 72-hour trip to the temple in Sao Paulo. One of these, Ana Maria Agra de Oliveira of Recife, commented: "Now I live closer to heaven." She was among members attending from such northern cities as Fortaleza, Maceio, Salvador and Natal.

"It was an unforgettable day," said Ivete Soares, a member of the Milton Jr. and Irene Bandeira Soares family, the first family to be baptized in Recife. Their son, Elder Iraja Soares, is an Area Authority Seventy.

Also in attendance was the missionary who help baptize this family, Elder Stanley W. Dunn. Elder Dunn and his senior companion, Elder Michael W. Norton, opened the work in northern Brazil in 1960. In addition to Elder Dunn were many other returned missionaries who served in Recife. They came from many cities in Brazil and from the United States.

"We love these people," said Samuel Dahlin, who served in the Recife mission from 1992-1994. "We rejoice in the knowledge that now there is a temple in our own [mission] city."

The first missionaries soon started meetings that were attended by a small congregation. The meetings were held in the suburb of Cabanga. Several months later, the congregation was visited by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve.

In the past 40 years, the Church has grown from that small congregation to 30,000 members in Recife and 230,000 in northern Brazil, which suggests that the Church was established in a solid and consistent manner following the arrival of the missionaries four decades ago.

The temple is located on property that had a high water table, so other prospective buyers were not interested in it, according to agents who bought and sold land in the area. The land seemed to be hidden to everyone until the Church purchased it and started construction of the temple. To prepare the soft land for construction, more than 1,000 pilings, which in Brazil are called stakes, were driven to stabilize the land. The stakes supporting the temple have become a metaphor to the local stakes of the Church.

"Now I understand why the temple has to be supported by stakes," said President Francisco D. Granja of the Recife Brazil Stake. "These [construction] stakes are a reminder to the members in the surrounding stakes — who will do the majority of the work — that it is necessary to have strong Church stakes so the temple can function. "

A large number of people attended the three-week temple open house, including media representatives from three television stations and two newspapers, who were personally hosted by Elder Costa. A prominent national magazine also published information about the temple before the open house began. Interest in the temple increased as the open house progressed so that more than 16,000 people visited the temple on the final day.

One visitor, a prominent economist, summed up the feelings of many: "The temple is something majestic, yet it is filled with simplicity and peace."

Translated by Jay B. Hinton

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