Reverence, joy, peace and brotherhood prevailed among members as President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Porto Alegre Brazil Temple on Dec. 17.
The Porto Alegre temple is the Church's 102nd, and its dedication a "glorious event" is the 34th and final one of this remarkable year of temples the year 2000, upon which hinges two millennia.
President Hinckley, accompanied by his wife, Marjorie, was assisted by President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency. They attended four dedicatory sessions and took part in the cornerstone ceremony, where the singing of a youth choir instilled a sweet feeling.
Some 7,590 members attended the dedication. Members spoke of the joy this temple has brought into their lives. They spoke of a similar joy among the missionaries and pioneer members on the other side of the veil who gave so generously of their time and effort to establish the Church.
President Hinckley was warmly welcomed and he expressed his love to the members.
President Faust spoke of his special feeling for the early members he knew when he served as a missionary in Brazil. He mentioned that when he arrived in Porto Alegre, there were only six members of the Church. Among these were members of the Bing family. One of these, Olga Bing Biehl, who attended the dedication with her husband, was baptized Dec. 17, 1938, exactly 62 years to the day before the dedication of the temple.
"For me, the Porto Alegre temple is a true miracle; never did I think I would live to look upon a temple here during my lifetime," she said. "I feel very grateful to be able to come here and participate in the ordinances."
Elder J. Kent Jolley of the Seventy, president of the Brazil South Area, said: "The temple of Porto Alegre is the result of a combination of many years of effort in missionary work and the faith of the members. Now we do not have to travel a long distance to Sao Paulo, but will be able to attend the temple regularly and become better people than in the past. The temple literally will be a light on a mountain, blessing the lives of the members and all the community, and, as the symbol of our membership in the Church, will offer the opportunity to share the gospel with others."
The Porto Alegre temple is located at the summit of a hill, which opens to a beautiful view of the city. Construction of the temple was completed with high standards, said Andre Belo de Faria, temple architect. "I have worked for 20 years on various construction projects but I have never worked on a project of this quality; there is not another one like it in Brazil."
When the temple opened its doors to the public, visitors were very impressed. Elder Yatyr Moreira Cesar, Area Authority Seventy and vice chairman of the temple committee, said that the temple open house was very successful. "The neighbors love the temple. Many came to the open house, expressing their gratitude and pleasure that this extraordinary edifice is part of their community.
"The impact of the open house on missionary work is also extraordinary," continued Elder Cesar. "We received more than 1,000 referrals, written by visitors requesting missionaries, and many wanting to know if they can be baptized. We saw people who were hearing of the Church for the first time, shedding tears as they walked through the temple learning about eternal families."
Ana Lucia Soller Vianna, public affairs director, said the turnout of more than 25,000 visitors exceeded their expectations. "The reporters and community leaders who visited were very friendly. Some of them had planned to leave soon, but after walking through the temple, paused to spend more time with us.
"Now the entire community has more respect for us, and more understanding of the Church; they know we have good principles. Many of them see the temple as the true House of the Lord."
The temple combines the past, present and future in a marvelous way, said pioneer member Georgina Blind Mayer soon after attending the second dedicatory session. "I do not have an explanation for the pure and sweet feelings I had in the temple today; I know that in the resurrection I will have these same feelings again. The temple is a sacred place where I can be with my loved ones. I do not know all my ancestors, but through the temple I can associate with them for eternity."
She is the daughter of Georgia Lippelt Blind, one of the first members in Brazil who was baptized in Germany in 1923 at the age of 9.
Her grandmother, Augusta Kuhlmann Lippert, was baptized three years earlier. The family emigrated from Germany to Brazil where the missionaries found them in 1930. Sister Blind, who has served two missions, remembers that long-ago first arrival of the missionaries to her home. She remembers her mother's voice breaking as she exclaimed in German: "Angels, angels!"
The Church began in Brazil in 1927 when President Reinholdt Stoof and Elder Waldo Stoddard of the South American Mission came to Brazil to investigate the possibility of sending missionaries. In September 1928, they returned with Elders Emil Schindler and William F. Heinz. The first baptismal service was held April 14, 1929.
The first presence of missionaries in Porto Alegre came in June 1933 when President Stoof and Elder Schindler arrived to begin preaching the gospel. A district was created here in 1960 with fewer than 500 members, and the first stake was created in 1973, Brazil's sixth. During the first half century, the notion of a temple in Porto Alegre was very distant. Some members knew of a temple's significance and worked with great effort to collect their family history and then send it to temples in the United States for ordinance work.
In 1975, President Spencer W. Kimball announced plans for the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple. Its completion and dedication in 1978 created an awakening among the general membership of Brazil for temple work. Yet because of the cost and distance, some families in southern Brazil were able to travel only once to Sao Paulo, while others traveled twice or three times. Often, families were not able to attend the temple weddings of their children. With the dedication of the Recife, Porto Alegre and soon the Campinas temples, all LDS families in Brazil will have closer access to a temple.
The dedication by President Hinckley of the Porto Alegre Brazil Temple has brought great joy to the saints in southern Brazil. The Church and its roots have been strengthened. Now, with the faith and determination of the members, the kingdom of God is extending with greater power to bless the lives of the people of Brazil.
Translated by John L. Hart