SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR
Elder Enrique R. Falabella of the Seventy is a native son of Central America.
As a Guatemalan who grew up in the Church, Elder Falabella remembers well a time when the nearest temple was found in Mesa, Ariz., and visited only at great expense and sacrifice. In 1983, he and many other Central American Latter-day Saints were thrilled to see a temple dedicated in Mexico and, a year later, in his native country. In recent years, temples have been dedicated in the Central American nations of Costa Rica and Panama.
On Aug. 21, a towering granite temple was dedicated in San Salvador, El Salvador. For Elder Falabella, president of the Central America Area, its opening can be counted as miracle in this part of the world.
"The temple in El Salvador has already become an icon in the Salvadoran community and is a sacred place for the faithful members of the Church here," he said.
The prayers of thousands of members, he added, were answered with the dedication "of this beautiful temple."
Having a temple on Salvadoran soil will forever change the people who call this nation home.
"El Salvador will never be the same," said Elder Falabella. "The Latter-day Saints will never be the same. There will be more acts of faith, more missionaries called to serve in other nations and more members making temple covenants. There will be more peace and harmony in their homes and the positive influence of the Salvadoran members will help bring peace and harmony to this land."
The San Salvador El Salvador Temple has been dedicated to the Lord.
"The Saints here are also dedicating their own lives to living their temple covenants and uniting their families as they fulfill their duties," he said.
Elder Falabella said watching thousands of young people participating in the Aug. 20 cultural event assured him that the future is bright for the Church in El Salvador. This day of temple building in Central America does not end in San Salvador. The Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple is expected to be dedicated later this year and the Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple is under construction.
A missionary's return
Standing well over six-feet tall, Michael Green was easy to spot as he performed his temple dedication duties here with the Church's media services department. For many local members, he was a familiar face.
In the mid-1990s, Brother Green served a mission to El Salvador where he answered to "Elder Green" and developed a lasting love for the nation and its people.
He spoke of opening a new area near the Pacific coast with a group of several other missionaries and renting a ranch to hold outdoor Sabbath meetings for a fledgling congregation. It was a time of teaching and growth for Brother Green and the other elders who were blessed to perform several baptisms in the area.
"Now that area has its own building," he said, shaking his head in wonder.
Their missionary discussions included teachings on eternal families and the purpose of temples.
"When we would teach the people they would often ask, 'When will we have a temple in El Salvador?' " he said. "We would simply tell them that was for the Lord to decide. Now the Saints here are so excited. They have been praying for this day. They are ready."
A blessing for all
Temple President Walter R. Petersen said the blessings of having a temple in San Salvador extend beyond the membership of the Church here.
"Many people have expressed thanks to the Church for building a temple in their neighborhood," he said.
The temple's open house drew more than 160,000 people from all backgrounds, including many of the nation's top business and government leaders. Several national newspaper and television stories covered the event, allowing hundreds of thousands to learn about the purpose of temples.
"It's created a fertile atmosphere for the Church to grow here," he said.
Still, President Petersen said, the most lasting blessings of El Salvador's first temple will happen inside the walls of this dedicated edifice in the coming months and years.
"This temple will make families stronger. As people renew their covenants they will be strengthened."
A retired physician, President Petersen knows well the spiritual healing power of a temple. "This temple points us directly to the Savior and to the Atonement. This temple will heal wounds and help open to the doors that lead to eternal life."