Two decades ago a group of faithful Latter-day Saints from the Amazon River Basin embarked on a 15-day journey by boat and bus to the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple.
Many in the small caravan — the first to depart from Manaus, Brazil — sold their land and belongings to reach the temple. Some became sick on the journey; the muscles of others cramped after sitting for long hours in the same crowded position.
The modern-day sacrifice of the Brazilian members — and others like them throughout the world who have given much to reach the temple — can be compared to the sacrifice of early Latter-day Saints who built the Church's first temples in this dispensation in Kirtland, Ohio, and then Nauvoo, Ill. After leaving those temples behind, faithful Saints worked for 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple. "Some degree of sacrifice has ever been associated with temple building and with temple attendance," said President Thomas S. Monson during the April 2011 general conference. "Countless are those who have labored and struggled in order to obtain for themselves and for their families the blessings which are found in the temples of God ("The Holy Temple — A beacon to the World," Ensign, May 2011, p. 92).
For those of us who do not have to travel long distances to attend the temple or labor long hours building a temple, the question is simple: What will we sacrifice for the temple?
The Lord, through inspired prophets and the tithes of faithful members, has made temples available throughout the globe. Today more than 85 percent of Latter-day Saints live within 200 miles of a temple.
With temples so close, we have little excuse for missing the blessings of regular temple attendance.
President Ezra Taft Benson asked members to "make the temple a sacred home away from our eternal home."
"Sometimes we live almost under the eaves, in the shade of the temple, and fail to take advantage of the priceless blessings that are available to us in the house of the Lord," he said. "The richest blessings of this life and of eternity are tied up with these sacred ordinances" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 256).
For decades, Church members across the globe have recognized those blessings and sacrificed to attend the temple.
During a devotional for Salt Lake Temple workers held June 11, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley recounted the story of a man who had given everything he had to attend the temple.
"I remember when the New Zealand temple was dedicated, I attended a testimony meeting of some of the Saints who had come from Australia," President Hinckley recounted. "A man from Perth, on the far side of Australia, bore his testimony and said, 'We didn't have the means to get here. We lived in Perth. We had to cross all of Australia, almost as far as it is from San Francisco to New York, and then cross the Tasman Sea and come to New Zealand. We couldn't afford it. We had nothing but a little furniture and some dishes and an automobile. We rented the little home in which we lived.' And he said, 'I sat down one evening to our evening meal and looked across the table at my beautiful wife and our three children and I said to myself, You cannot afford not to go. You can sell your dishes. You can sell your furniture. You can sell your car. Somehow the Lord will help you to replace them. But if you should ever fail in your opportunity to bind to you these, your beloved companion and children, you would be poor indeed through all eternity.' He said, 'We sold our furniture. We sold our dishes. We sold our car. We sold everything we had and came here. If the Lord will bless me with strength, somehow I will make it up.' " (See Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pp. 493-494.)
President Monson was asked why so many Church members are willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple. "Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings," he explained. "There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort" (Teachings of Thomas S. Monson, p. 304).
In the years after the first group embarked on a journey from Manaus to the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple, other Latter-day Saints sacrificed much to visit the temple. The dedication of the Manaus Brazil Temple on June 10 eliminated the need for long temple caravans traveling from the Amazon River Basin.
Still, their shared legacy of sacrifice has left the members in Manaus with a deep and sacred appreciation for the temple.
That legacy belongs to each of us who share their faith in the blessings of the temple and emulate their devotion.
Claudia Negreiros of the Manaus Brazil Rio Negro Stake was paralyzed in a bus accident while returning home from the Caracas Venezuela Temple with a Latter-day Saint caravan in 2008. The accident occurred just a few years after her mother-in-law, Nazaré Negreiros, was assaulted with other Church members on a bus headed to the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple in 2001.
But when a Church News reporter asked the family if the hardships they had faced traveling to and from the temple left them discouraged, the older Sister Negreiros response was immediate and deliberate. Like the man who sold all he had to reach the New Zealand temple — the man who said he could not afford to NOT go to the temple — Sister Negreiors said her family has never doubted.
"We were very happy," she said. "We had reached the temple."