Recently, the members of the South America South Area Presidency met with members of the Argentine media in conjunction with the ongoing open house of the soon-to-be-rededicated Buenos Aires Argentina Temple.
The journalists toured the temple, learned of its sacred purpose and then had a few minutes to ask questions of the area presidency. Members of the press can be a cynical, tough-skinned lot — but the tours inside the temple Aug. 4 - 25 touched many of the entourage in perhaps unexpected ways.
"After the press conference, one of the reporters asked me what it was that he had felt in the celestial room," wrote Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy — who presides over the South America South Area — in an email to the Church News. "Another reporter stated she had felt a strong feeling in the sealing room as we shared our testimony of the power of temple sealings and that she appreciated the expression of hope that families can be eternal."
Such feelings of inspired joy and wonder have been prevalent during the open house period, scheduled to conclude Aug. 25. Thousands have toured the recently remodeled edifice in anticipation of the Sept. 9 rededication ceremony.
It's the rainy season in the Argentine capital and, yes, the storms have been prolific and strong. But the tours have continued despite the inclement conditions. "Although it has rained almost the entire two weeks of the open house thus far, thousands have come to see — and they are sharing what they have felt and bringing others back again," observed Elder Arnold.
"It has been beautiful to see and experience. How blessed we are to have prophets and apostles and temples on the earth."
The stormy weather proved unable to dampen the enthusiasm of the Argentine members who are counting down the days to the rededication. Many of the faithful here have endured several years without being able to worship in a temple as they patiently waited for their beloved temple to be refurbished and brought up to contemporary standards. But Elder Arnold and other local priesthood leaders said they have remained worthy to enter the temple and enjoy the blessings of gospel living.
Counted among the thousands of devout Argentine members are dozens from the Virreyes Branch of the Buenos Aires Argentina Litoral Stake. The Virreyes members are a humble yet hardy collection of Latter-day Saints. Heavy rains would not keep them from attending the open house during their scheduled visit date. Some 150 branch members squeezed into four buses and waited through several hours of traffic before arriving at the rain-soaked temple grounds.
The open house was a singular experience for the branch members, wrote stake president Jose Batalla. "I was able to witness and feel the enormous blessings of the temple and the love of our Heavenly Father for His children. ... In the temple we learned of the importance of preparing each day to be worthy and receive His blessings."
Branch member Lorena Lopez said the open house experience "was very beautiful and I felt so much peace and happiness. I felt the presence of our Heavenly Father."
Another Virreyes member, Yanina Vega, said she immediately felt the unique spirit of the temple the moment she stepped inside the edifice. "It was a sensation of happiness and emotion to be able to return to the House of the Lord. It was a priceless experience to be in the temple with my family and all my brothers and sisters from the Virreyes Branch."
On Aug. 20, the rains finally relented in Buenos Aires. Elder Arnold and his wife, Sister Devonna Arnold, took advantage of the dry conditions to spend the day outdoors greeting open house visitors of all backgrounds — 12,000 in all that day — as they waited in serpentine lines for the tour to begin.
"The people were so excited to enter the temple and were not discouraged at all with the long lines," he wrote. "It was a wonderful experience for all of us."
The Buenos Aires Argentina Temple will be rededicated in three sessions. Members throughout the country will be able to participate in the ceremonies via closed circuit broadcasts in stake and district meetinghouses. A youth cultural event will be staged at an area venue the evening before the dedication.