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Temple dedication highlights unforgettable Father's Day in Peru

TRUJILLO, PERU

Sunday, June 21, was Father’s Day in much of the world. It is an important holiday to Peruvians — a day spent with living fathers and, according to local tradition, visiting the graves of fathers who have passed on.

For Latter-day Saint Peruvians, Father’s Day 2015 was unforgettable. History was made here in the northern city of Trujillo with the dedication of the Trujillo Peru Temple.

The day’s significance was not lost on President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the second counselor in the First Presidency, who presided over the dedication activities.

“We are here to celebrate, honor and worship our Heavenly Father — this is Father’s Day,” he said at the traditional cornerstone ceremony outside the temple. “What an honor and a wonderful privilege it is to give to our Heavenly Father this house of the Lord.”

This newest “house of the Lord” is the 147th in the world and the second of its kind in Peru. It has been almost three decades since the Lima Peru Temple was opened.

The temple in the capital city remains a revered place for the faithful in northern Peru. But for many years they have looked to the day when a dedicated “house of the Lord” would operate in their own region of the country.

They cheered, embraced one another and offered tearful prayers of thanks when President Thomas S. Monson announced on Dec. 13, 2008, the Church’s plans to build a temple in Trujillo. The subsequent groundbreaking and construction period was recorded in photographs as well as the minds and hearts of the people here.

People of all backgrounds throughout the city took notice as the temple began to take form. They knew it was a beautiful edifice. They knew their city would never be the same as they marveled at the gray-stoned temple’s arched entrance — architecturally inspired by the classic Spanish style — along with the temple’s inviting tower that supports the statue of Angel Moroni.

Once complete, the temple doors were opened and Trujillo residents and their neighbors were invited for a look inside. Almost 100,000 people participated in the open house prior to the dedication, including the city’s mayor and key business, government and educational leaders.

Curiosity likely prompted many to tour the temple and visit the building’s baptistry, the ordinance rooms, the celestial room and other corners of the temple. But many also left with a new understanding of eternal families and the temple’s divine role in bridging the gap between heaven and earth.

“We had many people at the open house ask to speak to the missionaries and learn more about the gospel,” said Trujillo Peru Primavera Stake President Manuel Davila. “We even have friends in our own family who have heard the missionary discussions and set baptismal dates.”

Thousands arrived at the temple on June 21 to participate in one of the three dedication sessions. Thousands more watched the ceremonies broadcast to meetinghouses across northern South America.

President Uchtdorf was assisted at the dedication by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Michael John U. Teh of the Seventy. Also involved was the South America Northwest Area Presidency — Elder Juan A. Uceda, Elder W. Christopher Waddell and Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Seventy.

At the cornerstone ceremony, President Uchtdorf declared a new day of devotion and spiritual opportunity in northern Peru. Members will come to the Trujillo temple to make sacred covenants and be instructed on the matters of eternity.

“There will be a confluence of spiritual streams in the lives of individuals, of families, of communities and of this nation,” he said.

For Elder Uceda, a native of Peru, the opening of a temple in Trujillo can be defined only as a miracle. “I see in this temple,” he said, “the tender mercies of the Lord.”

A convert to the Church, young Juan Uceda accepted a missionary assignment to Trujillo in 1975. At the time, there were only two branches here. “And now there are seven stakes and a temple.”

While the growth of the Church can aptly be called a miracle, it is not a mystery.

“We are working here among the children of Lehi, they have the blood of Israel and they respond to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Elder Uceda said the members living in the new Trujillo temple district have earned the trust of the Lord. A picturesque temple has been built and dedicated through priesthood authority. Now it is up to the members to “make a new tradition” of family history research and frequent temple worship.

“They are ready,” he said. “They love the temple and are ready to serve.”

Peru has established itself as one of the key strongholds of the Church. With more than a half a million members and 100 stakes, the nation continues to mature.

But cities such as Trujillo are young enough in the gospel that Peru’s “pioneers” can still be found in great number.

Lucy Bejarano Suarez was just 6 years old when the missionaries visited her family in 1965. Her mother, Abelina, was a devoutly religious woman. Her father, Heriberto, was a military man who appreciated order. He prayed that the Lord would show him a way to keep his family unified and strong.

“When the missionaries knocked on our door my father said, ‘Elders, come in.’ He knew their visit was an answer to his prayers.”

A week later the family committed to be baptized. The Church in Trujillo then looked nothing as it does today. There were only 10 families who met in a rented home for Sabbath services.

But the members were strong. The Church became a second family for the Bejaranos. “It was a wonderful time,” recalled Sister Suarez.

The Bejaranos did not face much in the way of resistance when they joined the Church. Their relatives and neighbors could sense they were involved in something worthwhile.

“My mother always told us just to be good examples to everyone,” she said.

When the Church announced that a meetinghouse would be built in Trujillo, the entire family helped wherever they could. Sister Suarez remembers her mother cooking meals and washing clothes for the construction missionaries building the meetinghouse.

Now living in Utah and serving a mission at the Family History Center, Sister Suarez knew she had to return to Trujillo for the temple dedication. Accompanying her was her younger sister, Becky Bejaronos Leavitt.

“This is such a blessing to be here and to see firsthand how Heavenly Father is blessing this city,” Sister Leavitt said.

Utah native Gil Greers served a mission in Peru during its early Church days. He will never forget singing in the choir for the dedication of the first Church building in Trujillo in 1967. Presiding was Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Another future Church president would also leave a deep spiritual fingerprint on Trujillo. Elder Thomas S. Monson, then serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, organized the Peru Trujillo Stake in January 1978.

Following the dedication of the new temple, President Uchtdorf spent a few moments with the Church News. He was eager to report to President Monson on a successful dedication ­— but said he was in no hurry to say goodbye to the Peruvian members. He was uplifted by their friendship, deep convictions and commitment to the temple.

“It is very hard to leave the wonderful members of Peru after these days of celebration and dedication,” he said.

President Uchtdorf remarked on the Trujillo area’s remarkable history and people — including the Incas and other indigenous peoples and, later, the Spanish. Archeological world treasures can be found just a walk from where this sacred house of the Lord now stands. Next to these places of proud local history, he said, is now a temple anchored by the principles and teachings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

“There is a modern miracle happening here … a new light is coming with this temple,” he said. “I see joy, dedication and courage in these people. They have humble hearts and they know who they are: blessed children of their Heavenly Father.”

[email protected] @JNSwensen

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