With a prayer for peace on their lips and thanksgiving in their hearts, Church leaders here broke ground June 26 for the long-awaited Bogota Colombia Temple.
The ground was formally broken by Elder William R. Bradford, president of the South America North Area. He was assisted by his counselors, Elders Julio E. Davila and Eduardo Ayala. All are members of the Seventy.Attendance was limited to a small group of regional representatives, mission and stake presidents and Church employees and their spouses. They met at the temple site on a clear and warm morning for the rites, which they call "first shovelful," rather than "groundbreaking," which traditionally precedes a temple's construction.
The Bogota temple will be the third temple under construction. The other two are in Orlando, Fla., and Bountiful, Utah. If the Bogota temple is completed in order, it will be the Church's 48th. When the temple is completed, it will be the fifth in South America. Worldwide, another seven have been announced and are pending construction, including another one in South America, in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Included in the construction at the Colombia temple site will be several other buildings. Among them will be patron housing that will accommodate members traveling long distances in the temple district that includes Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the Bogota temple on April 7, 1984. The site for the temple was announced by the First Presidency on May 28, 1988.
Elder Bradford mentioned in his groundbreaking prayer, "This site is the center of a beautiful valley that has a long and important history. Thousands of thy children have lived and died here. This valley and cities that have existed here for centuries have been the center, even the capital, of a civilization that has extended for many hundreds of miles in all directions, and has had a great influence both for good and evil over the lives of thy children.
"Now as we break ground to construct the temple here, we know that we are doing a sacred work. We know that this will be the most important building ever constructed in this valley. We know that the work to be done in this holy temple will bring peace and salvation. It will bind up the wounds and give hope to the oppressed. It will reach back through generations of time and seal up the dead unto thee and thy salvation."
Before offering the prayer for groundbreaking, Elder Bradford spoke, saying, "I think the Lord is very pleased that we are preparing the foundations of a house for Him."
Elder Bradford mentioned some of the history of Bogota. He noted that it was originally named Santa Fe, or "Holy Faith." Later, a name was added so the city wouldn't be confused with other cities of the same name. The name added was Bacata, for an early chief who died fighting for the liberty of this area. Its full name was then Santa Fe de Bacata, which has since been altered to Santa Fe de Bogota, which is the city's present full name, but has been shortened to Bogota in most references.
"Incredible are the civilizations that have lived in this valley," he said. Among these were the descendants of the people who emigrated from Jerusalem, the Lamanites.
Elder Bradford encouraged members to create yet another civilization – that of the pure in heart. The pure in heart care for the poor among them, pray often and attend temples, where families are sealed forever.
"For this we construct temples. . . ," he said. "Because we know by revelation that this is the only manner in which families are able to be eternal and where they may have relationships continue forever.
"When we are truly sealed, when the poor have their needs satisfied, and all the children are cared for, when worthy members enter the temple to receive their covenants and ordinances, then this grand valley of Santa Fe of Bogota will be Zion in the sense that here will dwell the pure in heart.
"It is for Zion that we struggle . . . where the saints have temples, and are worthy to enter them, and pray often. The Lord has blessed us with a temple. Let us feel the urgency of this great work."
In his address, Elder Davila, a native of Colombia, pondered the sweep of history leading up to the start of a temple.
"I think of the great number of people and the many years that have been necessary for the arrival of this moment," he said. "And I do not refer to the past 30 years when the Church first arrived in Colombia.
"I see much farther in the past through time and space to the pre-existent life, the creation of the world and the first altar in the Garden of Eden, and the passing of all the dispensations."
He mentioned the epoch of the great "Bochica," who, according to Colombian Indian legends, appeared from heaven and taught the people many things and performed great miracles. Another important moment of preparation came with the founding of Bogota and the ending of centuries of punishments by the conquerors.
He said that as construction begins, both passersby and neighbors will be curious about what is to be built. "Some will tell them that a hole for a foundation is being dug. Others will say a wall is being erected. A few may say that a building is under construction.
"But we have an obligation to share the good news that here will be a temple, a place of adoration, a house of order, a house of faith, and that those worthy members who pass through its doors are on the path of salvation and exaltation and eternal life."
Elder Ayala also noted that few people in the country are aware of the significance of the start of a temple.
"It has been 174 years since Colombia was declared a free nation, and thus it has remained for all these years, a pathway prepared for the preaching of the gospel," he said.
"Colombia has been chosen among many nations of the world to have the blessing of a temple. Now there are no more than 45 temples in which the sacred ordinances can be performed, on the face of the earth. We are grateful that thousands of members have adjusted their lives to the standards of the gospel, so that they are worthy of this blessing."
He noted that it will soon be the privilege of members to see "thousands of saints walk through the doors of the sacred temple that here will be erected. We will see the children dressed in white clothing; we will see them sealed to their parents. We can see marriages sealed at the holy altars. We can see the repentant and dedicated members coming from their nations, and taking off their shoes because this is holy ground."
Also speaking at the ceremony was Pres. Tomas Jose Quiroz, past president of the Bogota Colombia Kennedy Stake, a pioneer member and leader of the Church in Colombia.
"Our Father in Heaven has shown us one more time that His love for Colombia is permanent," said Pres. Quiroz. "Many worthy Colombians will come here to receive power from on high and attain their salvation and exaltation."
" . . . I supplicate my Father in Heaven . . . that this temple will stimulate the formula of peace to begin for Colombia, and that Colombia will be better each day."