Tears came easily and hearts were full of gratitude at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple Aug. 10, presided over by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Although attendance at the site was limited to stake presidents and their wives and a few other invited guests, some 10,446 people were gathered in the nearby Guayaquil Coliseum where they heard the proceedings via local radio. Some of the stake presidents came from distant cities on buses, riding eight to 12 hours.Accompanying Elder Scott were Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy, president of the South America North Area; and Elder Julio E. Davila of the Seventy, first counselor in the area presidency. Elder Jensen conducted the ceremony and Elder Davila gave an address. The opening prayer was given by Walter F. Gonzalez, vice chairman of the Guayaquil temple committee and an Area Authority, and the closing prayer was given by Guillermo Granja, former regional representative and open house coordinator.
Coincidentally, the groundbreaking was held on Ecuador's independence day and was one of many gatherings throughout this equatorial country of South America. Because of this, local dignitaries were precluded by swearing-in ceremonies from attending the temple groundbreaking ceremony.
Despite their absence, Elder Scott expressed appreciation to the leaders, including Ecuador President Abdala Bucaram and Guayaquil Mayor Ing Leon Febres Cordero, for their help as the Church purchased the temple site, obtained the necessary permits, and received permission to use the coliseum for the ceremony.
"Tears came easily to all involved in the groundbreaking ceremony," said Elder Jensen. "We have always said, `Someday a temple will be built here, someday, someday.' The groundbreaking ceremony made something that was vague and nebulous now tangible."
He said that many learned for the first time of the temple site, on an elevation on the outskirts of Guayaquil. The Guayaquil temple was announced 14 years ago on March 31, 1982, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball.
Elder Scott explained that temples are different than the 350 meetinghouses the Church builds each year. "We have thousands and thousands of these meetinghouses where we worship the Lord. In gatherings in meetinghouses, the principles of the gospel are taught and the ordinances of baptism, confirmation and the sacrament are performed.
"But this building has another purpose. There are only 49 temples in the world, and they are literally Houses of the Lord, places where the Only Begotten Son of the Father can come and dwell, and where are performed sacred ordinances, done only in the temple by the authorization of Heavenly Father. In temples, he continued, "couples are united for eternity, not just for their earthly lives."
Elder Scott said that within a temple, worthy members kneel before the altars and express their deepest desires to be with Heavenly Father.
"Our sons and daughters are sealed to us for eternity. And not only can we do this magnificent work of incredible significance for those who live, but also through vicarious ordinances we can perform those same ordinances for our ancestors who were not able to enjoy the blessings of the gospel during their sojourn on earth."
He described temples as "tangible evidence of our certainty that there is a life after this one. The plan of God is that each one of us had the opportunity to dwell with Him in the pre-mortal life. There we progressed until He permitted us to come to this earth and prove ourselves, to see if we are true and faithful in keeping His commandments, with the hope that after this life . . . we will live in family units. The temple is a symbol of the eternal life that we may have."
Elder Scott noted that the new Guayaquil temple will have an open house between construction and dedication when "all the citizens of Ecuador" may enter the temple.
He invited all the members to "prepare spiritually to enter the temple. Use the time of construction of the temple to identify your ancestors. It is not difficult to obtain the instructions from your wards and branches on how to prepare the names of our ancestors so when the temple is dedicated here in Guayaquil we may enter therein and do their work."
"In a special way, I wish to give my testimony of the validity of the ordinances done in the temple," said Elder Scott.
"I have experienced a great consolation in my own life to know that our two children who died are sealed to us. Now, my wife has gone on ahead of me, across the veil, and I have great consolation in the certainty that she lives and that I will have the privilege of dwelling with her in the presence of God if I am true and faithful."
In his address, Elder Davila, a Colombian, paid tribute to the pioneers of the restored gospel, including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
He also paid tribute to the pioneers of the Church in Ecuador who in the past 30 years "have sacrificed, dedicated themselves and continued in faith – the presidents of stakes and branches, the presidents of missions. These have worked enthusiastically on many occasions to make this moment a reality."
Elder Davila noted that there are many in the world who, in an effort to be closer to the Savior, would walk the paths of the Holy Land.
"There are many advertisements to visit the Holy Land, and walk where Jesus walked," he said. "This is a marvelous opportunity, but for me it seems that it would be a greater blessing to enter the temple and walk where Jesus walks."
He encouraged members to symbolically "have a temple in our hearts, to make of our home a temple, and have within our hearts a path to the temple. We should be able to walk in our homes in a way that will sanctify us, loving our spouse, loving our children, serving the Lord, and sanctifying our homes through prayer.
"I hope sincerely we will begin to walk where Jesus walks, and I testify that He was in these lands. . . . Our ancestors lived near this temple. I seem to feel the spirit of Nephi, of Moroni and the descendants of Lehi, who are also the descendants of Jacob and descendants of Abraham, children of our Heavenly Father.
"In a 1977 visit to the countries of the South America North Area, President Spencer W. Kimball told of his vision that he could see thousands and thousands of our descendants entering the temple . . . to do the work for ourselves and our ancestors."