"An answer to many prayers," is how Elder Fernando Jose Duarte de Araujo described the Curitiba Brazil Temple on the last day of its public open house, May 24. President Thomas S. Monson will dedicate the temple — Brazil's fifth — on Sunday, June 1.
Elder Araujo, an Area Seventy and chairman of the Curitiba Temple Committee, said that members in what is now the Curitiba temple district have traveled to the temple in Sao Paulo since it was dedicated in 1978. Before that, they had to go to the United States for temple work. Having a temple in Sao Paulo has blessed members; however, the six-hour one-way trip by car or bus made it difficult for many to attend regularly.
As a steady stream of visitors came to tour the temple in the few remaining hours it would be open to the public, Elder Araujo spoke of "the wonderful spirit" that had been felt at the open house.
"We heard of some interesting, inspiring, experiences that visitors had," he said. "In one group that was being guided through the temple was a man who seemed to have become anxious or uneasy. The longer he was in the temple, the more uneasy he seemed to be. When he entered the sealing room, it seemed that he became very agitated; he almost ran from the room. He left the temple quickly. The tour guides couldn't imagine what was wrong, what had happened.
"The next day, the man was seen in another tour group. Someone called for me to go see the man. I took another brother with me and we stood close by him. Finally, the man said, 'When I was in the temple yesterday, I felt something in my heart that I had never felt before. It was a feeling that I could not explain, only that it filled me with happiness. I wanted my family to feel what I was feeling, and as we continued through the temple I began to feel sad and upset that my family wasn't with me. I wanted them to have this same experience. That's why I ran; I was in a hurry to tell my wife about this, and ask her to come back with me.'
"The next day, the man had brought his wife, and their four children and grandchildren. After the tour, the missionaries explained what had happened, told him about the Spirit. Now that man and his family are being taught by the missionaries. There are many stories like that."
Brazil Curitiba Mission President Paulo Araujo and his wife, Sister Renata Araujo, also witnessed many people who were touched by what they saw and heard during the open house.
Any mission president would be thrilled to be in President Araujo's shoes. "We had about 40,000 people visit the temple," he said. "About 4,000 filled out comment cards, and about 2,000 filled out requests for missionaries to visit and tell them more about the Church. "
The temple committee asked for 20 sets of missionaries to work every day during the open house, which began May 8 with VIP and media tours and continued May 10-24 with tours for the public. "The missionaries were at the temple every day, all day long, from 8 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. They had such joy in serving here that they didn't want to leave."
"Even when they were sick," added Sister Araujo. She told of one elder who developed a problem with a tooth and needed to have oral surgery; he persuaded the surgeon to postpone the operation until after the open house. On the last day, President Araujo had to take him back to his apartment. "He was reluctant to leave, even though he was in pain," Sister Araujo said.
President Araujo said that people from many backgrounds and faiths attended the open house. "Many people were invited by members. Some saw something on television about the temple and decided they would come see it. Some who are not members of the Church came to the open house and then told their friends, families and others about the temple and said they ought to come see it," he said.
"We met a woman, about 65, who was traveling about 40 miles on the bus to visit the temple. She met some missionaries on the bus and asked for their help in getting to the temple. She had seen on television news about the temple open house and felt she should visit. She was very touched.
"Another lady filled in a referral card, a request for missionaries to visit, and said, 'I truly felt like this is the house of the Lord because I could feel Him look at me when I was in the celestial room.'
"The temple is a powerful missionary among the general population. People come here, and they want to hear more. Some said they want to be baptized.
"All the missionaries are very happy and touched. The mission is blessed to have this temple. We expect to see many fruits coming from all this."
So successful was the open house that President Araujo has asked all the stake presidents in the temple district to tell their bishops to tell their members that they need to help the missionaries with their appointments.
"The missionaries have so much to do. We contact people within 48 hours so that they won't forget the feeling they had in the temple. In the next months, there will be much work to do."
Curitiba Iguacu Stake Patriarch Julio Caillot Mourao said, "The temple is a great accomplishment. It's going to bring many blessings not only to members of the Church but also to the entire population of this city. When I heard there was going to be a temple in Curitiba, I was very grateful. We have been waiting for a temple for a very long time."
He, and many other members in Curitiba, spoke of the late President James E. Faust who, as a young man, served as a missionary here and later, as a General Authority, returned to Brazil to preside over South America. "Elder Faust came to many meetings here and spoke at a lot of firesides," Brother Mourao said. "We felt that it was President Faust who brought the idea to the First Presidency and arranged to have a temple built here. It's sad that he passed away last year before he could come see the temple. But we know President Faust will be here in spirit, and for that we are grateful."
So beloved is President Faust among members that a segment of the cultural program to be presented Saturday evening, May 31, is about him and his work here.
During sacrament meeting on May 25 in the Curitiba 4th Ward, which meets in the first meetinghouse constructed in Curitiba (in 1962), Regina Goncalves spoke of the joy she and others felt as they served at the temple during the open house. She was among members asked to clean the temple. "As I was working, I felt it was a privilege and a great blessing to clean the House of the Lord," she said. "Some members had to get up very early and take two or three buses to get to the temple by 6 a.m. so the work could be done when it opened for visitors at 8 a.m. I did not see one person who was not happy to be there. They were smiling and serving with love."
Curitiba 4th Ward Bishop Antonio Augusto Nunes Goncalves said, "We have been very excited, even before construction began on the temple. Ever since I was baptized 14 years ago, I was taught that the temple was the House of the Lord, and that we must always be righteous to enter the House of the Lord. We've always tried to motivate ward members to go to the temple. Last year, we had a bus for just this ward go to the Sao Paulo Temple. When we came back and got to the gates of the chapel, no one wanted to get off the bus; the spirit of the temple was still so strong. Our members love to go to the temple. It is a blessing to have one so near."
It's little wonder that the sacrament meeting's closing hymn on that Sunday was "How Beautiful Thy Temples, Lord" (Hymns 288).
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