‘Land of Mayans’ has a new temple in Quetzaltenango

President Uchtdorf dedicates House of the Lord in Guatemala

QUETZALTENANGO, GUATEMALA

Most maps identify Guatemala’s second-largest city as Quetzaltenango. But ask natives from this highland community to name their hometown and they will likely answer “Xela” — the Mayan name that existed long before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Indeed, Quetzaltenango (or Xela) is synonymous with cultural tradition. Many of the women still dress in the colorful wide skirts and woven blouses favored by their ancestors. Others can comfortably speak both Spanish and local indigenous languages such as K’iche’.

President Uchtdorf and Elder Andersen and their wives outside the Quetzaltenango Temple.
President Uchtdorf and Elder Andersen and their wives outside the Quetzaltenango Temple. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen

And for Latter-day Saint Guatemalans who call this region home, the traditions of spirituality are believed to have stretched across the ages. They are, according to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the sons and daughters of Father Lehi. And like their progenitors, these people of tradition love the Lord, their families and the eternal blessings that can be realized only in the temple.

Thousands here will never forget Dec. 11 — the day a temple was dedicated in this land of the Mayans. President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, presided over the dedication of the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple. There are now two temples in Guatemala and 136 in operation across the globe.

Guatemalan members await the arrival of General Authorities outside the Quetzaltenango temple. Several thousand members were able to participate in the dedicatory events at the temple. The dedication drew members from across western Guatemala.
Guatemalan members await the arrival of General Authorities outside the Quetzaltenango temple. Several thousand members were able to participate in the dedicatory events at the temple. The dedication drew members from across western Guatemala. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen
Choir performs hymns during the cornerstone ceremony of the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple.
Choir performs hymns during the cornerstone ceremony of the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen

President Uchtdorf was joined at the dedication by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve, along with Elder Larry W. Gibbons of the Seventy. The Central America Area Presidency — Elder Enrique R. Falabella, Elder Carlos H. Amado and Elder James B. Martino, all of the Seventy — also participated in the dedicatory activities. The Brethren were joined by their wives: Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, Sister Kathy Sue Andersen, Sister LaDawn Gibbons, Sister Blanca Falabella, Sister Mayavel Amado and Sister Jennie Martino.

During the cornerstone ceremony prior to the dedication, President Uchtdorf said the new temple would help many in the “Land of Eternal Spring” realize the blessings of eternal life.

“This temple will bring eternal families to this place and country,” he said.

The Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple, he added, would also instill a tradition of sanctification that can be found only in the house of the Lord.

“After this day, this temple will be as sacred as the temple of Solomon, the temple in Nauvoo, the temple in Salt Lake City or as sacred as any of the temples in the world.”

Elder Andersen utilized the cornerstone ceremony to express his love and gratitude for the Latter-day Saints of western Guatemala. “It is a great blessing for us to be with all of you,” he said.

And the members of the Quetzaltenango are quick to say they are a blessed people.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf assists a group of young people place mortar on the capstone of the Quetzaltenango temple.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf assists a group of young people place mortar on the capstone of the Quetzaltenango temple. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen
President Uchtdorf, Elder Andersen and their wives wave to the crowd outside the Quetzaltenango temple.
President Uchtdorf, Elder Andersen and their wives wave to the crowd outside the Quetzaltenango temple. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen

“I feel so fortunate to be able to come to the temple, to show my obedience, to live the commandments and to have this opportunity to serve,” said Maria Antonieta de Ixcot, a pioneer in the Church here. “Now I don’t have to travel so far to Guatemala City to be in the temple. This is a grand blessing.”

Sister Ixcot’s daughter, Silvia Weger, remembers being a Mormon child in Quetzaltenango when the Church was young.

“I could not have imagined a temple here. When I was small we rented a little house to meet in. The missionaries and the families were strong and worked well together,” Sister Weger said.

The interior design of the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple offers an aesthetic nod to the region’s rich indigenous heritage. The interior’s ornate stone, wood and glasswork are detailed with a recognizable Mayan motif. Meanwhile, many of the paintings inside capture the lush, volcanic landscape of western Guatemala.

Guatemalan members line up outside the Quetzaltenango temple.
Guatemalan members line up outside the Quetzaltenango temple. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen

Elder Amado enjoyed the dedicatory weekend while wearing a broad and seemingly perpetual smile stretched across his face. And why not? Guatemala’s first General Authority has witnessed remarkable Church growth during his lifetime. It was only a few decades ago that faithful members here had no choice but to make the long, costly journey to Mesa, Ariz., to claim their temple blessings. Now Guatemala has become one of a handful of countries with multiple temples.

Quetzaltenango native Silvia Weger, left, and her mother, Maria Antonieta de Ixcot, outside the new temple in Guatemala.
Quetzaltenango native Silvia Weger, left, and her mother, Maria Antonieta de Ixcot, outside the new temple in Guatemala. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen

“This is a marvelous day,” said Elder Amado during one of the few moments following the dedication that he was not swapping a hug or standing for a photo with one of his fellow Guatemalan members. “The people here in western Guatemala have sacrificed so much for so many years to serve in the temple. This day is an answer to many prayers.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf places mortar on the capstone of the Quetzaltenango temple.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf places mortar on the capstone of the Quetzaltenango temple. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf bids farewell to Guatemalan members following the dedication of the Church's 136th temple.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf bids farewell to Guatemalan members following the dedication of the Church’s 136th temple. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen

He is eager to see how the temple will impact this section of the country. Elder Amado noted that there were only a few stakes in Guatemala City when the country’s first temple was dedicated in the capital in 1984. Now there are more than 20.

“I think we will see the same effect here,” he said.

Sister Amado fought emotion as her eyes ascended the walls of the Church’s newest temple. “I could feel the Spirit of the Lord so strong today. The heavens have been opened.”

Following the dedication, Elder Gibbons echoed President Uchtdorf’s sentiment that while Quetzaltenango is not a large city, the abundant faithfulness of the people has blessed them with a temple. A tradition of devotion can now transition to a future rich in promise, growth, gospel service and eternal blessings.

Guatemalan members Ligia and Herman Lang outside the newly dedicated temple in Quetzaltenango.
Guatemalan members Ligia and Herman Lang outside the newly dedicated temple in Quetzaltenango. Credit: Photo by Jason Swensen

“It is so easy,” he said, ” for the people here to feel and radiate the Spirit.”

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