On April 2, President Thomas S. Monson made an announcement that would forever change the lives of thousands of members living in opposite hemispheres. He said that new temples will be built in Lima, Peru; Belém, Brazil; Quito, Ecuador; and Harare, Zimbabwe.
The happy news prompted cheers and grateful tears for folks living in the future new temple districts — along with countless others who have come to love the new temple regions through missionary service and other Church duties.
The people who are celebrating the general conference temple announcements speak a variety of languages and hail from different lands — but their reaction was uniform: Gratitude. Joy. Humility. Hope. Determination.
Larry and Debbie McMurdie, who are serving as humanitarian service missionaries in Harare, Zimbabwe, said the response to news of a temple has been “fantastic.” Since most members there have no internet connection and recordings of general conference are shown about two weeks after the last session is convened, it took some time for news of the announcement to spread among members. Elder and Sister McMurdie, however, were at the mission office listening to the conference broadcast. Elder McMurdie said he thinks his wife yelled “the loudest of all” before texting everyone she could think of.
During their service in Zimbabwe, Elder and Sister McMurdie have taught temple preparation classes in two mission branches and noted that because of the distance and expense of getting to the Johannesburg South Africa Temple some 700 miles away, the number of endowed members is relatively small.
Lydia Chale, a member of the Dombotombo Branch in the Zimbabwe Harare Mission, joined the Church 24 years ago and is able to make the journey to Johannesburg about once a year.
“Right now it is a huge sacrifice to go to the Johannesburg temple,” she said. “We have to save a long time and it takes a lot of planning, not just for the trip but how to care for our family that is not able to go. The trip takes about 12 hours on a bus and a five- to seven-hour wait at the border to get into South Africa.”
Sister McMurdie said she has seen members sell soap or produce such as tomatoes, covo (a type of kale in the cabbage family), potatoes, onions or maize and sometimes even livestock such as goats or chickens to save money to pay for a trip to the temple.
Samantha Moyo, a member of the Harare Branch, Harare Zimbabwe Stake, who works as a secretary in the mission office, said they have received emails from all over the world offering congratulations and that the members in Zambia and Malawi have also expressed excitement to have a temple closer to them.
Meanwhile, members living in Peru’s capital city are humbled that a second temple will be built in Lima.
“The announcement of a second temple for Lima has created a strong feeling of excitement among all the Saints in Peru,” said Elder Juan A. Uceda, a General Authority Seventy and a Lima native.
“The first temple in Lima was dedicated on Jan. 10, 11 and 12, 1986, by President Gordon B. Hinckley. The great majority of the Saints in Lima today were not members of the Church at that time. After 30 years they consider this a lifetime opportunity for them and for their family members.”
The number of stakes in Lima has more than quadrupled since 1986 and the presence of a new temple will strengthen the Church in a unique way in this 9 million-people city, added Elder Uceda.
Edwin Donoso is a longtime priesthood leader in his mountainous community outside of Quito, Ecuador. When President Monson uttered the word “Quito” in his temple announcement, the meetinghouse in Brother Donoso’s Ecuadoran city erupted in joyful expressions.
“It was like the national team had just scored a goal,” he said. “Everyone was so happy.”
Traveling to the existing temple in Guayaquil has been a challenge for many in the Quito area — so a nearby temple will bless lives for generations to come, he said. Latter-day Saints throughout Ecuador are still reeling from a massive quake that brought death and destruction across the country’s coastline. Members have found comfort in hard times knowing the eternal blessings of a temple will be a bit closer to many Ecuadoran members.
The land of Brazil could aptly be called “a temple nation.” Eight temples operate in the South American nation. But the country is vast, and temple travel for many is still a challenge.
When Roger D. Hoggan learned a temple would be built in the city of Belém, his thoughts immediately turned to the many Brazilians whom he witnessed making remarkable sacrifices to reach the temple.
“We are thrilled that a temple will be built in Belém,” said Brother Hoggan, who presided over the Brazil Belém Mission from 2006 to 2009. “We have thought about the many good people that live in that region.”
Brother Hoggan recalled signing temple recommends for members who lived near the Amazon River as they traveled en route to distant temples in Recife or São Paulo. Members spent several days of travel by boats and buses as to go to the temple. Soon the blessings of the temple will be far more accessible.
“The future temple in Belém will be such a boost to the work of the gospel,” he said.