In the first days of hosting ordinance work and worship after its June 2 dedication, the Brazil Fortaleza Temple quickly proved its impact at the newest of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 164 operating temples.
Local members entered the temple the day after its dedication, joined by returned missionaries traveling back for the special weekend. Elder W. Mark Bassett, a counselor in the Brazil Area presidency, shared a lasting image as he joined others in the temple that first day.
“Perhaps there is not a better description of what it means to have the temple there in Fortaleza than the humble brother Elder Bassett witnessed sobbing during his first endowment session that Monday,” said Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, Brazil Area president.
Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella, a General Authority Seventy like Elders Aidukaitis and Bassett and second counselor in the area presidency, met a Latter-day Saint couple from Sao Paulo at Fortaleza’s airport when arriving for the dedication weekend. The couple planned not only attend the dedication but to be sealed there the following week — especially meaningful since the woman was originally from Fortaleza and her recent-convert mother would be receiving her own temple endowment.
“It was a blessing to see their faces and the gratitude they feel for the House of the Lord in Fortaleza,” he said.
Elder Parrella also underscored the joy and blessing of having Elder Ulisses Soares, the much-beloved Brazilian-born member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicate the temple and do so in his native Portuguese tongue.
“To participate in dedicatory session where all the speakers spoke Portuguese, and to listen to the dedicatory prayer given in Portugueseby a native apostle, using words of poetry known to Brazilians, was divine,” Elder Aidukaitis said.
With an area of some 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles), Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest nation — with the United States at third with 9.8 million square kilometers (3.8 million square miles) and the People’s Republic of China fourth.
Given the country’s broad geographic size and with the Church’s membership rapidly approaching 1.5 million, Latter-day Saints in Brazil welcome new temples, given that for several decades, temple attendance required three to seven days of one-way travel by bus, sometimes augmented by boat.
The Fortaleza Brazil Temple is the country’s seventh operating sacred edifice, joining earlier temples in São Paulo (dedicated in 1978), Recife (2000), Porto Alegre (2000), Campinas (2002), Curitiba (2008) and Manaus (2012). A temple in Rio de Janeiro currently is under construction, with three new temples — for Belém, Brasília and Salvador — having been announced in the last three years.
“This temple means a great deal to these members in that part of the country,” Elder Aidukaitis said. “They will be able to go more often, as the temple is right there, close by to many more thousands now. In addition, it will be less costly to go to the temple. Instead of having to travel great distances, use vacation time to do it, and pay for lodging and meals, now many will be able to go weekly, some maybe daily.”
Elder Parrella said the temple dedication — like other dedications previously throughout the county — further unified the Saints in Brazil.
“The dedication of a temple in Fortaleza is a sign of the spiritual maturity of members in the state of Ceará and others who belong to the temple district are going through as well … all over the country,” he said. “We see a desire and determination from members to follow the living prophet and strive to live their lives in harmony with the teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ.”
Sandro Alex Silva — son of Antenor da Silva Jr., an early Fortaleza branch president, district president and stake president — recalled the difficult early days of the Church in Fortaleza, where the early members had to fill all the callings, complete all the tasks and even build themselves the first chapel.
Now residing in Sao Paulo, he joined the Latter-day Saints with roots tracing back to Fortaleza who returned home to enjoy the dedication-weekend events and to reconnect with family and friends.
“It’s something very special,” said Silva of the temple in Fortaleza after the Church’s beginnings there a half-century ago. “My feeling is that now, with the temple, the work here is just beginning.”
Many returned missionaries also found their way back to Fortaleza and the state of Ceará — some having served many decades earlier, and some, like John M. Beck of Provo, having been one of the first elders to serve in Fortaleza, in 1966, meeting with members of the city’s first converts that he helped teach more than a half-century before.
Other returned missionaries waited less time to be with members welcoming the new temple — like Jonathan Vázquez of Montevideo, Uruguay, flying back to the city just five months after completing his service in the Brazil Fortaleza East Mission.
"They are very grateful to the Lord for having that privilege [of the temple] and to be able to be here for the dedication," said Vázquez of the local Latter-day Saints. "During the temple open house, I received calls, 'Jonathan, never in my life have I felt the Spirit so strong than inside the temple — the Lord really loves us!' No doubt they are very happy to have a temple in Ceará.