Located in the lush highlands of central Guatemala, the city of Cobán is said to derive its name from a local Q’eqchi’ word that means, roughly, “the place of clouds.”
Celestial allusions seemed apt Saturday as Guatemalan Latter-day Saints and their neighbors celebrated the beginning of construction of the future Cobán Guatemala Temple.
Held under clear skies, the morning groundbreaking ceremony doubled as a hopeful signal for Central America members taking their initial steps of recovery from the recent Hurricane Eta, which claimed more than 100 lives.
Thousands across the region reportedly remain without power — and there was some initial uncertainty if the traditional groundbreaking ceremony would be held as scheduled Saturday.
Elder Brian K. Taylor, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Central America Area, presided at Saturday’s small gathering and offered the dedicatory prayer on the temple groundbreaking and construction effort.
His invocation surely offered comfort to many at a difficult moment defined by disaster and a pandemic.
“Endow all Thy Saints, we pray dear Father, with an extraordinary love for and brightened hope in Thy sanctuary as a mighty refuge from the storm,” he prayed.
Near the end of the dedicatory prayer, Elder Taylor called for all who will one day worship in the Cobán temple to sanctify their own lives to the Lord: “Wilt Thou accept our offering and may Thy grace and presence abide here and in our lives always is our humble prayer and earnest petition.”
The Cobán Guatemala Temple will be built on a 5.4-acre site adjacent to 4a. Avenida 4-48 Zona 8, Barrio Bella Vista, in Cobán, Guatemala. Plans call for a single-story temple of approximately 8,800 square feet. A meetinghouse and temple patron housing will also be built on the site, according to Newsroom.
President Russell M. Nelson announced plans to build a temple in Cobán just over a year ago at the conclusion of the 2019 October general conference.
The news triggered tears and celebrations across central Guatemala. Traveling to the temple in Guatemala City is difficult for many Latter-day Saints in the Cobán region. Lives will be blessed because scores of faithful members will be able to one day visit the temple with great frequency, said President Duglas Coy Duerig of the Guatemala Cobán Stake.
“To learn that we will be privileged to have a temple in our city is so special,” he told the Church News. “I have so many emotions right now — it’s difficult to put them all into words.”
Attendance was small at Saturday’s groundbreaking event due to local COVID-19 restrictions. Elder Taylor, his wife, Sister Jill Taylor, and a few local members were joined by Cobán city representative Ariel Hasses and Catholic Monsignor Rodolfo Valenzuela Nuñez, bishop of the Verapaz Diocese.
Julio Ovalle, a “pioneer” member of the Church in Cobán, testified of the power of the Book of Mormon and temples in his life.
“I have seen many promises and miracles come true in many ways and times,” he said. “I have felt the embrace of God and His comfort in times of trials and satisfactions.”
A youth speaker, Lucy Margarita Poóu Chiquín, spoke of the powerful feelings she experienced while visiting the grounds of Guatemala City Guatemala Temple as a little girl. She expressed gratitude for the temple that will now be built in Cobán
“It is wonderful to know that we will have a sacred place where families can make sacred covenants with the Lord,” she said.
Upon the Cobán temple’s completion and prior to its dedication, a public open house will be scheduled. Details for the open house and temple dedication will be announced at a future date.
It’s a busy moment for temple building in Guatemala — a nation of almost 300,000 Latter-day Saints. Last month, President Nelson announced a fourth temple would be built in Guatemala in the greater-Guatemala City region.
Two temples are currently in operation in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango.