Shortly before COVID-19 took a sobering grip upon the Americas, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered prophetic counsel to Chilean Latter-day Saints that has surely lifted spirits over the past several challenging months.
“While moments of heartache are inevitable, even in the midst of those difficult times, God watches over you,” he said during a Feb. 16 member meeting broadcast across the South American nation.
The Chilean members’ “faithfulness to sacred covenants and to the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he added, will strengthen local communities and bless individuals.
Elder Uchtdorf’s promise of divine support was realized, in part, on Friday, Nov. 27, with the ceremonial groundbreaking signaling the beginning of construction of the Antofagasta Chile Temple.
“We should be grateful to our Father for having chosen Antofagasta as a place to be a light to the nations, for shining His divine light to the hearts of those who have their eye on rewards beyond what the world has to offer,” said Elder Juan Pablo Villar, a General Authority Seventy and a member of the South America South Area Presidency, who presided at the event, according to Newsroom.
Attendance at the groundbreaking was limited because of local COVID-19 restrictions. Still, several local government leaders participated in Friday’s event — including Antofagasta Governor Nanto Espinoza and Yamile Guzmán, the city’s interim mayor.
“From this day on and for several years, the construction of the temple will be carried out,” said Elder Villar. “This will require coordination and work to excavate, remove rocks and materials that are not needed, to prepare it so that it is ready for the foundation that will make it a firm and stable House of the Lord.”
That sure foundation, he said during the groundbreaking’s dedicatory prayer, will allow the temple to withstand quakes that are common to the region.
“I invite us all to do the same within ourselves and take out the things that are not needed from our lives, ‘remove’ the rocks that weaken our foundation and ‘prepare’ our spirits with firm foundations to support life’s trials and to stand tall in the face of the adversity.”
Plans call for an approximately 23,000-square-foot temple, built on a 2.2-acre site at Avenida de Las Palmeras 44 in Antofagasta, Chile. Latter-day Saints in Antofagasta currently travel 830 miles (1,335 kilometers) to participate in temple ordinances at the Santiago Chile Temple, according to Newsroom.
“At this moment, a small number of thy children have come together to participate in this groundbreaking ceremony, and we thank Thee because this day has arrived to bless the lives of many Saints that live in Antofagasta; and in the cities and towns that are within this district,” said Elder Villar.
The General Authority was joined Friday by his wife, Sister Carola Villar.
“The temple is not going to only bless the beauty of this location with its structure, or with its pretty gardens, it’s going to bless the lives of those that live here, and it will bless our country,” said Sister Villar. “The opportunity to have an eternal family is a wonderful thing for us.”
Two local Latter-day Saints — 25-year-old Krasna Arancibia and 15-year-old Joseph Amaguaña — shared their testimonies at Friday’s groundbreaking service.
“Temples unite families, not only those who are alive today but also those that have passed away,” said Arancibia.
Representing Antofagasta’s Latter-day Saint youth, Joseph said he was “deeply thankful because God had chosen that location.”
Such gratitude has been felt in the region since that April 7, 2019, afternoon when President Nelson revealed plans to build a temple in Antofagasta at the conclusion of general conference.
Minutes after the Church president’s joyful announcement, Antofagasta Chile Stake President Jaime Castillo told the Church News that Latter-day Saints throughout his community surrendered to tears.
“We feel such gratitude and humility. We know that the Lord knows us here in northern Chile.”
President Castillo said the Latter-day Saints living in the greater Antofagasta area love the temple. They are proven templegoers, but the trip to the nearest temple in Santiago is both costly and difficult.
“It takes about 22 hours by bus to get to Santiago, but we still try to get to the temple a couple of times each year.”
The public will be invited to tour the Antofagasta Chile Temple upon its completion and prior to its dedication. Details for the open house and temple dedication will be announced at a future date.