BELÉM, Brazil — In preparing to dedicate the Belém Brazil Temple on Sunday, Nov. 20, Elder Dale G. Renlund turned his thoughts to the nearby Amazon River, using the world’s largest waterway — as well as other notable rivers — as representative of temple worthiness and ordinances and covenants.
Elder Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of a prominent local Amazon phenomenon called “pororoca” — well-known to those of Belém and northern Brazil.
As the most powerful river in the world, the Amazon dumps more water into the ocean than the next seven largest rivers combined, he said. Twice a year, when the sun, moon and earth align during the biannual equinoxes, the pororoca — known as a tidal bore — occurs as the tide rises and the river reverses direction.
“We can correctly conclude that even the mighty Amazon River must yield to higher heavenly powers,” Elder Renlund said.
The pororoca — the word, meaning “great roar,” is believed to come from indigenous origins — results in loud, crashing waves that can travel at least 50 kilometers (31 miles) inland and reach up to six meters (20 feet) in height.
In a similar way, one must yield to higher heavenly powers to become worthy to return to live in the presence of God, he said, adding that it is not natural to be humble, empathetic and willing to submit one’s will to God.
“But we need to be transformed to reach our eternal destiny, to become heirs in the kingdom of God,” he continued. “We cannot overcome our natural tendencies by ourselves. We must have heavenly help.
“The Amazon River has no choice but to yield to heavenly power. But we do have a choice. We receive power only if we bind ourselves to God by sacred covenants.”
Individuals should put off their natural tendencies, follow the direction that comes from the Holy Ghost and rely on the merits, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, he added. “It is our choice whether we ‘go with the flow’ or follow the Savior to receive His transforming power in our lives.”
A warm welcome
Lines of Latter-day Saints from the northern Brazil states of Pará, Amapá and Maranhão — and returned missionaries who had served in the area — flowed like a human river into the Belém Brazil Temple’s three dedicatory sessions. The day was hot and humid, with temperatures reaching the low 90s F and humidity percentages not far behind — but with blue skies and no afternoon rain as is common. Belém sits at the mouth of the Amazon, just 180 kilometers (112 miles) south of the equator.
But as hot as it was outside, the welcome to and feeling within the temple was one of warmth.
And welcoming attendees to each of the day’s sessions at the front entrance of the new house of the Lord was an Apostle of the Lord.
Elder Renlund greeted Latter-day Saints with individual handshakes as they entered the temple.
Joining him in receiving attendees were Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, a General Authority Seventy and assistant executive director of the Temple Department; and Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella, also a Seventy and president of the Brazil Area.
They were accompanied by their wives — Sister Ruth Renlund, Sister Monica Godoy, Sister Silvia Valenzuela and Sister Elaine Parrella — at the dedication services.
Elder Odair José Castro de Lira, an Area Seventy from Santarém, Brazil, and his wife, Sister Edileude Lira, agreed that having Elder Renlund welcome them at the front door gave them a feeling that they were receiving “the Lord’s protection.”
Elder Lira said he witnessed the blessings upon those who prepared for the dedication and participated in the temple open house, that they recognized it as indeed the house of the Lord.
He cited one experience involving a woman at the temple’s open house who is not a Latter-day Saint and who had lost her husband just two days before. He saw how the Spirit touched her as she learned about eternal marriage, and she became emotional. There were many experiences like this one.
Clarice Albuquerque of the Cabanagem Ward, Belém Brazil Cabanagem Stake, said that when greeted by Elder Renlund at the temple’s front door, she felt incredibly grateful for the Lord sending one of His Apostles.
Both she and her husband, Anderson Albuquerque, were surprised, and the gesture reminded them of the account in the Book of Mormon when the resurrected Christ came to the Americas and greeted all, one by one.
At the cornerstone ceremony conducted just after the start of the day’s first session, Elder Renlund spoke of the symbolic representation of not only the temple’s physical completion but also the foundational role — as taught by Paul in the New Testament — of Christ as the cornerstone of the Church.
The latter-day Apostle shared public-facing welcome and instructional messages in Portuguese, giving his concluding messages and dedicatory prayer in each of the three sessions in the local language. All three sessions were done completely in Portuguese.
Elder Renlund then invited others among the leadership group and the temple presidency, matron and assistants to join him in placing mortar around the cornerstone. He invited a handful of young children — representing the rising generation of the temple district — to join him in doing the same.
1 of 2 new dedicated temples
For about two hours Sunday morning, the Belém Brazil Temple was the newest of 174 dedicated temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Two hours later, on the western side of the South American continent, the Quito Ecuador Temple was dedicated by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — a rare two temple dedications in a single day.
While it may have lost its place as the Church’s most recently dedicated temple, it will be Brazil’s newest for some time. The Belém Brazil Temple is the ninth temple in South America’s largest nation, joining dedicated and operating temples in São Paulo, Recife, Porto Alegre, Campinas, Curitiba, Manaus, Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro — the latter dedicated in May of this year.
Brazil lists 18 total temples, with two under construction, in Brasília and Salvador, and seven announced temples — for Belo Horizonte, Vitória, Maceió, Santos, Londrina, Ribeirão Preto and a second for São Paulo.
President Thomas S. Monson announced a temple for Belém, Brazil, in the April 2016 general conference. Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, General Authority Seventy and then president of the Brazil Area, presided at the Aug. 17, 2019, groundbreaking in Belém.
This is not the first time Elder Renlund has dedicated a temple near one of the world’s largest rivers. In April 2019, he dedicated the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple and mentioned the nearby Congo River in his messages and dedicatory prayer then.
In addition to the Amazon, Elder Renlund noted the United States’ Mississippi River and an unnamed river in the Old Testament as relating to the new Belém Brazil Temple.
In an 1840 funeral service near the banks of the Mississippi, the Prophet Joseph Smith delivered a funeral sermon, reading Paul’s words on baptism for the dead and emphasized the doctrine concerning the salvation of the dead. The spirits of deceased people were waiting for their living family members to act as proxies for them to receive the necessary ordinances, starting with baptism.
“Men and women rushed to the river and were baptized for their dead grandparents, fathers, mothers, siblings and children,” said Elder Renlund, adding that “later, Joseph taught that these ordinances should occur only in a dedicated temple.”
He also cited the Prophet’s declaration that the greatest God-given responsibility is to seek after one’s dead in providing the saving and exalting ordinances for them.
A river shown to the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel by a heavenly messenger in a vision (Ezekiel 40-47) represents temple blessings, Elder Renlund said.
Ezekiel saw a temple with water flowing from it, starting as a trickle but growing to become a mighty river without any additional source of water being added to the flow. Also, the water surprisingly healed everything it touched.
The two unusual characteristics of the river represent two aspects of temple blessings, Elder Renlund said.
“First, the water that came from the temple represents the blessings that flow from the temple as individuals are endowed and families are sealed. Geometric growth occurs going backwards and forwards through the generations because sealing ordinances weld families together,” he said.
“Second, the blessings of the temple, like the river water, have a remarkable healing capacity. As we search out our deceased ancestors and then go to the temple and perform sacred ordinances for them, blessings flow to us and our families like the power of the river spoken of by Ezekiel. We will find power to heal that which needs healing.”
‘A covenant people’
Elder Godoy, who presided over the Brazil Belém Mission from 1997 to 2000, recalled local Latter-day Saints committed to attending the temple two times or more each year — making great sacrifices to do so.
Joining the “temple caravans” from Belém meant a three-day bus ride each way to the São Paulo Temple, before temples in Recife, Manaus and Fortaleza shortened the distance. Those living farther away in the states of Amapá and Maranhão tacked on an additional three-day boat ride to get to Belém, meaning round-trip travel was 12 days, not including any time spent at the São Paulo temple.
The simple, humble members would not only deplete their savings but sell household items such as televisions, refrigerators and ovens to have money to travel by temple caravan.
The members long had a readiness to have a temple closer to them. “It was in their hearts and the Lord could see it,” said Elder Godoy, choking back tears. “I think they have a temple not because the Church was already strong enough there but because they really have been covenant people. They were already before, even without the temple.”
Belém Brazil Temple
Address: Av. Centenário da Assembleia de Deus, 2200 Parque Verde 66635-894 Belém - PA, Brazil
Announced: April 3, 2016, by President Thomas S. Monson
Groundbreaking: Aug. 17, 2019, by Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, a General Authority Seventy
Open house: Oct. 22, 2022, through Nov. 5, 2022, excluding Sundays
Dedication: Nov. 20, 2022, by Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Of note: It is the 174th dedicated temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 175th was dedicated in Quito, Ecuador, later the same day.
Site: 6.7 acres, with an arrivals center and patron housing also on the site
Total area: 28,675 square feet
Ordinance rooms: Two instruction rooms, two sealing rooms, one baptistry
Architectural features: Exterior is Brazilian granite. The geometric design elements are inspired by local Marajoara indigenous pottery. The Victoria amazonica — a native water lily — is featured in the art glass design. The blue, green, yellow and pink colors used in the art glass are carried on throughout the temple.