Editor’s note: Laurie Williams Sowby is serving in the Chile Santiago West Mission with her husband, Stephen.
SANTIAGO, CHILE – The “open doors” have closed as workers put the finishing touches on the Santiago Temple for its rededication Sunday, March 12.
Since more than 62,000 visitors toured the renovated and enlarged temple during the three-week public open house that ended Feb. 11, last-minute details have been finished inside, the gardens and fountain have been spruced up, and the Angel Moroni has received a gleaming new coat of gold leaf.
Youth and their leaders have been adding extra rehearsals and making colorful decorations for the cultural celebration, which will be held in Santiago’s 50,000-seat Estadio Monumental Saturday evening, prior to the rededication. A meeting is scheduled in the stadium for members before the cultural event. In addition, youth and Young Single Adults are invited to a special meeting March 9 in a Santiago stake center with Elder L. Tom Perry. The apostle will also address a gathering of missionaries from the Santiago East, West and North missions the following morning.
It is hoped President Gordon B. Hinckley, who dedicated the Santiago Temple in 1983, will give the dedicatory prayer in two sessions Sunday morning. The proceedings will be transmitted live to stake centers throughout Chile, which claims a Church membership of more than 500,000. Worthy members over the age of 8 have received tickets from their ward or branch leaders to attend. For the great majority, it will be their first experience attending a temple dedication.
Members and nonmembers alike exhibited great interest in the open house, many of them traveling from distances far from Santiago, Chile’s capital. In a country where it is unusual to own an automobile, many branches hired buses to transport members, missionaries and investigators to the “puertas abiertas,” or “open doors.”
Elder Gonzalo Sepulveda, Area Seventy over Public Affairs, said that in relation to the vision and expectation of the area presidency, “We feel good knowing what people felt there.” Hosting dignitaries on tours, he heard such comments as this one from the president of a large university as they stood in the Celestial Room: “We can touch the hand of the Lord.”
“People could feel the Spirit there” even before the temple is dedicated, he said. He mentioned that the number who attended was more than three times the expectation of 20,000, despite the fact that the open house was held in the middle of summer vacation.
For many, the pre-dedication activities started long before. Monica Arenas, artistic director for the cultural celebration, said rehearsals began in November in individual areas of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on the coast, and Rancagua and Concepcion in the south, as well as in the greater Santiago area. The 2,000 youth have recently come together for rehearsals as the program approaches, preparing folk dances, music, and choir numbers, as well as dramatic scenes depicting the Restoration.
Sister Arenas mentioned challenges from the beginning, including finding a place to hold the event, confirming the original date (Feb. 25) two months ahead, then having it changed to March 11 when the rededication was rescheduled for March 12. However, she said, she’s seen the enthusiasm of the youth rise as they’ve felt the Spirit in their visits to the temple during the open house.
She also notes that January and February are the summer vacation season in Chile, when youth are out of school. “Many families sacrificed their vacations to participate in this event,” she said. “A force of many people helped” in making costumes and large decorations, as well as helping teach dances and assisting at rehearsals. The dances, music, and costumes depict the unique culture of Chile.
“I’ve been blessed, and I’ve felt the hand of the Lord in his work,” said Sister Arenas. “Many youth have been given an opportunity to display their talents, and they’ve worked diligently.” Of her special assignment, she says, “My happiness in the Church and my knowledge of my own country have grown.”