A mission president’s life is filled with many and varied experiences, a kaleidoscope of teaching and learning. Recently I was blessed to participate, along with the other 16 mission presidents of the Brazil South Area, in the ground breaking ceremony for the Curitiba Brazil Temple. We were all in Curitiba for our mission presidents seminar presided over by Elder Russell M. Nelson.
I first visited the temple site in Curitiba at our seminar last year. It is truly a marvelous site, prepared by the Lord for his temple. The lot is a beautiful large grassy field screened on two sides by the local parana pine trees. The other sides fall away to two streets that are below the level of the lot, giving a commanding view of the surrounding area. Just above the lot, out of sight and sound, is a large bus station that will provide easy access to all parts of the city.
We arrived about 8:30am where we found the site covered with about 1,500 members from the 10 stakes in the city. We had a few hurried minutes to visit with our returned missionaries who live in Curitiba or missionaries from our area serving in Curitiba.
The service began promptly at 9am. It was conducted by Elder Castro Deus, an Area Authority Seventy. I felt the first flutters of emotion as the congregation sang strongly the opening hymn. Church members the world over know how to bring the spirit with the hymns of the restoration, no matter the language.
The first speakers were the two counselors in the Area Presidency. Elder Grahl spoke about the importance of temples and Elder Damiani outlined the preparation to enter the temple. Next we heard from the vice-major of Curitiba who proclaimed this one of the most important days in the city’s 300 year history.
Pres. Neil Andersen used his talk to tell of Pres. Hinckley’s visit to Curitiba to approve the purchase of the temple site. They visited three potential sites and Pres. Hinckley asked pointed questions about each. When they visited the first site he commented that it was very large. He asked about the price and commented that it was very expensive. At the end of the day as they returned to the airport, he approved the purchase of the first site. He commented to Pres. Andersen, “In a few years we will forget the price of that site. Remember, nothing is too good for the Lord.”
Bishop Richard Edgely, speaking through an interpreter, told the story of the dedication of one of the brethren who worked on the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. Despite having his leg amputated, he walked the 25 miles each week from his home in Alpine to Salt Lake to work on the temple. He carved the words “Holiness To The Lord” that were placed on the temple. He then reminded each of us to prepare our lives to enter the holy sanctuary of the Lord’s house.
Elder Nelson spoke of his wife, Danzel. He told the congregation how much she wanted to be there. “But three weeks ago she received a call to continue her mission on the other side of the veil.” He then invited his daughter and her husband, who is the Mission President in Curitiba, to join him at the podium. “As you look at my daughter, you can see in her the beauty of my wife.” He then invited their two sons, Adam and Samuel, to join them. “This is part of an eternal family,” he declared. “We have been through the toughest loss that any family can suffer, the loss of our mother and wife. But we are comforted in our knowledge that we will be together again. And that promise comes to us because of the temple. That is the purpose of the temple, to seal children to parents and husbands and wives to each other.” Many in the congregation felt the tenderness and emotion of that moment.
Elder Nelson closed his remarks and said he would offer the dedicatory prayer. He observed that we today were not dedicating the temple, but the ground and the project. “Pres. Faust tells me that he prays to Heavenly Father in English and Heavenly Father answers in Portuguese. I do not wish to pray through an interpreter, so today I will offer the prayer in Portuguese, and you will receive the answer in Portuguese as well.” He then offered a beautiful dedicatory prayer in flawless Portuguese. His command of languages is another remarkable talent of this wonderful Apostle and servant of God.
The service closed with the choir singing two verses of the hymn and then singing a beautiful descant as the congregation sang the final verse. After the prayer the dignitaries came down from the stand and did the requisite turning of the dirt. It was obvious to all that Elder Nelson has the most practice at the art of ground breaking and enjoyed it as much as anyone. When the pictures were snapped he invited all who wished to come forward and “move some dirt.”
We saw Elder Nelson later today in the continuation of our seminar. He is a remarkable man. We can only guess at his private grief. But to us, and to the members of the Church in Curitiba, he is renewed and invigorated by his service to the Lord and he blesses all with his presence.