Tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints will gather in Sao Paulo this weekend for the rededication of the Sao Paulo temple, which has been closed since August 2002 for renovation.

The new temple is bigger (55,000 sq. ft.) and now is graced with an Angel Moroni statue on its spire.  The basement has been made into additional space and most of the furniture has been refurbished.

President Hinckley is scheduled to be in Sao Paulo for the rededication, which will include a cultural event and other ceremonies.

The re-opening of the temple has been accompanied by a flood of positive press and attention from Brazilians.  The governor of Sao Paulo state, Geraldo Alckimin, visited the temple and said it was “an honor for Sao Paulo to have this temple here.”  Sao Paulo state has nearly 35 million inhabitants, and the city of Sao Paulo alone has nearly 20 million, making it one of the largest cities in the world. The local press has printed surprisingly favorable articles, including one in the news magazine Epoca that includes multiple photos of the temple.  More than 100,000 people toured the temple in January and February.

Dedicated in 1978, the temple was the first in South America.  Brazilians love to tell stories about their first visit to the sacred building – the visits often included three-day bus rides each way.  For a period the temple was open 24 hours a day to accommodate the crush of visitors from throughout South America.

The temple was on the edge of the massive city of Sao Paulo in those days.  Now it is surrounded by a huge mall and other large buildings that have been built as the city has exploded and expanded.

I got my endowments at the Sao Paulo temple in 2000, so it will always be a special place for me.   I met another visitor when I was there who had traveled from northern Brazil – a two-day bus ride each way.  I was awed by the sacrifice and faith involved in such a journey.

In the last several years, three other temples have been built in Brazil, in Porto Alegre, Recife and Campinas.  Another is under construction in Curitiba.  I attended the dedication of the Campinas temple in 2002 and was fortunate enough to sit in the celestial room just a few rows away from President Hinckley (a copy of the article I wrote for Meridian is here.)

Re-reading that article is a rededication of a sort for myself.  It still brings tears to my eyes to remember the sweet spirit I felt as I sat close to a living prophet in the celestial room.  I feel happy, and yes even a bit envious, for the people who will be able to be there in Sao Paulo this weekend.

The new Sao Paulo temple will serve 190,000 members in the Sao Paulo area.  There are another 670,000 members elsewhere in the country.  I can’t wait to get back to Brazil so I can see the new temple.