Thousands of Latter-day Saints in Puerto Rico gathered on Sunday, January 15, for the dedication sessions of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple, held under the direction of Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Accompanying Elder Christofferson were his wife, Katherine; Elder Benjamin De Hoyos and his wife, Evelia; Elder Kevin R. Duncan, executive director of the Temple Department, and his wife, Nancy; Elder Jorge M. Alvarado, First Counselor in the Caribbean Area Presidency, and his wife, Carilú; and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric and his wife, Carol.
The dedication ceremony was carried out in three sessions held at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. The first session also included the cornerstone-laying ceremony, a symbolic tradition that has played a part in the construction of temples from ancient times to today. Regarding the traditional ceremony, Elder Christofferson explained:
“We are here for the purpose of sealing the cornerstone of the temple. Although we do not have a cornerstone as such, it is a custom that we still keep today. With this, we are acknowledging the role and place of Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of our faith and in the lives of each one of us.”
The cornerstone-laying ceremony usually includes inspirational music by a choir, a brief commentary by the presiding authority and the placement of some mix on the floor. A capsule was embedded in the structure of the temple to preserve objects of a historical nature.
Elder Christofferson shared his thoughts on the significance of temples during the dedication.
“By entering the temple, we leave the world temporarily,” he said. “We leave our problems and challenges at the door and focus our minds on the things of God, on the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation. We refocus our thoughts and desires with a divine perspective.”
He then added: “As we leave the temple, we notice that the problems and challenges we left at the door are still there. We are forced to carry them again, they have not changed, but fortunately, the time we have spent in the temple has changed us. Our perspective is safer and more accurate. We begin to see that what seemed impossible, with the help of the Lord, can find a solution, and we have a greater certainty of his help.”
Elder Alvarado, who is Puerto Rican, also expressed his sentiments through tears.
“The power of the Lord is over this land and over this temple,” he said. “The Spirit that is felt here is extraordinary and I have been able to feel the difference that there is when the Lord comes and accepts his House. It moves me to think of the blessings that the Lord has for the Saints on the island of Puerto Rico. I have been to several dedications, and I have felt a very special spirit, but today I have had a powerful feeling that the Lord is pleased with his people and that he is going to help them grow and prosper.”
“After my baptism, I thought about that day when I was going to enter the temple and it happened that a year and four months later, I left as a missionary and was able to go to the temple. So, I was wondering when a temple will arrive in Puerto Rico; I waited for forty years and the opportunity finally came.”
To offer a greater number of people the opportunity to participate in the dedication ceremony, local Church leaders equipped the arrival hall of the temple and five stake centers around the island, including in the Virgin Islands (St. Croix and St. Thomas), with remote access. This allowed over 2,100 Church members to participate remotely. Through this modality, temporarily, the meetinghouses became “an extension of the temple,” as expressed by Héctor Álvarez, who together with his wife Amarilis Santiago served as event coordinators for the open house and the dedication of the temple for a short time. Preparations took more than a year.
In addition to those present at the temple facility, thousands of other brethren from the rest of the country and from other neighboring islands that will belong to the temple district — including St. Croix and St. Thomas — watched the broadcast of each of the dedicatory sessions.
Elder Christofferson’s relationship with Puerto Rico is not new. He has visited several times before and served as its area president when the island was still in the North America Southeast Area prior to 2006. At the conclusion of the ceremony, he commented on the unique nature of temple dedications.
“While participating in a temple dedication, one might think it is an experience one has already had and one knows what to expect, yet almost infallibly I get that feeling of pleasant surprise time after time, which comes from the power of the Holy Spirit,” said Elder Christofferson. “For example, the choirs are usually small, but when we sing the closing hymn ‘The Spirit of God’ we always have the sense of other voices joining us, which is a powerful testimony to me that the Lord is there. … and accepts the offering.”
He also shared his thoughts regarding the dedication of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple, specifically.
“What has struck me the most today is that the Saints of Puerto Rico consider this temple as an offering before the Lord, which moved me,” said Elder Christofferson. “They pray and hope that the Lord will regard their offering as worthy of Him and receive it as the best they can offer. That attitude and feeling of presenting an offering by coming to the temple today and then returning to present additional offerings in the form of covenants for your ancestors will maintain a deeper spirituality than has ever existed among the Saints on this island, especially among those who come to the temple. It is something that I have not experienced before in other dedication ceremonies, so I sincerely believe that the Lord receives the offering from him and that it has been accepted by Him on this day.”
The temple will begin operation on Wednesday, January 18.
This article originally appeared on Spanish Newsroom.