Diaspora

'Not enough room inside': Caribbean Saints rush to fill the temple before remodeling closure – LDS Living

It was 10:00 o’clock on a Saturday morning, and the temple doors were locked. Tour buses bulging with passengers parked alongside every vacant curb in the parking lot. Clusters of Saints milled about under the awning in front of the temple doors, and many more congregated on the steps and along the passageway leading to the entrance.
The murmuring crowd hushed as a crack appeared between the towering front doors. A tiny woman, dressed in white with a smile that covered her entire face, opened the doors wide to allow the next handful of the patient faithful to enter.
My husband and I had returned to the Dominican Republic where we’d served as mission leaders to witness the sealing of one of our missionaries. We were unaware before arriving that today was the last day the temple would be open before three months of remodeling. Because so many Saints from all over the Caribbean had arrived to receive temple blessings, there was not enough room inside to accommodate all of the waiting patrons.
We learned that 26 people received their own endowment that day. We also saw tall stacks of temple ordinance cards waiting to be picked up. There were so many that you almost couldn’t see the marble countertop they rested on.
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The lobby of temple patron housing was so crowded with roller bags and their owners that it was impossible to cross it. As the only temple in the Caribbean, Saints who had flown in from Puerto Rico and bused in from Haiti would stay the night before returning home. They patiently awaited for sheets to be washed and beds changed so they could rest from their journey before their scheduled temple sessions.
While observing all of this, I was reminded of Nauvoo, which we had visited only the week before. It felt like I was waiting with those early Saints who worked throughout the night to receive their endowment before abandoning the temple they had sacrificed so much to build. The Saints in the Caribbean worked with similar enthusiasm, waiting in lines that snaked through the locker room so they could make and keep sacred covenants. Clothing shelves stood vacant—clean clothing was distributed before it could even be sorted.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established in the Dominican Republic just 20 years before this beautiful temple was constructed in the year 2000. After its dedication, many members in the area chose to enter the gleaming temple to make a covenant that would unite them to their spouse for eternity. The youth set goals to become temple-worthy and made their own covenants as they prepared to preach the gospel to other nations. Missionaries taught members and friends of the faith on the temple steps.
The manicured temple grounds became a destination for seekers of truth. Those who were not members came to walk through the peaceful gardens and sit under the shade of the fan palms that line the borders of the temple grounds. Neighbors from nearby apartment towers studied the statue of Moroni from their balconies. The sight of the brilliant sun reflecting off his golden robes and his trumpet promising an announcement that the whole world would hear certainly left an impression.
Our scheduled session to witness the sealing of our missionary was postponed for an hour in part due to the crowds. When we were allowed to enter the sealing room, every seat in the sizeable space was filled. My husband and I sat on either side of the worthy couple, both of them exuding excitement. As the couple looked into the mirror on one wall, the sealer took his time inviting them to think back on who had come before them, preparing the way for them to be in the temple that day. He then invited them to look into the mirror on the opposite wall, explaining how their decision to be sealed would bless their posterity for generations.
It’s easy to forget how personal the gospel is when focusing on numbers on a chart or the trajectory of a graph. But the growth of the Church happens one individual at a time, one couple at a time, one family at a time. It happens with couples like the one we witnessed making and keeping sacred covenants.
Later, as we made the short walk to the distribution center, we were stopped time and time again by missionaries who had served with us, surprised by our presence in their beloved country. These missionaries had returned home with honor and were now keeping their covenants as they returned to the temple. We embraced them and wept and rejoiced at the spontaneous reunions.
These young people, attending the temple after full-time service to the Lord, would one day be the ancestors represented by one wall of mirrors, forging a path for those in the mirrors on the opposite wall.
Another temple is already under construction in the Caribbean on the island of Puerto Rico. The people we witnessed crowding the foyer of temple patron housing, with their luggage at their feet, will no longer need to fly overseas to attend the temple. We foresee the day when crowds will wait outside its doors just like they do in the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola.
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