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Jesus Inostroza, Associated Press
President Gordon B. Hinckley waves to LDS Church members at Sunday's Santiago Chile Temple rededication. He is joined by son Clark B. Hinckley.

SANTIAGO, Chile — History was made in Chile over the weekend — and all of Latin America was watching.

Michelle Bachelet became this nation's first female president, snagging headlines throughout the Americas. Motorcades shuttled U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a host of other foreign leaders though Chilean streets to participate in inauguration activities.

Also on Sunday, Chilean members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoyed their own historic moments. First, the Santiago Chile Temple was rededicated — reopening the first LDS temple to have been built in a Spanish-speaking land.

Additionally, LDS Chileans and fellow church members in and outside Latin America celebrated a comeback of sorts by President Gordon B. Hinckley. The church president's presiding role at the rededication highlighted a welcome return to duty after his bout with colon cancer. Once again, President Hinckley was traveling the globe to be with church members.

"It went well. Very well," President Hinckley said as he stepped outside the temple following the ceremonies.

"For us, this is the crowning event of the (historic) weekend here," said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Warmed by Santiago's late summer sun, President Hinckley arrived at the temple and wished a good morning to the scores of LDS Chileans waiting in line to attend the day's first of two dedicatory sessions. He was joined by his two sons — fellow general authority Elder Richard G. Hinckley and younger son Clark Hinckley — along with Elder Perry and several other general and local church leaders.

He alluded to his recent operation for cancer in the opening moments of the first dedication ceremony, quipping he would not recommend it to anyone.

"President Hinckley was at his best," Elder Perry said moments after the first session adjourned. "He conducted the entire session. Gave the dedicatory prayer. You wouldn't know he had ever been ill. His vigor was absolutely amazing."

President Hinckley also recalled his own rich history in Chile, where he organized the nation's first LDS stake and dedicated the Santiago Chile Temple when it was first opened in 1983.

"It was with emotion that he talked about his many visits here," Elder Perry said.

Chileans living in the nation's expansive, arid regions know something of drought. With the temple out of commission for more than a year, LDS Chileans say they were thirsty to claim blessings offered only in a temple.

"After having the temple closed for 14 months, this is a historic and wonderful day for the members in Chile," said Elder Francisco J. Vinas of the Quorums of Seventy. "Now we will have the opportunity to come to the temple again. The opportunity to have the prophet of the Lord here is a wonderful blessing for all the Saints."

Rank-and-file members echoed Elder Vinas.

"I was very sad to have a year or two without a temple," said Fernando Alberto Lamartine of Santiago. Now having a temple in operation again "will force people to raise their personal bar and live a higher standard."

Sergio Boletti, a bishop from Concepcion who sang in the temple as part of the dedicatory choir, said he was humbled to share his talent with President Hinckley and the many others at the dedication.

Bishop Boletti had not visited a temple since the edifice was closed in Santiago. While waiting for Sunday to arrive, he tried to meet the nationwide challenge to refurbish one's own life during the temple's physical refurbishment period. Local church leaders asked their congregations to keep symbolic pace with the demanding standards of the temple building project.

Located amid the tree-lined, cobble-stoned residential suburb of Providencia, the refurbished temple includes familiar exterior features such as a golden Angel Moroni statue standing atop a high tower and plenty of green landscaping.

But much of the temple's interior is distinctly Chilean, including floor motifs of inlaid Chilean marble and lapislazuli, a native blue stone, in the temple's baptistry and entryway. Images of Chile's national flower, the copihue, adorn door handles and the building's art-glass windows.

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