TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Many here call this region's recent period of prolific temple building the "Central American Miracle."
It was only a few years ago that hundreds of thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Central American lands had to cross international borders and make life-altering sacrifices to worship inside a temple.
The Guatemala City Guatemala Temple was the region's first and only temple for almost two decades following its dedication in 1984. Legions of devout Mormons in Central America will forever hold a soft spot for that edifice. It became both a real and symbolic spiritual gathering place for members living from Guatemala to Panama. Still, many in the new temple district could only visit the Guatemala City temple at great expense and while enduring other practical challenges.
Then on June 4, 2000, President James E. Faust, a counselor in the Church's First Presidency, presided over the opening of the San Jose Costa Rica Temple. That temple eased the burdens for many living in southern Central America. Eight years later, President Thomas S. Monson dedicated the Panama City Panama Temple.
Since that opening almost five years ago, the number of temples in Central America has doubled. A temple was opened in El Salvador in 2011, a second Guatemalan temple was dedicated in the western city of Quetzaltenango, and, on Sunday, a temple will be dedicated in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, is expected to preside at today's event. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve will join him. The temple will be dedicated in three sessions. Ceremonies will be broadcast to congregations throughout Honduras and Nicaragua.
On Friday, President Uchtdorf hosted a breakfast at the Tegucigalpa temple offices for Honduran president Porfirio Lobo and the First Lady, Rosa Elena de Lobo. The two men exchanged gifts and discussed the new temple and the LDS Church's growing presence in Honduras.
Local leaders say the faith of the members has played a pivotal role in the Church's decision to continue to build temples across Central America. Such close proximity to temple, they add, will only increase such devotion.
"The members here are going to be blessed tremendously by the opportunity to have so many temples in Central America," said Elder James B. Martino, a Seventy who presides over the Central America Area.
His first counselor in the area presidency, Elder Carlos H. Amado, is a native Guatemalan . He noted that the Honduran and Nicaraguan membership that will form the new temple district have traveled faithfully to the temple in Guatemala City for almost three decades. Following Sunday's dedication here, their burden will be forever lightened.
"The Lord knows it's time — it was necessary to build a temple in Tegucigalpa," he said.
Elder Kevin R. Duncan, second counselor in the area presidency, saluted the grit and resilience of the members who will worship in Honduras' first temple. Many, he said, come from notoriously violent, unstable communities — but they are gentle, happy people thanks to their faith and temple devotion.