LAYTON — Pop quiz: When was the temple ceremony translated into Spanish?
“It may come as a surprise to find that the LDS temple ceremony was translated into Spanish only as recently as 1945 and then only available at the Mesa Arizona Temple for several years,” said Jared Tamez on June 7 at the Mormon History Association Conference.
The Mesa Arizona Temple became a pilgrimage spot for many faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Central America and Mexico as well as Spanish-speaking Mormons across the United States.
Tamez said that when President Heber J. Grant dedicated the Mesa Temple in 1927, he laid out a vision of it as “a place of gathering” for the Spanish-speaking Saints. But, Tamez explained, “the absences of temple services in Spanish seemed an obstacle to realizing this vision.”
Translator Eduardo Balderas described the process in a 1972 Ensign article.
“In October 1943, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith visited the Spanish-American Mission and met with Charles Pugh of the Mesa Temple presidency to discuss the feasibility and advisability of holding temple session in Spanish. Elder Smith noted, ‘I see no reason why the English language should monopolize the temple session.’” And in 1944, the First Presidency approved the translation of the LDS temple ceremony into Spanish, which took place in the Salt Lake Temple.
Once the translation was complete, the first non-English temple sessions began in the Mesa Temple in late 1945, and in that first week, explained Tamez, there were “124 baptisms for the dead, 375 endowments, 38 living sealings and 165 children were sealed to their parents.”
Tamez also shared what individual members felt about their experiences. Juan Pagan from Mesa said, “We are more grateful than we can express to our authorities who made it possible for us to have the temple ceremony in Spanish.”
Jose Garcia from Monterrey, Mexico, said, “We haven’t come here as tourists. We have come to do a great work for ourselves and for our fathers. We have waited many years for this moment, this opportunity to enter the temple, and it is a great step in our path to perfection.”
And Saturino Aguilar from the Ermita Branch in Mexico said, “I used to think I was an orphan, but now I see that I have many brothers and sisters.”
For years afterwards, Spanish-speaking Mormons would attend days-long conferences in Mesa “at which many reported an outpouring of the power of the Holy Ghost and during which hundreds of Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints performed thousands of LDS temple ordinances,” Tamez said.
He concluded, “The establishment of temples in Latin American countries in the 1980s effectively brought this era of (temple) excursions to an end, though the Mesa Arizona Temple remained a traditional point of pilgrimage for many Spanish-speaking Latter-day Saints. My own parents were married there in 1980.”
Emily W. Jensen covered the LDS online world for five years. She continues to track online developments and discussions. Email: [email protected]