Shock waves of joy and delight continue to reverberate in the hearts of LDS Church members as they absorb the announcement of four new temples by President Thomas S. Monson in the Sunday morning session of the 186th Annual General Conference.
The new temples will be built in Harare, Zimbabwe; Quito, Ecuador; Belém, Brazil; and Lima, Peru, which is already home to one temple.
Several members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared their reactions following the last session of conference, including a general authority Seventy, a future mission president, returned missionaries and members from these countries.
Elder Dube and Zimbabwe
Elder Edward Dube, a general authority Seventy, was born and raised in Zimbabwe before serving as a missionary and later a mission president in his homeland. From 2009 to 2012, Elder Dube worked with church leaders in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to "position the mission for a temple," he wrote in an email.
Last Friday evening during a missionary reunion, Elder Dube was asked when a temple might come to Zimbabwe. He responded that he didn't know, but he encouraged his former missionaries to watch general conference. Shortly after the announcement, his email inbox was rapidly filled with messages from former missionaries and friends from Zimbabwe.
"They are all expressing joy that the day has finally come," Elder Dube wrote to the Deseret News. "(They said things like) 'Thank you for the mission vision'; 'Hurrah for Israel'; 'I will start saving now so that I can take my wife for the dedication of the temple in the land I loved and served'; 'the Lord had heard and answered our prayers'; 'I am excited to hear that the saints in Zimbabwe are receiving the blessing of a temple! What a great day for us Zimbabweans; the Lord has heard our prayers.'"
In past years, temple trips to Johannesburg, South Africa, have been difficult. The journey from Harare and neighboring countries to Johannesburg can involve a 14- to 18-hour commute with customs, immigration and visa challenges, depending on different circumstances.
"In essence this is a great day, a great era for not only the Zimbabweans, but the surrounding countries of Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique and the other part of DRC Congo," Elder Dube wrote.
Another Latter-day Saint from Zimbabwe, Ignatius Maziofa, said he screamed for joy when he heard the news. Despite a poor economy and other hardships, church members "have held on" and the Lord has provided, Maziofa wrote in an email.
Sunday night "was the biggest blessing we have received in our lives," wrote the husband and father of three children. "There are no words to describe just how happy we are. We have been told that the light of the gospel is shining on Africa. We are seeing the miracles and we are experiencing the joy."
Emmanuel Sakala, 24, grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, an eight-hour drive from Harare. The returned Mormon missionary is now attending LDS Business College. Sakala said he almost jumped out of his seat when he heard the news, then he bear-hugged his wife.
Sakala recalled a feeling he had when Elder Quentin L. Cook toured Zimbabwe in 2014.
"He admonished people to keep making the effort to attend the temple in South Africa. That commitment was going to be seen by God, and he would bless us for that," Sakala said. "The (announcement) really touched me. Heavenly Father does his own work in his own time, and it's always the best time for things to happen. This was the time."
Going to Peru
Matthew Godfrey, former mayor of Ogden, was recently called to be the mission president of the Peru Lima North Mission. He and his wife were in the Conference Center when they heard the announcement.
Godfrey said his wife leaned over and whispered, "We have our work cut out for us to make sure we're doing all we can to prepare enough faithful Saints to fill this new temple."
"I feel the weight of the burden, to be honest," he said.
The soon-to-be mission president is grateful he had the experience of serving on the Ogden Utah Temple open house committee. He has seen firsthand the spiritual influence a new temple can have on an area.
"I'm excited because I know what a new temple does spiritually for a community, and the missionary opportunities that come about because of a new temple," Godfrey said. "The church is growing so quickly there, and with the oppressive congestion of that metropolitan area, a second temple will be a great blessing to tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints."
22 years later
Tyler Jolley was among the first missionaries assigned to labor in Belém, Brazil, in 1994. He recalls being assigned to rent buildings for church meetings and knocking on doors in areas where Mormon missionaries had never walked. But the people were ready to hear the gospel, he said.
"The mission was very successful," Jolley said. "It would take days on a bus to go to the Sao Paulo (Brazil) Temple, but they wanted it so bad, they packed up their family and did it. They would only go one time in their lives."
On Sunday, Jolley was watching conference with his family in their Grand Junction, Colorado, home when the temple announcement came. He had to rewind the DVR to make sure he had heard President Monson correctly. Then his phone exploded with text messages from old mission friends. He hopes to attend the dedication.
"I just couldn't believe how fast it went," Jolley said. "It wasn't a strong area in the church. They relied on missionaries to be in leadership positions. But I'm glad I was part of it. It was totally worth it."
'Tears of happiness' in Quito
Monica Alvarez and her husband stood and hugged one another when they heard President Monson say a temple would be built in their city of Quito, Ecuador. Her "heart leaped with joy" for this blessing in their lives, she wrote in an email.
"There were cheers and tears of happiness," Alvarez wrote.
While she looks forward to serving in the new temple, Alvarez also hopes to prepare her children to be temple worthy. Her son will soon serve a mission and hopes to attend the dedication when he returns.
"The Lord has heard our prayers and the desires of my heart. I am so grateful," Alvarez wrote. "He has been so kind and merciful to all his children in Ecuador, especially this part of the country."
Email: [email protected], Twitter: tbtoone