“Buenos Aires Temple Will Be a Focal Point for Saints,” Ensign, Jan. 1986, 80
On 3 September 1925, President Heber J. Grant announced that the First Presidency had for some time been considering opening a mission in South America. The time now seemed right, and, accordingly, Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Council of the Twelve was sent to Argentina, accompanied by President Rulon S. Wells and President Rey L. Pratt of the First Council of the Seventy.
At 7:00 A.M. on 25 December 1925, these Church officers held a small testimony meeting in the Third of February (now Palermo) Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the meeting, Elder Ballard offered a prayer dedicating the lands of South America for preaching of the gospel. Three weeks later, in mid-January of 1926, the first meeting place for Latter-day Saints in South America was rented, in the Liniers neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
From that small beginning, the Lord has sent his missionaries to reap a harvest of responsive souls in Argentina and throughout South America.
Today, more than a third of Argentina’s thirty million inhabitants—approximately twelve million people—live in the metropolis that is greater Buenos Aires.
It is a cosmopolitan city, touched heavily by European influence. It is not only the political, but also the economic, cultural, and social capital of the nation.
With the dedication of the temple in Buenos Aires, it will become a focal point of faith as well for Latter-day Saints in the southern part of South America.
Argentina tilts eastward like a giant wedge on the Atlantic Coast of South America. It stretches from the tropics in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south, ending just above Cape Horn, less than 300 miles from Antarctica.
Buenos Aires is situated at the mouth of the Rio de Plata. The city is about as far south as Sydney, Australia, or Cape Town, South Africa, and approximately the same distance from the equator as Tokyo, Gibraltar, or Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the northern hemisphere.
Inland from Buenos Aires lie the Pampas. This fertile heart of Argentina contains some 60 percent of the country’s population, and well over half of its commercial and industrial enterprises. Livestock and agricultural products are major factors in the economy.
The country had perhaps half a million people in 1816, when it gained independence from Spain. But a tide of immigration from Europe, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, changed the face of Argentina. The Indians and mestizos who were once predominant are now a small minority. The influx of immigrants was heavily Italian and Spanish, but in addition, one hears a generous sampling of German, Jewish, English, French, and Russian names in large Argentine cities.
Some of the German immigrants were Latter-day Saints. They began petitioning the First Presidency by letter in the early 1920s to send missionaries to their adopted homeland.
The Buenos Aires Argentina Temple is evidence of the result. It will serve members of forty stakes and seven missions—some 160,000 Latter-day Saints in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.
One of those members is Ramon B. Paez, second counselor in the bishopric of the Centro Ward, Mar del Plata Argentina Stake. He recalls that when he was chosen to be the Argentine architect on the temple project, he was admonished to remember that he was working for a “very special client”—the Lord.
Approaching the work with this in mind has wrought changes in his professional as well as spiritual life, he says. Growth came through learning to love those with whom he worked, through resolving problems and overcoming obstacles together, and through sharing with his family the knowledge he gained.
The coming of the temple has had its effect on the lives of many members, including youth. Julio E. Chumbita, director of the LDS Institute of Religion in downtown Buenos Aires, which serves students of several schools, recalls walking among the tents one night on a Church camp-out when he was unable to sleep. He could not avoid hearing what three young men were talking about in their tent; they were earnestly discussing the qualities they hoped to find in their future wives and their desire to be sealed to them in the temple.
Bishop Carlos Guillermo Hofmann of the Buenos Aires First Ward, Buenos Aires Argentina East Stake, says the temple will not only contribute to further development of genealogical work in his country, “but it will also motivate all of the members to be better people and accelerate the missionary work.” Bishop Hofmann is a barber, and many of his customers know and respect his religious beliefs. A number of them have taken pains to find out the date of the open house for the temple so they can attend.
Alfredo Goyeneche, a member of the high council in the Buenos Aires Banfield Stake, and his wife, Marina, have already promised themselves that they will take advantage of the temple’s proximity by attending regularly. “I tell Marina,” Brother Goyeneche says, “that going to the temple weekly will be like vaccinating ourselves against the illnesses of the world.”
Correspondent: Nestor Coronel, area director of public communications for Argentina.