“Building a Temple in Colombia,” Global Histories: Colombia (2022)
“Building a Temple in Colombia,” Global Histories: Colombia
On April 7, 1984, during the annual general conference of the Church, the construction of a temple in Bogotá was announced. Saints in Colombia rejoiced at the news. Alejandro Portal, a regional representative from Colombia, expressed appreciation to his Heavenly Father and pledged the support of the Saints in Colombia to the project. “We are ready to put all our heart into this work,” he said. As plans for the temple moved forward, however, difficulties arose in acquiring land and securing the necessary permits for construction.
For more than a decade, no progress was made. During the delay, local members continued to work to open the way for the temple to be built, sharing the gospel with their neighbors and making occasional trips to the temple in Peru to participate in ordinances. Finally, on June 26, 1993, ground was broken for the Bogotá Colombia Temple. “I think of the great number of people and the many years that have been necessary for the arrival of this moment,” Elder Julio Dávila of the Seventy, a native of Colombia, said. As the construction of the temple went forward, many local members contributed their time and talents to the design and construction.
Four years later, in April 1999, the temple was dedicated by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. “From the initial announcement of this temple until now has been 15 years,” President Hinckley said. “We’ve had trouble of one kind or another—the location, the site, trying to get property and many other factors, but finally it has happened.” During the open house, many of the visitors commented on the beauty of the architecture and the fineness of the stonework. “And what a beautiful building it is—the workmanship is superb,” President Hinckley said in appreciation. “It is beautiful, a fitting monument to the good people of Colombia.”
On the first day that the temple was in operation, 36 appointments had been scheduled for sealing ordinances. Many others who had not scheduled appointments, however, arrived asking to receive the ordinance. The temple presidency and workers continued performing ordinances to accommodate everyone who arrived. By the time the temple closed late that evening, 82 couples had been sealed. One sister, who was in the late stages of cancer, was wheeled into the temple on a hospital gurney to receive her endowment and be sealed to her husband. Before the week was over, this sister passed away, now sealed to her family for eternity.
From that first moment, Saints in Colombia have taken full advantage of having a temple in their midst. The baptistry is almost always filled to capacity with youth groups performing baptisms for the dead. Often, young men and women are asked to help with projects on the temple grounds and at a nearby park while they wait for their turn in the baptistry. During the early years of the temple’s operation, busloads of Saints from across the country would travel long distances, some risking their own safety as they passed through areas controlled by local cartels, to be in the temple. “Members do activities and sell things to raise funds to go to the temple at least once a year,” Miriam Muñoz Santacruz, a member from Cali, said. “They have found great spiritual strength.”