Thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Manaus — an area deep in the Amazon River basin in the northern part of Brazil — used to travel for several days to reach the closest existing temple in Caracas, Venezuela. Now, a new temple in the city has changed all that.
Church members across the world have long visited temples in order to join in the highest sacraments of their faith – including the sealing of family members in what they believe is an eternal unit. The ceremonies are considered so important that many members go to extraordinary lengths to make the trip. In advanced industrial nations, a temple visit might mean a drive of a few hours. In remote parts of the world, it often means much more.
Temples are distinct from chapels, or ordinary places of Sunday worship. Normal Sunday services may be held anywhere, including rented buildings if necessary, but temples are considered the most sacred places on earth.
Several years ago, faced with the growing worldwide membership and a relatively small number of temples, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley called for the building of dozens more temples to make it possible for more members to participate.
Geraldo Diogo Lima, a local Church leader in Manaus, said it was impossible for him to adequately express the joy he felt when he learned a temple was to be built in his city.
Some members in remote locations still travel for several days and with notable sacrifice to reach a temple.
More than thirty members of the Church in Douala and Yaounde, Cameroon, traveled over 150 miles on unpaved roads to attend the temple in Aba, Nigeria for the first time after it was opened. The rainy season made travel challenging for the heavily laden vans. For much of the 36-hour trip to the Nigerian border, men shoveled and pushed the vans through tire-high mud while the other passengers walked.
Church members are encouraged to visit the temple regularly. According to Mormon beliefs and practice, Church members may also stand in as proxies for their own deceased family members, in order for them to be together as families after they die.
From these beliefs comes the emphasis in Church teachings on family history or genealogical research.
In 1900, only four temples existed, all were in Utah. Since President Hinckley’s announcement the worldwide total of temples in use has reached 124, with an additional 12 either under construction or announced. Temples currently operate or are announced in 32 states of the United States and in 40 countries.