Sacramento Temple Night Unites Missionaries, Locals
Carlos Rivera Medina, missionary in the California Sacramento Mission
“We have discovered that one of the most powerful ways to touch future members’ hearts and help them receive the restored gospel has been through the beautiful spirit of the temple.” —Carlos Rivera Medina, missionary in the California Sacramento Mission
On September 16, 2011, missionaries in the California Sacramento mission held an activity at “Mormon Center,” a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse adjacent to the Sacramento California Temple, inviting all Spanish-speaking members and nonmembers to learn more about the Church and LDS temples. The evening began with a baptism and dinner and was followed by an art exhibit, temple tour, and cottage meeting.
“We have discovered that one of the most powerful ways to touch future members’ hearts and help them receive the restored gospel has been through the beautiful spirit of the temple,” Carlos Rivera Medina, a missionary in the California Sacramento Mission who helped organize the event, wrote in an e-mail.
In attendance were more than 350 Spanish-speaking members, nonmembers, missionaries, and local Church leaders.
World-renowned LDS artist Jorge Cocco, from Argentina, exhibited 40 paintings during the temple night, inspiring others to read and “feast upon” the Book of Mormon.
“It was one occasion where people could [see] the most relevant events of the Book of Mormon [portrayed] in images and also hear the artist’s explanation of technique, interpretation, and symbolism,” Brother Cocco said. “[They were] able to enjoy a sequence of images that help to preserve the history and the testimony of the great leaders of the Book of Mormon.”
Elder Rivera remarked that the temple night was an indication of the spirit of unity in the Church and the desire of the members to share the gospel with all: “Everyone from English- to Tongan- to Spanish- to Hmong-speaking members and leaders and missionaries helped us,” he said.
More than four months prior to the activity, mission president H. Benson Lewis sent an e-mail to missionaries and leaders in the area, emphasizing the ultimate goal of bringing people to the temple.
“He invited missionaries to . . . bring people for temple tours,” Elder Rivera said. In the following months, missionaries and members united their efforts to plan an evening with food, entertainment, a baptism, and a temple tour.
Elder Rivera recalled the sacrifices of time and resources many made to make the temple night happen. Relief Society sisters all over the Sacramento Valley contributed to the tostada dinner.
“Relief Society members all over the valley prepared and brought the food items with a willing heart and with smiles,” he said. “One sister was very sick with diabetes, which caused her to feel very weak. But she still wanted to make a difference, and she made 50 pounds of beans.”
On the night of the event people traveled up to two hours to attend, and many were so excited they arrived early.
Teresa Fernandez-Fernandez, now a member of the Monte Vista Ward in Manteca, California, was baptized during the evening at the Mormon Center.
“What I felt as I entered and rose up out of the water was an immense peace that God, in reality, had watched over me,” she said. “It was a beautiful moment in my life that I will never forget. And from that moment on, my family has been blessed.”
Many others who attended the temple night had similar feelings.
One companionship from the mission wrote in an e-mail that the spirit at the event inspired an investigator family to choose a baptism date. “We feel it was the tour that really gave them that confidence to be baptized and work towards eternal marriage,” they said.
The temple night was a different experience for many of the Spanish-speaking members in Sacramento who attend small branches and are accustomed to seeing small groups of members at their local meetinghouses.
“Dozens of investigators and new Church converts attended who had not fully appreciated the size of the Church among the Latino community within the Sacramento Mission boundaries or the magnitude and beauty of the Sacramento Temple,” President Lewis wrote in an e-mail. “There were many interested to hear and learn more.”
Elder Rivera referred to the event as the highlight of his mission so far.
“My motto throughout the whole thing was that if we focus on the one, the many will come,” he said. “It took a lot of work, a lot of prayer, a lot of tears, and a lot of hope, and it was a success because the Lord was with us—and with Him nothing is impossible.”