It is hard to believe that almost 17 years have passed since the dedication of the temple of the Lord in the Dominican Republic. The children that were called from the audience that day to help President Hinckley set the cornerstone as a choir was singing in the background, would be in their mid-20’s now. The saints celebrated with gratitude then, and we celebrate with gratitude every day since, because of the profound importance or the ordinances performed in this Holy House, one of the most beautiful and sacred places on the face of the earth.
My wife Nancy and I came to the Dominican Republic to attend the dedication. It was of special significance to us because we were living and working in Santo Domingo in 1978 when the first branch of the church was formed here, the first missionaries arrived and the first families were baptized. In September 2000, we arrived for the temple dedication a couple of days early so that we could meet with old friends and just enjoy the country that we so dearly love.
A special fireside was held the day before the dedication of the temple where we met with many of the members that were the first to join the church in this country. After the fireside, a good brother approached me, and with a huge smile, gave me a big hug and asked if I remembered him. I looked him in the eyes and knew that I knew him but had to admit that I did not remember from where. The church had grown from 0 to over 3,500 members during the 3 ½ years we lived here, and there were many familiar faces for which we could no longer remember names. He then reminded me by telling me his name and saying “Shortly after the first missionaries were sent to Barahona my family received the missionary lessons. When the missionaries felt, we were ready, you came to interview us for baptism. When it was my turn to be interviewed, I told you that I did not want to be baptized. You asked if I would give my permission for my wife and children to be baptized and I said yes. You then explained to me what that would mean in the eternities, and that my decision would limit my being with my family to this life only and you asked, “Don’t you want to be with your family forever?”
“My family was baptized on that day but I was not”, he continued. “But I thought a lot about what you said and realized that I really did want to be with my family forever. I took the missionary lessons again, and a few weeks later, I was ready to be baptized. By then, we had a district leader and he was going to interview me. I told him no, I want President Rappleye to interview me, so you came back to Barahona, met with me and I was baptized.”
With deep emotion, he added, “We have been greatly blessed as a family since that time. We were sealed in the temple, my sons have served as bishops and tomorrow, my son will translate as a Prophet of God dedicates our temple.”
Tears of joy came to my eyes, and my heart was full, to know of that one simple decision had changed the life of this man and most likely many generations of his future decedents: that he indeed wanted to receive the blessings the Lord has so lovingly provided and to be joined together as an eternal family.
Now, 40 years after our first move to the Dominican Republic, we are back again, serving as President and Matron of the Santo Domingo temple. What a blessing it is to be here and to serve in this holy temple as the children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors of those early saints come to the temple to enter into sacred eternal covenants with the Lord.
In his dedicatory prayer, President Gordon B Hinkley prayed for some specific blessings upon those that come to this temple:
“May Thy Holy Spirit abide here. May all who come within these walls feel of that Spirit.”
“May this be a house of peace, and a refuge from the noise and confusion of the world.”
“May all who come here with personal problems and worries, find answers to their questions and be inspired with solutions to their difficulties.”
What wonderful blessings are available to us through the temple. The Lord loves us and wants us to have immortality and eternal lives filled with joy. We just have to have faith in him and follow his prophets as they guide us.
I know that the Lord lives, that his temples are sacred, holy places and that he has tremendous blessings in store for those that enter his temple to serve him. It is my hope and prayer that every member in this temple district would prepare themselves to come to the temple, receive these blessings together with the most valuable of all blessings, those that Lord has prepared for us and which we can receive only through holy temple ordinances. President Thomas S Monson told us: “Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God”. (April 2011).
In September, we celebrate 17 years since the House of the Lord was dedicated in the Dominican Republic. I would invite all who are able, to show our gratitude by bringing a family name to the temple to perform proxy ordinances and receive of the blessings that the Lord has reserved for those that come to his house in worthiness and faith.
John E. Rappleye
June 8, 2017