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Normally, young Latter-day Saint missionaries go to the temple before they begin their service to learn more about their relationship with God and to deepen it by making commitments to him called covenants.

That practice stopped completely for two months during the pandemic in 2020, when all temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints closed temporarily. Some didn’t reopen or offer the endowment ordinance for new missionaries for far longer.

At the time, church leaders announced an exception for all missionaries; none would attend the temple before beginning their missions. Leaders continued to extend mission calls and send out missionaries without the availability of the temples.

Now that 169 of 170 temples are open again for those ordinances, those missionaries have gone to temples in their mission areas.

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However, even among new missionaries, there still are those for whom the temple is not available before they leave because they live too far from one.

That was the case in the 1970s for a young Elder Ulisses Soares, now a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The closest temple to the Soares family in São Paulo, Brazil — today the largest city in the Americas — was nearly 6,000 miles away in Mesa, Arizona.

That was too far away for Elder Soares to go, and Brazil’s first temple still was under construction in his hometown when it came time for him to leave for his mission in Rio de Janeiro.

“The temple in São Paulo was under construction, and I was not able to receive my own ordinances,” he recalled on Sunday while back in Rio de Janeiro to give tours of a new temple in his former mission city.

“One year after the temple dedication, I was still on a mission and near the end of it, and I was still one of the few missionaries who hadn’t received their own ordinances,” Elder Soares said. “I was serving in a stake where they were having overnight caravans to go to the temple in São Paulo. They would travel all night, spend four or five hours in the morning on Saturday, and then return to Rio.”

His desire was great. The missionary he was serving with at the time also was one who hadn’t been to the temple. And Elder Soares never had been sealed to his family.

“The mission president allowed us to go under two conditions,” he said. “First, if the stake president and his wife would take care of us during the entire trip, and second, if I would be with my companion the whole time.”

They committed to the conditions and Elder Soares still recalls the way the entire caravan of temple-going Latter-day Saints protected and blessed the missionaries in, he says, “such beautiful ways.”

“My parents joined me in the temple that day, and my brother, and after I received my own ordinances, my brother and I were sealed to my parents,” he said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful experience.

“That changed the last month-and-a-half of my mission, because I had added a special vision about the gospel from those ordinances. What I learned in the temple, the commitments I made, made all the difference in the way I reacted to the teachings and shared my testimony to people here in Rio de Janeiro about eternal families and what we taught about the plan of salvation.

“It was an amazing experience. I’ve never forgotten that.”

Today, Elder Soares was giving VIP and media tours of the new Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, the eighth in his native country.

Six more temples are planned in Brazil, with three already under construction.

“To see a temple being built and very soon dedicated here 42 years after I served as a missionary here, it’s like a dream,” Elder Soares said. “What a blessing it will be for people now that they have a temple in their own city instead of having to travel to receive their own ordinances.

“I think the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Christ the Redeemer statue above Rio combine the love of our Heavenly Father for all his children in this beautiful city.”

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What I’m reading

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Behind the scenes

Rio de Janeiro’s famous, 98-foot Christ the Redeemer statue is shown on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Elder Ulisses Soares has referred frequently this week during the kickoff of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple open house that it complements the city’s famous, 98-foot Christ the Redeemer statue. Here the statue is shown on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. | Tad Walch/Deseret News
The face of Rio de Janeiro’s famous 98-foot Christ the Redeemer statue is shown on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Elder Ulisses Soares has referred frequently this week during the kickoff of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple open house that it complements the city’s famous, 98-foot Christ the Redeemer statue. Here the face of the statue is shown on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. | Tad Walch/Deseret News
A nail print in one hand of Rio de Janeiro’s famous, 98-foot, Christ the Redeemer statue statue is shown on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Elder Ulisses Soares has referred frequently this week during the kickoff for the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple open house that it complements the city’s famous, 98-foot Christ the Redeemer statue. Here a nail print in one hand of the statue is shown on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. | Tad Walch/Deseret News
A local Catholic bishop visits with Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Rio de Janeiro temple.
A local Catholic bishop visits with Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Brazil Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the meetinghouse next to the new Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple during a VIP open house on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. | Tad Walch/Deseret News
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