Attendance at the Panama City Temple open house has now topped 16,000. Our first Saturday in the open house, July 12th, we had 2776 visitors come through, compared to a normal day which is about half of that. We thought we were running like mad most of the day to keep up. Yesterday, however, we had just over 6000 come through! We had up to 20 pairs of guides working at a time, and I was on my feet trying to keep everything going pretty much from before 7:30 a.m. until after 9:30 p.m. without a break even for lunch, but it was very satisfying to see how much interest there was in seeing the temple. We finally had to stop giving the normal spoken tour and basically tell people to pay good attention in the video, as we wouldn’t be able to repeat much of it on the tour itself, but they still seemed to enjoy the tour. The generally accepted local goal was to get 20,000 to visit, but if this coming week has only the same rate of visits as did last week, we’ll top 28,000, and I suspect that 30,000 is now the new dream.
We continue to see the hand of the Lord in the details of the open house. Virtually every shift we have barely the number of workers needed to keep things going relativelys smoothly, but with one exception we’ve never had extras. Often extra volunteers show up offering to help, which compensates for others who were sick or for whatever other reason simply didn’t make it. One afternoon, for example, we were saved by a brother from the local Service Center (Church administrative offices) and his wife plus three missionaries being assigned to San Blas but who weren’t leaving until the next day and were free to work that afternoon. Some terrible traffic congestion kept about half of the assigned workers from the assigned stake from getting here—or at least getting here on time, but we made do. We’ve had to assign a couple of sister missionaries to lead tours, but they are delighted to have the opportunity.
One day a fairly new elder who is still struggling with his Spanish got to lead a couple of small groups in English. One was about four or five people from Austrailia, of all places. I asked them how they managed to hear about the temple and the open house, and they said that someone who works in the First Lady’s office (and who was either here last week or heard about it from someone who was) told them they just had to come see the temple.
We had three Catholic priests here yesterday, too, and Virginia says she saw a nun here.
The evangelical Christian group which we had heard had plans to mount a protest in the street in front of the temple never materialized. It may be that enough of them accepted the invitation to come and see and were sufficiently impressed by the friendliness and courtesy of our people that they simply didn’t have the gall to go ahead with their plans. Elder Garcia (recently released area seventy who headed up the overall open house and dedication committee) was talking with some of the Evangelical visitors, one of whom was asking in a bit of a negative way about why in the world we’d have a baptismal font on the top of twelve oxen, when one of the others of their own group asked him if he’d never read in the Bible about Solomon’s temple, which had something similar. Elder Garcia left the two of them to argue about it with each other! The Panama City Temple may set some kind of Church record for having had the least opposition of any in modern times.
Reading the comment cards from the open house has been an interesting experience. The most common point made is the feeling of peace that people experience, especially in the Celestial Room. Many also talk about the friendliness and efficiency of the guides and ushers. We’ll include a number of representative comments from the first week below. I haven’t had a chance to look at any cards from the second week yet. The translations are quick and rough. Everything flowed a little better in Spanish, but you’ll get the idea. I could have included many other similar comments.
“My comments are that this temple is extremely beautiful and that I hope to come back another day, since this temple fills me with peace and I enjoyed everything very much.” (Christian)
“Everything was very beautiful and moving. I felt close to God and I hope in the future to be part of the family of the Lord.” (Catholic)
“It was a very fabulous experience since I felt much peace in such a beautiful place, such as the Lord our God deserves.” (Catholic)
“It is super beautiful, in spite of the fact that I’m not of this church or religion. It’s the best thing I’ve seen in my life.” (Evangelical)
“It seems to us the most special place we’ve ever visited. I felt the presence of our Creator.” (Catholic)
“I liked it very much and I want to be sealed to my family for eternity.” (No religion)
“I’d like to be part of the Mormon family. I want to be a member.” (No religion)
“It was very pleasant being in the temple. I felt a great joy that I can’t explain.” (Religion not stated)
“The temple of the Lord seemed super wonderful to me, and especially the attention we received.” (Catholic)
“I liked the temple very much, because it has a very beautiful spirituality. It seems as though one is in glory next to our Father.” (Catholic)
“It is something wonderfully splendid. There are no words to describe how beautiful and marvelous this magical place is.” (Evangelical)
“It’s the most beautiful place I have seen in my life. I never imagined I would enter such a wonderful temple as this one is. It’s like being in a dream.” (Catholic)
“Everything was very lovely. I’m glad that in my country there can be this kind of temples that are so important to praise God.” (Catholic)
“It’s a truly special place. It seems like a paradise. One feels a spiritual presence, and one feels God’s peace.” (Catholic)
“I’ve never seen anything in my life to equal it. I congratulate you for giving Panama such a temple. I’m impressed. I loved it.” (Catholic)
“The Lord is our great Creator and therefore deserves our time and attention. The House of the Lord is beautiful. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to be in it.” (Catholic)
“The temple seemed to me something beautiful and sacred, and I would like very much to participate in it and be a member.” (Catholic)
“A very spiritual place that invites meditation. It is magnificent and impressively beautiful.” (Catholic)
“May God continue blessing you. I loved everything and would like to come back again and bring other people so they can know God better.” (Evangelical)
“It’s the most beautiful temple I’ve ever visited, not only with a material beauty but a beauty of the hearts of the people who attended us.” (Evangelical)
“It was really special. To be inside is to feel oneself in the presence of the Lord. One can feel an inner peace, and the details and symbolism are significant and help us feel special.” (Catholic)
“In the main room [Celestial Room] one feels a very special peace.” (Jehovah’s Witness)
“Brethren, one feels very strongly the presence of the Lord in the temple. I wish I had known about you in my youth. I wish you many blessings and much success. Congratulations!” (Catholic)
“It is a very beautiful place. When one is in the Celestial Room one feels a kind of warmth. A memorable and unforgetable experience. Thanks!” (Catholic)
“Being in the temple gives you the sensation of passing through a place that is out of this world. It’s great beauty is truly incredible.” (Catholic)
“It is a very lovely and peaceful place, with very attentive and respectful people. One truly feels as though he were in heaven.” (Catholic)
“The temple was beautiful. I felt a spiritual peace. I felt my father was present.” (Catholic)
“It is the house of God. It’s like being in heaven. It’s truly special.” (Catholic)
“The peace one feels inside the temple is impressive. One feels the nearness of God in every room.” (Catholic)
“It’s the first time I’ve been in such a place and it seemed extraordinarily incredible to me. I had never been in such a place. I have no words to describe what I felt.” (Catholic)
“I liked very much the [press] conference as well as the tour of the temple. I had never been in such a beautiful temple. Truly it is the house of God.” (Catholic reporter)
“Very beautiful and peaceful. I can feel the presence [of God] as I walked through the temple.” (Catholic)
“The temple is spectacular, and even more spectacular is what it represents.” (Catholic)
“Very, very beautiful!!” Just going in one feels the peace we all so much are looking for. I congratulate you. I think it is unique in all of Panama.” (Catholic)
“It seems very important to me to dedicate a temple in which to worship God, and that he deserves the best. I loved very much its majesty and its fine details.” (Evangelical)
“It is truly a work worthy of being the temple of the Lord. The Celestial Room gives you the feeling of being in heaven.” (Catholic)
“I was very impressed with the significance of each step [room] in the temple and the meaning of life for you.” (Buddhist)
“It’s a place of much peace and nearness to God. There are no words to describe the beauty and details of this temple of God.” (Catholic)
“I think that the temple with its interior design represents exactly the kind of place the Lord Jesus could make contact with mankind.” (Catholic)
“This visit has been an oasis in the midst of a very complicated work week. The moments of the tour brought me peace and tranquility, nourished by the kindness of all of you.” (Catholic)
“The visit has seemed wonderful to me, especially for what I have felt inside. I congratulate you.” (Catholic)
“Truly it is the house of the Lord.” (Catholic)
The building is marvelous. I truly felt I was in a special place—heaven.” (Evangelical)
“Everything was very lovely. The peace I felt was wonderful. The temple is the most peaceful and sacred place I have ever known.” (Catholic)
“It seems very lovely to me. Your beliefs are beautiful and your faith is enviable. Congratulations.” (Catholic)
“The temple filled me with happiness and energy. It’s different from all other houses of worship. I’d like to have more information.” (Catholic)
“Everything was very lovely, neat, and very biblical. I’d like to learn more about the doctrine.” (Lutheran)
“It was impressive, very beautiful. I’ve never seen anything to equal it.” (Adventist)
“It’s a very special and beautiful place. There is a lot of peace there, and one is able to relax. Truly one feels the presence of God there.” (Catholic)
“This visit has seemed to me like an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Catholic)
“It is very pretty, and the teachings are important and true.” (Catholic)
“It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. One feels peace inside. Truly it is a piece of heaven on earth.” (Catholic)
“Your temple seemed a thing of great beauty, especially the “Celestial Room.” I felt as though I were in the presence of God. It made me think: If heaven is something similar, I’ll have to work to become better each day.” (Catholic)
“It’s been a gratifying experience to be able to get acquainted with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I felt a lot of peace.” (Catholic)
Rare blue skies during the open house
Typical scene on a less busy part of Saturday
The tour began in the chapel.
Overflow parking was in an adjoining cementery, which allowed us to put in a ramp leading to the temple grounds.
The guest house where we had the reception area and refreshments, and where Virginia and I have been living upstairs for the past couple of weeks.