~ By Sarah
I grew up home educated in California and then got my degree in Near Eastern Studies from Brigham Young University (BYU), where I also studied Arabic, Latin and philosophy. I went on an 18-month mission for my church to Santiago, Chile, where I learned Spanish. Tony and I were married in 2003. Axa Elisabeth joined our family in 2005, and Raj Dominique came along in 2007.
We’re chronically peripatetic. Mostly, we like it. Sometimes it gets a little out of hand, like the time we moved five times in one year. We’ve lived in Utah, the Philippines, San Diego, Washington, Ireland, and big, little, and medium-sized cities in Italy. We’d like to try living in Morocco or Tunisia sometime.
Last Saturday, along with thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Italy, we saw the official groundbreaking of the Rome, Italy Temple. Yes, our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, was in Italy this week. He broke ground for the temple in company with Church leaders from all over Italy (including our own beloved branch president), Giuseppe Ciardi, the vice-mayor of Rome, and Lucio Malan, a senator from Piemonte, who also happens to be Valdese. Why is that important to us? The Valdese (Waldensians in English) are the small Protestant group in the Alps of Northern Italy to whom Lorenzo Snow and a few other missionaries brought the Restored Gospel in the mid-19th century.
My husband Tony’s great-great-grandparents, Domenico and Henriette, believed the message and traveled over the ocean and the plains, eventually settling with many of those other Italian converts in a little valley in northern Utah. Over one hundred and fifty years later, we bought one-way plane tickets to Italy and walked into a government office with their birth certificates to claim Italian citizenship and begin our new life here in Italy.
President Monson, in his message at the groundbreaking, said that he thought the people who had lived in Italy and were now on the other side of the veil would be allowed to be present for this historic occasion. I am sure that Domenico and Henriette were every bit as excited to be there as we were, and the place where they watched it was probably packed even fuller than ours. Although their journey to Salt Lake and ours back to Italy were challenging in very different ways, we feel as if we are a part of the same tapestry. Looking over at my husband, watching the groundbreaking with the little great-great-great grandson we named for Domenico sitting in his lap, I felt that the circle was complete. Our little branch of the natural Italian olive tree has been grafted back in, and we are finally back where we belong.
President Monson’s final remarks about his oldest son who served a mission in Milan, Italy echoed our own sentiments. He said that his son had prepared their whole family to feel “the spirit of Italy, which is very close to the spirit of God.” At that moment, I had a sensation, rarely felt more strongly, of being just in the spot where we are supposed to be right then. The lovely temple that will be built in Rome was announced just over two years ago, as we were frantically packing to go back to the United States, not knowing if we would ever be able to return to Italy. Surely it is a tender mercy for the Lord to allow us to return just in time to witness the beginnings of its construction.
In President Monson’s beautiful prayer dedicating the site for the temple’s construction, he fittingly quoted Ruskin, another lover of Italy:
‘Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, “See! this our fathers did for us.”‘
Domenico and Henriette built a faith and a legacy to last forever. As they left everything behind, with hope in their hearts, but with tears too, could they look into the future to see their children returning and watch a temple being built in their own beloved homeland? Temples link heaven with earth, the past with the future, and families with each other forever. When the Rome temple is finally completed, we will stand inside the temple, watching our reflections go on into eternity. And if we look very carefully, perhaps we will catch almost a glimpse of them, looking back at us. I hope that they will see in us the same faith and determination we saw in them, and know that we too are building forever on the foundation that they left for us.
To read more about this LDS family on the move, visit casteluzzo.blogspot.com/
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For more perspectives from Mormon women about the temple, see the following posts:
First Person: What the Temple Means to Me
First Person: Touching the Temple
For more information on Mormon Temples, see the following articles:
Chapels and Temples: Glimpses inside each and how they differ
What the temple means to Mormons?
What does the inside of a Mormon temple look like?
The connection between LDS temple worship and ancient (Old Testament) ordinances
What can you tell me about Mormon temples?
I loved that President quoted Ruskin at such an appropriate time and with such a fitting quote!
I also know nothing of the Valdese, since I have no Italian ancestry in the church. I would love to learn more about Lorenzo Snow in Italy.
Thank you for sharing this experience.
Wow, this was just such a lovely thing to read! So beautifully and powerfully written and so full of all the things that matter.
I agree with Heidi and Janelle–this was a powerful post. I felt my arms and legs tingling as I read.
Thank you for this beautiful post. I especially love your image of looking into the temple mirrors.