Last night, along with thousands of members of the L.D.S. Church throughout Italy, we saw the official Groundbreaking of the Rome, Italy Temple. Yes, the Prophet, President 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.
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 room 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 in the celestial room as a family, 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 for ever on the foundation that they left for us.