Submitted by Horacio Madariaga :
LITERALLY, I FOLLOWED THE LIVING PROPHET'S FOOTSTEPS!
Caracas, August 14, 1997
President Hinckley came to Venezuela to look for some possible temple sites and meet with the Saints in the city of Valencia. I had the privilege and enormous blessing of being close to him most of the time of his brief visit.
Six weeks ago, Elder Carlos Vargas, an Area Authority, assigned me to translate for President Hinckley in several meetings. I felt extremely moved and inadequate at the same time to express the words of the prophet in Spanish. I tried very hard to prepare myself both technically and spiritually. I had the help of several friends in Argentina, Venezuela and United States who sent me lots of advice, several talks of the prophet in English and were praying for me during those previous weeks. What a blessing is to have friends!
The daybreak of August the 13th was shiny and radiant in Caracas. After getting up I asked my son Sebastian [now on a mission in California] to bless me. The blessing was inspired, his words flowed easily and he transmitted great peace and quietness.
President Hinckley came from Quito, Ecuador, flying in the private jet of Brother Huntsman, together with Sister Marjorie Hinckley, his daughter Jane Dudley, Elder and Sister Russell M. Nelson, Elder and Sister Francisco Vinas (Area President), and others.
I was thrilled to see the prophet coming down from the plane. He shook hands with the few people that were waiting for him at the airport. Following him was Elder Nelson, who immediately remembered that I translated for six months earlier in another meeting. He greeted me saying "We've met in Maracaibo and your last name is Madariaga!". (He only saw me once before) I was astonished by Elder Nelson's good memory and considered a privilege that one of the Twelve would remember me. I immediately thought about the great love and memory of our Father in Heavens for each one of us.
After leaving the airport we went directly to see the first option of possible lands for the Temple in Caracas. I was impressed by President Hinckley's energy to walk and mental awareness while asking all the important questions about each piece of land. It was evident that he has strong experience in temple construction and a great desire that they last up to the millennium. While we visited the lands, I walked behind him, translating occasionally when he had questions. So I can say that I followed the prophet's footsteps! What a great privilege!
After seeing the third option in Caracas, we went to the Caurimare Chapel to have a brief meeting with President Timothy Nicolaysen and all the missionaries of the Caracas Venezuela Mission. As the prophet entered the Chapel everybody stood up and started singing aloud: "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet!" Tears were running by everybody's cheeks, especially the lady missionaries. He told the missionaries how precious they were in the sight of God. He also pleaded strongly with them to work together with local leadership in order to retain new converts and not allow those precious souls to get lost. He shook hands with each missionary while seated on their benches.
In Valencia President Hinckley had a short meeting with President Omar Alvarez and all the missionaries from the Valencia Venezuela Mission. He, again, asked the missionaries to work on new converts retention, to keep written records of all their baptisms and stay in touch with them. He said: "Probably, Elder Nelson is bored of hearing me talk about this subject (retention) so often, because when I meet with the Twelve I talk about it, when I meet with the Seventies I also talk about it, and when I meet with the Area Authorities I talk about it again, and that is because I feel very strongly about this subject"
On entering El Forum de Valencia, more than 10,000 people stood up singing spontaneously "We thank thee, O God, for a prophet". A strong spirit was present and everybody was moved for the opportunity to meet with the living prophet. The meeting was conducted by Elder Francisco Vinas and it included messages from Elder Vinas and Elder Nelson, testimonies by Sisters Vinas, Nelson and Hinckley and finally, the long awaited message from President Hinckley.
Even though my translation was not perfect, I felt that I transmitted the right spirit with a clear voice and emphasized the points the prophet wanted to emphasize. Many people approached me that day (and days later) to congratulate me for what they considered an "excellent" translation. They didn't realize that the power of the message came from the prophet and not from my translation. After the meeting, Elder Nelson, came to me and say: "Brother Madariaga, thank you for your service to the prophet". I felt strongly moved.
President Hinckley began by thanking all attendants to the meeting and commending them for the sacrifices many people had made (some of them traveled 10-12 hours from the border with Colombia). He manifested how grateful he was for being married to Sister Hinckley for so many years. He added: "After more than 60 years together, I think I'll keep her". Everybody laughed happily.
He based his message on Isaiah 54:13 "And all thy children will be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children". He asked the parents to teach our children to pray, to love the scriptures (specially 3rd Nephi), to help them prepare for a mission, to be sealed on a Temple and honor "thy father and thy mother". He also encouraged us to read together with our children and to never use physical punishment.
When he referred to the Temple everybody paid closer attention expecting to hear any type of announcement. He mentioned that he knew that we had to travel long distances to the Temple, but the time would come when we would have a Temple in every nation of Latin America. This would take some years.
He finished his message leaving an apostolic blessing over the congregation and promising that "if you are faithful and true, you will have bread on your tables, clothing on your backs, roof over your heads and more important, peace in your homes" After the congregation sang "Till we meet again" the last prayer was offered and the prophet said good-bye waving a white handkerchief. Literally, a wave of white handkerchiefs responded from the congregation. It was an impressive and uplifting sight.
After President Hinckley's visit, Venezuela is not going to be the same. The life of many of us has been touched and we had a strong feeling to "lengthen our stride" and make the work progress faster. In summary, it was a strongly spiritual day and I walked "over the clouds" all the day long. I felt extremely grateful for being close to the prophet and I hope to have an increased resolution to follow him every day.