General Conference began with quite the excitement. President Monson’s announcement of 5 new temples to be built really struck a chord. As I heard each new location I was so happy. Yet, when Rome, Italy was announced, I couldn’t hold back the tears.
I spent a summer there studying architecture. The only lds student in our group was a challenge. I went to church alone, and my sweet roommates were always happily looking for the lds missionaries as we got to a new town. I spend most of my weeks at the Branch just outside of Torino (Turin). The people were amazing. A particularly special friendship was made with Roberto Ianonne and his family. They were my family away from home. They taught me all about Italian culture, Fina fed me some wonderful meals, we watched the Olympics on tape together (since Roberto had been on his mission in the states earlier in ’02). Mostly though, they taught me the love of the Italian people, their example of being members of Christ’s church when you have to stand alone quite frequently, and sacrifice all that you have to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
My favorite Italian memory that summer was meeting Roberto in Bern, Switzerland, and spending a couple days doing temple work together. Most of the people I met were from Italy. Staying across the street from the temple, families would save money and vacation days for the entire year to go and do temple work in Switzerland. I was so impressed with their attitudes, the experience they were relishing, and just the commitment and sacrifice all around. I remember them talking about how they knew that if they kept going to the temple faithfully, that one day the Lord would choose to build them a temple in Italy.
What a pleasure it is to have met these stalwart saints, the overwhelming joy I feel with the greatest blessing the Lord could have chosen to give them. Their strength and example has been such a lift and inspiration to me in my life. I feel blessed to have served, cooked, and slept along side them for that short time. My life will ever be influenced by their great example.
Thank you Roberto, my dear friend, for showing me a bit of the Italian spirit, life, and most importantly, the Italian dedication to Temple work and the work of our Savior Jesus Christ. Tell your mom to get ready, one of these days, Carl and I will come back to see you, your beautiful wife, children and mother. I want nothing more than to spend time with you all serving in your temple. May the Lord continue to bless you, your amazing family, and the members of your Branch.