Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oquirrh Temple Dedication

We've just returned from the dedication of the Oquirrh Temple. We had about an hour to ponder and read before the session broadcast in our stake center began.

We learned in a brief announcement by our stake president that our stake will hold a special unscheduled stake conference next week, and the General Authority visitor assigned is Presiding Bishop H. David Burton. The Murray Coordinating Council, 26 stakes including ours, will hold a special priesthood leadership meeting the day before for stake presidents and bishops. I suspect the topic will be assisting the saints in bearing their burdens during the current state of the economy. As most of us know, the unemployment numbers in Utah, while not as severe as other parts of the country, are growing.

I felt impressed as we waited in our seats this morning to turn to The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 6 - 24, comprising thirty pages of pure doctrinal power. That section of The Book of Mormon is Jacob's (the brother of Nephi) teaching and prophecy about our day. Jacob chapter 9 was President Harold B. Lee's favorite chapter of scripture. If you will turn there and read beginning in chapter 6 onward for about an hour, Jacob will frame for you in their proper context the dreaded Isaiah chapters nearly everyone avoids. However, if you will approach your reading prayerfully, asking that you may have the inspiration to understand, you will be surprised how specific and revealing the prophecy is to our precise circumstances today. Try it, you'll like it! I promise you!

As I participated in the broadcast of the dedication, my mind was flooded with memories of other temple dedications of which I have been a part. I was eight years old at my first temple dedication at the Los Angeles Temple. My father chronciled that event in these words:

On Saturday, March 11, the entire party of General Authorities, their wives and families, after lunch were taken through the temple to view the paintings and the facilities. They, like the thousands of visitors before them at the open house, were impressed by the spaciousness and beauty of the building.

The opening dedicatory service was a memorable event with nearly six thousand Saints in attendance. The First Presidency spoke, as did President Noble Waite, chairman of the temple committee, under whose direction a total of $1.6 million had been contributed by the Saints in Southern California. The music was furnished by the Mormon Choir of Southern California under the direction of Frederick Davis. Sister Ewan Harbrecht sang the beautiful hymn "Bless This House" preceding the dedicatory prayer by President McKay. After that, the Hosanna Shout was led by President Richards.

Some persons have heard of an alleged dream or revelation which Elder Lee was supposed to have received during the Los Angeles Temple dedicatory services. The truth of this story is told simply in Elder Lee's diary entry of Sunday, March 11, 1956: "I was deeply moved as the dedicatory prayer was read because of a dream I had two weeks ago, in which President McKay was impressing me with the meaning of the love of God, as it relates to the love of our fellow men and of His service. The dedicatory prayer closed with similar instructions to those I had heard in my dream two weeks before." (L. Brent Goates, Harold B. Lee: Prophet and Seer, 324).

The most memorable event of the dedication for me as a young boy was touring the temple and seeing a lion in the mural in one of the ordinance rooms. I remember my Grandfather telling us, "You can tell a great artist has painted this mural, because the eyes follow you wherever you go in the room." I took the time to test that theory, ducking in and out of the rows of seats and then popping up in a different place each time -- sure enough, the eyes of that lion were always on me!

The dedication was the first chance I had to watch President David O. McKay up close and personal, as we were admitted into the Celestial Room where the ceremonies were conducted. I still and forever will remember being in the presence of President McKay. He was every inch a prophet that day in his white suit with his flowing white hair illuminating his countenance. That image always comes into my mind whenever I hear his name. Even more than the lion in the mural, his eyes could not only see you, they penetrated your very soul!

We rode to Los Angeles on the Union Pacific Railroad. Grandfather would a year later be named a member of the board of directors of the railroad, and the accommodations had been arranged for him to take his family with him in the comforts of the well-appointed presidential car. It was a fun trip for a little boy, and confirmed thereafter an abiding love for trains. We had free rein, and I remember wandering at will into the observation cars and dining cars as the train sped along its route. The sleeping berths were also fun stuff for little boys.

We stopped by Disneyland on Monday after the temple dedication (it had been opened only a year earlier), but were dismayed to learn the park was closed on Mondays. The best we could do was take a long mournful glance through an elevated fence. My much anticipated but deferred joy would have to wait until I was an adult with children of my own. Seeing Disneyland through their eyes for the first time, however, was worth the long wait.

My next memory of a temple dedication came with the dedication of the Ogden and Provo Temples many years later. By then, President Lee was in the First Presidency, serving as a counselor to President Joseph Fielding Smith. Again, because of our familial relationship with President Lee we were permitted access to the Celestial Room in both temples where the dedications took place. Again, I quote from Dad's book:

During early 1972, two new temples in Utah were dedicated. During the Ogden Temple dedication, approximately five thousand Saints from the twenty-eight stakes of the temple district were accommodated in each of six sessions beginning on January 20, 1972. They were seated in twenty-seven different rooms of the temple and in the nearby Ogden Tabernacle.

Though weakened from the heavy demands of the occasion, President Smith still spoke at the dedication, as did others in the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and additional General Authorities.

Many spiritual experiences were reported at the Ogden Temple dedication. Following the closing session President Lee's eldest grandson, David Goates, telephoned his grandfather to tell him of his unusual experience. David, his wife, Patsy, and his mother, Helen, all reported having seen a brilliant light at the pulpit whenever the First Presidency members stood to speak in the celestial room of the temple. The light, however, did not envelop the other speakers.

Three weeks later the companion temple in Provo, Utah, was dedicated. Because of more Church buildings on the campus of nearby Brigham Young University, linked by closed circuit television, an estimated thirty-five thousand or more were in attendance for each of the sessions.

As at the Ogden Temple dedication, President Lee was the concluding speaker, after which he gave the dedicatory prayer and led the Hosanna Shout. In his sermon, President Lee was impressed to speak of some personal spiritual experiences which unmistakably indicated the nearness to those on the other side of the veil. Elder Alvin R. Dyer testified later that he had seen the deceased President David O. McKay there, along with others whom he couldn't identify. Sister Norma Anderson, wife of Elder Joseph Anderson, Assistant to the Twelve and long-time faithful secretary to the First Presidency, also saw her own mother. President Lee noted in his journal that he was watching the strange look on Sister Anderson's face as she was probably witnessing this visitation.

Two BYU students seated in one of the large campus buildings told President Lee that many of the Saints were shedding tears when the prayer and the Hosanna Shout were delivered and also during the concluding anthem sung by the choir. The Holy Spirit visited these television-linked buildings with the same power as in the temple proper. (ibid., 430).

That is exactly what happened today. While we were only part of a vast congregation assembled in stake centers throughout Utah to witness the dedicatory session, the spiritual power of the session lost nothing in transmission and many were softly sobbing tears of gratitude and joy in our stake center.

In subsequent years I have enjoyed the dedications of the Jordan River, the Bountiful, the Palmyra, the Winter Quarters and the Nauvoo Temples, to name a few. Patsy and I always used to have in mind a goal of visiting every temple on our wedding anniversary, but we long ago abandoned the ambition as the number of temples across the earth has multiplied. I missed the Draper Temple dedication recently while I was tending grandchildren so my family members could attend. In each case, there is a sanctifying and purifying power that accompanies the dedication ceremonies. Heaven is always near at hand. Those out of sight beyond the veil are often permitted to hover closer.

At the conclusion of the temple dedications it is customary to sing "The Spirit of God." The words of one of the verses, "The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst," are not mere fanciful thoughts of the composer -- in temple dedications they are often reality. President Hugh B. Brown and our own Aunt Joan (Grandfather's second wife), reported having seen President Lee at the Washington D.C. temple dedication. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once told me, speaking of the deceased leaders of the Church, "I often feel them walking the halls of the Church administration building." President Kimball told me privately one time when I saw him out in public years after Grandfather had died, "I had a nice visit with your Grandfather last night."

Make no mistake, this Church is real and it dispenses and contains the fullness of truth, which is ". . . knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come." (See D&C 93:24). God is ". . . the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him. For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round." (1 Nephi 10:18-19).

Though its dominions on this earth in these last days will always be "small" because of wickedness (see 1 Nephi 14:12), please understand that the work in which we are engaged is more vast and comprhensive beyond the veil than any of us imagines. In the temples administered by authorized agents who hold the sealing keys of the priesthood that bind on earth and seal in heaven, we obtain all the ordinances of salvation and exaltation. The keys of the priesthood that bind and seal families forever are here on the earth today. If we repent and remain true and faithful, we shall be exalted.

I testify of the reality and the abiding and perpetual love of our Father in Heaven, of the infinite atonement of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Messiah yet to come, of the foreordained restorative ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith, of the divine organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and of the instrumentality of a living prophet among us today, President Thomas S. Monson.

I'd be grateful for the comments of the rest of you who participated in the temple dedication today.

1 comment:

  1. Wish we could have been there! I've never heard that story grandpa related about you and mom and the Ogden Temple Dedication...learn something new every day you read your own father's blog :-)