Portland Oregon Temple Visitors’ Center Dedicated
Contributed By By Karen Wallace Bartelt, Church News contributor
On an unusually sunny day in the Pacific Northwest, community outreach seemed to be the unofficial theme at the dedication service for the Portland Oregon Temple Visitors’ Center.
Some 450 invited guests gathered on June 9 for the event. Violinist Sister Ann C. Christensen performed, along with a 40-member high school ensemble that sang “Beautiful Savior.”
A former Church distribution center, the 1,400-square-foot building sits on the grounds of the Portland Oregon Temple located in the suburb of Lake Oswego. The visitors’ center opened in February 2012.
As the community gathered and took their seats, Sister Beverly Johnston—who serves with her husband, Elder David B. Johnston, who is the Portland Oregon Temple Visitors’ Center director—took a brief moment to reflect on the dedication about to begin.
“We’ve become official. The Spirit has been here,” Sister Johnston said. “But once the center has been dedicated it has the sanction of heaven. We depend on that with the work we do.”
After opening exercises and remarks by others, Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, the Presiding Bishop, began the dedication.
“It is a beautiful thing to have an interdenominational outreach,” he said. “This is very meaningful to us.”
He mentioned the 22,000 meetinghouses he oversees for the Church, the Welfare Department, the humanitarian efforts of the Church, and how deeply involved the Church is in Oklahoma after the tornado devastation. He spoke of the 40 million refugees worldwide and, more specifically, the 150,000 who have recently fled the Syrian conflict. He ended with a heartfelt dedicatory prayer.
It was a significant day for Oregon Latter-day Saints. A temple was first dedicated in their city in August of 1989.
In the entrance of the visitors’ center is a Christus statue with arms open, as if welcoming visitors in from the cares of the outside world. Behind the Christus is a painted mural depicting the lush beauty of western Oregon.
Inside the building are interactive exhibits including copies of the Book of Mormon in more than 28 languages. A theater seats 25 for Church presentations. Young sister missionaries and couple missionaries serve there daily.
“For 22 years, visitors could only walk around the temple and not much could be said,” said Thomas D. Cottle, the first counselor in the Portland Temple presidency from 1989 to 1992. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to teach the plan of salvation, the gospel, the Restoration, and about the temple.”
He and his wife, Pat, are serving at the visitors’ center.
At the site, a former distribution center had outgrown its space and vacated the building. But since the building was still in great shape, standing next to the temple, Church leaders decided to open the visitors’ center.
Bishop Stevenson spoke of the Church’s welfare efforts to help people—Church members and those of other faiths. He mentioned the Church’s immunization and clean water efforts, spoke of partnering with other humanitarian organizations, and praised the work of Latter-day Saint volunteers.
As the sun slowly set and a light breeze picked up, visitors lingered, toured the center, and enjoyed a buffet outside.
June Monigasu, a field minister from the New Thought Center for Spiritual Living, said she enjoyed the services.
“I didn’t know about the relief efforts,” she said. “What I notice and feel is that your congregates are dedicated and hard workers. It is wonderful how they welcomed people from other paths of spiritualism.”
Mission president C. Jeffrey Morby and his wife, Sister Connie Morby, from St. George, Utah, said the visitors’ center is a great tool for missionary work.
“The center is a great teaching resource for us,” said President Morby. “We’ve found that the temple really is the big draw and then they see the visitors’ center. Ninety percent of people who are baptized [in the area] come here. But our best exhibits are our wonderful missionaries,” he added.
And like missionaries, the visitors’ center is all about outreach. Since the facility opened last year, more than 70,000 people have toured the visitors’ center.