President Hinckley Dedicates Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple
President Gordon B. Hinckley presided at the first dedicatory session of the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple, held on Sunday morning, 13 October 1996, in American Fork, Utah. In addition to offering the dedicatory prayer at the first of 27 dedicatory sessions during the week of 13–19 October, President Hinckley presided over cornerstone sealing activities, which began at 8:00 A.M. in the celestial room. Speaking at this ceremony were President Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.
After the First Presidency spoke, they and others left the temple briefly to put mortar around the edges of the cornerstone. An 800-voice choir, made up of young adults from the temple district, sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19) as President Hinckley emerged from the temple. A 20- by 30-inch metal box containing memorabilia—addresses by President Hinckley, a history of American Fork, samples of temple wall coverings and woodwork, a local newspaper, among other items—had been placed inside the cornerstone earlier.
After each member of the First Presidency pressed mortar into the cornerstone groove, Elder W. Eugene Hansen of the Presidency of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department, President Robert J. Matthews, president of the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple, and Stephen M. Studdert, vice chairman of the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple Committee, also took a turn with the trowel, as did Sister Marjorie Hinckley, President Hinckley’s wife.
Nearly 3,000 people were gathered outside at the southeast corner of the temple for this part of the cornerstone ceremony. In the morning sunlight, President Hinckley invited three children to add mortar to the cornerstone. “Write in your journal about this,” he told them.
The dedicatory session began as soon as the First Presidency and others returned to the celestial room. The first dedicatory session was viewed by 11,617 people, who either attended the session or watched via closed-circuit television. Off-site locations for the remaining dedicatory sessions included the Tabernacle on Temple Square, the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, the American Fork Tabernacle, and 12 stake centers. Every baptized, worthy member of the Church within the temple district was invited to participate.
At the first dedicatory session, President Hinckley, President Monson, President Faust, and President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, all spoke briefly. A 60-person choir made up of members of the Highland Utah East Stake and the Lindon Utah Stake gathered in the celestial room and provided the music.
Temples “are houses of instruction,” President Hinckley has said on a previous occasion. “They are places of covenants and promises.” Within the sanctity of their walls “we commune with Him and reflect on His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who served as proxy for each of us in a vicarious sacrifice in our behalf. Here we set aside our own selfishness and serve for those who cannot serve themselves. Here … we are bound together in the most sacred of all human relationships—as husbands and wives, as children and parents, as families under a sealing that time cannot destroy and death cannot disrupt.” 1
Before the cornerstone and dedicatory ceremonies, nearly 700,000 people toured the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple during a six-week open house held from 6 August through 21 September. Helping with the open house were more than 60,000 volunteers from the 45 stakes in the temple district, which includes stakes in Heber City and Midway in Wasatch County, and from stakes in northern Utah County, including the communities of Alpine, Highland, Lehi, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, and Orem.
In April 1993 the First Presidency announced plans to build the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple. On 9 October 1993, President Hinckley and President Monson broke ground for the temple. The Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple is the ninth Latter-day Saint temple to be built in Utah and the 49th operating temple in the Church. In addition to the 49 operating temples, there are seven temples under construction and eight temples awaiting ground breaking.
Located on 17 acres of farmland in American Fork with a view of Mount Timpanogos, the temple opened for regular temple ordinance work on 22 October 1996. About 1,200 members serve as temple workers in this 104,000-square-foot white-granite building.
Temples (booklet, 1988), 5.
Latter-day Saint Charities
The First Presidency has announced the establishment of Latter-day Saint Charities, a charitable, nonprofit corporation designed to help the Church deliver humanitarian aid to poor and needy people of the world.
Since its founding in the 1830s, the Church has provided temporal help to its needy members through the Church welfare program. Church welfare is administered at the local level by bishops, assisted by Relief Society presidents. Fast-offering contributions combined with a system of farms, canneries, storehouses, and other services provide the resources used by bishops in attending to needy Church members.
The Church also has a long history of humanitarian assistance to needy members of other faiths, particularly in response to natural disasters. This assistance has in the past been distributed primarily through other agencies experienced in delivering humanitarian relief. When appropriate, Latter-day Saint Charities will serve as a vehicle for the Church to provide humanitarian aid directly to those in need. The Church, however, will also continue to work with other agencies in delivering humanitarian aid.
Contributions may be made on Church donation slips by writing the words Humanitarian Aid on the line marked “Other.” Those interested in service opportunities may contact Latter-day Saint Charities, 50 E. North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, or telephone 1-801-240-1201.
Members in California Serve during Celebration
During the summer, Church members in California planned and participated in numerous service projects to celebrate the July 1846 arrival of Church members in San Francisco on the ship Brooklyn. Following are brief summaries of several of those projects.
Anaheim California East Stake
Members combined forces to clean up graffiti, paint fire hydrants, weed grounds around local schools, clean schoolrooms, renovate playground structures at a community park, and gather trash on a riverside trail used by walkers, joggers, skaters, and bikers.
“We come to the close of our service day sunburned and fatigued and grateful we could do some good in our neighborhoods,” said stake president Robert E. Greene at a picnic following the day’s work. “The fellowship of laughter and labor has bonded members and friends and will have its own great impact in our community.”
Canoga Park California Stake
Approximately 350 members from this stake contributed 1,480 hours at the local United Cerebral Palsy/Spastic Children’s Foundation on 27 July. Throughout the day members landscaped the grounds of the facility, repaired and installed sprinkler systems, weeded and cleared the grounds, and planted foliage.
That evening, members gathered at a meetinghouse for a dinner and additional activities celebrating the arrival of the pioneers a century and a half earlier.
Huntington Beach California North Stake
In Huntington Beach, Church members met for a pancake breakfast (attended by the city’s mayor, three city council members, and the director of public works) before spreading throughout the community to work.
More than 560 members pulled up non-native plants in the Chica Wetlands, painted a farmhouse at the Westminster Historical Society, waxed and polished two antique fire engines, and filled boxes at the community food bank. They also picked up trash and refurbished benches and tables at several parks, made quilts for the homeless, and washed wheelchairs at a convalescent home.
San Jose California Stake
Members participated in two service projects. The first, which began as a multistake service project at the San Jose Historical Museum, eventually became part of a community-wide project involving some 1,500 Latter-day Saint families. Those involved cleaned areas around expressways, fed the homeless, and worked in an orchard on the grounds of the museum.
Stake members also rehearsed and performed a musical, Because of Elizabeth, in commemoration of the sesquicentennial. In addition to public performances, the cast also performed at a convalescent hospital and at the Los Gatos Sacred Heart Jesuit Center for retired Catholic priests.
Santa Maria California Stake
Members spread throughout three communities, repainting parking lines and curbs, raking leaves, and collecting debris on the campus of a local college; planting trees at a cemetery; installing an exercise course at a junior high school; building a fence and installing mileage markers at local parks; and cleaning up a museum.
Upland California Stake
Members focused their service efforts along Foothill Boulevard, a route in their stake boundaries that was carved out by San Bernardino Mormon pioneers delivering lumber to Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Members refurbished a playground, spread new sand, painted a fence and benches, and worked on landscaping at Memorial Park. In addition, some 350 bags of trash and debris were picked up, and volunteers also worked at a public library cleaning and reshelving books and preparing library materials.
Ventura California Stake
In Ventura, members participated in six different projects, including cleaning, repairing, and painting facilities at a “park-and-ride” lot; landscaping and installing a sprinkler system at a high school; working on several other projects at a high school; laying riverbed rock along the edge of walkways and under a bridge in a beach area; cleaning up and weeding public grounds; and painting facilities at a local park.
Members Help Clean Up after Hurricanes, Floods
In September, hurricanes hit North Carolina and Puerto Rico, causing severe damage and even some deaths. Local Church leaders and members reacted quickly in both areas to provide assistance in whatever ways were necessary.
On Thursday, 5 September, Hurricane Fran hit near Wilmington, North Carolina, and then headed north. The storm was the worst to hit North Carolina since 1954, killing 12 people and leaving an estimated one million people without electricity. In addition, significant flooding damage was done by the heavy rainfall following the storm.
Before the storm had even hit land, two 18-wheel tractor trailers from the Atlanta bishops’ storehouse headed for the scene, loaded with food, diapers and baby food, chain saws, generators, and other emergency supplies needed for cleanup. “The trucks arrived in Wilmington in less than 24 hours,” reported Elder Alvie Evans, Area Authority in the North America Southeast Area.
In addition, after requests from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, local Church leaders made significant acquisitions of bedding and underclothing and donated those items to victims.
For several weekends following the hurricane, a total of approximately 250 members from surrounding stakes arrived at the damaged areas to help with cleanup efforts. These members assisted mainly in clearing trees and cleaning out flooded homes.
“I know we gained a lot of respect and confidence within the community,” Elder Evans reported. “We were also very proud of the self-sufficiency of our members. They were self-reliant as they tended to their own needs, the needs of their families, and the needs of those around them. Much good will come out of this; we’ll hear of it for years to come.”
Hurricane Hortense hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, 10 September, bringing heavy rains and flooding.
Sixteen deaths were reported, and most of the island was left without electricity. Many roads were closed because of the flooding, and the lack of potable water was a serious concern.
“There was quite a bit of member help here,” noted Area Authority Elder Dale Miller, who resides in Puerto Rico. “A bishop lost the roof of his home, and the priesthood brethren in his ward organized to rebuild the roof. In addition, members helped in many areas clearing out homes, cleaning up items, cleaning out and drying out the homes, and then getting people moved back in again.”
Local Church leaders also prepared to use a meetinghouse in the area for a shelter, but it was not needed. “The gospel was certainly a source of comfort to the members,” Elder Miller said. “The concept of having faith and knowing they would be okay brought comfort and strength. It’s amazing how fast the people got on with their lives and got things back together.”
Saints in the Shadow of Mount Timpanogos
John Rowe Moyle was a stonemason and farmer who lived in Alpine, Utah, in the latter part of the 19th century. During the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, a typical week for Brother Moyle consisted of farming and irrigating on Friday night and all day Saturday, attending Church meetings on Sunday, and arising early Monday morning to walk some 20 miles north of Alpine to work as a stonemason on the Salt Lake Temple. There he spent the remainder of the week until he walked home again on Friday.
Brother Moyle continued this schedule faithfully until, tending his farm one weekend, he was kicked while milking his cow. His leg was broken so badly that the only medical option of the day was to amputate and hope the wound would heal. Homebound while his leg healed, Brother Moyle carved himself a wooden leg. He attached the crude prosthesis and, according to family tradition, “walked into Salt Lake as was his custom to take up his work, for he had been called as a work missionary on the Temple. And there, the story goes, he climbed up the scaffolding on the east side of the Temple and carved ‘Holiness to the Lord’” (Gene A. Sessions, ed., “Biographies and Reminiscenses from the James Henry Moyle Collection,” typescript, 203, LDS Church Archives).
Such dedication to the temples of the Lord continues today in the valley from which Brother Moyle came. Now that the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple has opened in nearby American Fork, members from all over northern Utah County and adjacent Wasatch County are dedicating their time, talents, and hearts to this house of the Lord.
“Our service has changed from physical to spiritual,” says Brent Larsen of Highland, who serves as executive secretary of the temple open house committee. “The greatest service you can do is to do the work the temple is built for.”
As members in the 41 stakes of the new temple district are preparing for a temple in their midst, they are striving to be worthy to enter the temple so they can perform saving ordinances in behalf of their ancestors.
“Now our sacrifices are in time and in maintaining our worthiness to participate in temple ordinances,” says Daniel Adams of American Fork. For him, his wife, Karen, and their family, the new temple serves as a reminder of the gospel legacy left to them by their ancestors. In the fall of 1850, Daniel’s great-grandfather Arza Adams and Arza’s cousin Stephen Chipman were sent by President Brigham Young to what is now Provo, Utah. On their way they camped at what was called the American fork of a river that feeds into Utah Lake. Taken in by the beauty of the mountains on the east and the lake to the west, Arza’s son commented that the place would be a good site to settle. Upon Arza’s return to Salt Lake City, President Young gave him permission to take his family back to the American fork of the river and settle there.
Today, three and four generations later, many members of the Adams family still feel that American Fork is a good place to live. “When you walk the new temple grounds and see the mountains, you feel a deep appreciation for the things people have sacrificed for this area,” says Karen. Before Arza Adams came west, he could see the Nauvoo Temple site from his home. Now, with a temple being built in the valley Arza settled in Utah, his great-great-granddaughter Karene, the daughter of Daniel and Karen, feels the responsibility of maintaining her heritage. “I know who has come before me, and I feel the weight of what is in front of me,” Karene says. “God is trusting me with building part of his kingdom. We are all pioneers in a sense.”
When the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple was announced, President Steve Studdert of the Highland Utah East Stake says stake leaders decided to help members prepare for the new temple by focusing on “the fact that the temple is the house of the Lord, the Savior’s house. If we draw near to him, he will draw near to us.”
As he has helped members prepare for the blessings of having a temple in their midst, President Studdert has seen changes in people’s lives. “Some experiences have been so sacred it’s probably not appropriate to talk about them,” he says.
Larry and Lori Mendenhall of Highland feel deeply the blessings of the temple. When the couple was married, Lori was not a member of the Church. They were married in what was then the Hotel Utah—today the Joseph Smith Memorial Building—located across the street from the Salt Lake Temple. Lori told Larry at the time, “That’s as close as you’ll ever get me to the temple.” But 17 years later Lori knelt around the altar with Larry and two of their children to be sealed as a family in the Salt Lake Temple.
The road to the temple for this family was not easy. Though she had spent her teen years in predominantly Latter-day Saint Utah Valley, Lori says it took her a long time to accept that God lives and to eventually be baptized. “The wonderful thing about the temple,” Lori says, “is that it gives you the same agenda, the same goals. Life doesn’t become perfect—we still have our same struggles, our same personalities. But when I go to the temple, I feel the knowledge that Heavenly Father knows and understands and loves us.”
Thinking about when he was sealed to his family strikes an emotional chord in Larry. With tears in his eyes, he says it was the “single most significant experience of my life—going to be sealed to Lori, Emilee, and Jordan.”
The steeple of the new Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple is visible from the Mendenhalls’ front door, serving as a reminder for the whole family of the covenants they have made and hope to yet make. “Here is this edifice we can see—it’s something to enrich our lives and enable us to become true disciples of Jesus Christ,” Larry says. When his daughter Emilee, age 17, sees the temple, she remembers her goals. “It’s always a reminder, because when you see it, you just say, ‘I want to be married there someday.’”
Just as John Rowe Moyle and Arza Adams left a legacy of faith for those who would follow them in this valley, so are members in the valley today perpetuating an example of gospel dedication for generations to come.
Florida Reaches 100,000 Members
As Church members in Florida celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Church in their state, they are also celebrating another milestone: Church membership in the state has reached 100,000 members.
Although the first gospel seeds in Florida were actually planted more than 100 years ago by traveling missionaries (one of the first converts in the state was Cleve Brown of Quincy, Florida, who embraced the gospel in 1857), Church organization in the state occurred in the mid-1890s, when the Florida Conference, part of the Southern States Mission, was organized as well as the state’s first Sunday School, which was created at Coe Mills, Florida.
Initially, the Church grew in the northern part of the state, and missionaries wrote home about braving alligators, water moccasins, and giant mosquitoes as well as intense heat as they searched out converts.
One of those converts was John Jackson Blackwelder, the first branch president of the Oak Grove Florida Branch, who served from 1912 to 1938. His wife, Emma Kerce Blackwelder, was the first Relief Society president in the branch. Today, two of their daughters, Suzie Blackwelder Thomas and Emma Ouida Blackwelder Miles Nettles, still live in the area and carry on a strong family tradition of Church service. Sister Thomas has served as Young Women president, Primary president, and twice as Relief Society president. All of her sons served missions, and the family has provided three bishops, as well as a stake president.
Her sister Ouida married Seth Nettles, whose ancestors were also among the first in the area to join the Church. In fact, Henry Nettles donated the land for the first meetinghouse in Oak Grove. The original building is still there, and Sister Nettles remembers riding to church in a wagon.
“There was a very steep hill that we had to go down,” she recalls, “with a creek and two bridges at the bottom. Mother would make Father stop the wagon at the top of the hill and then instruct all of us ten children to walk down the hill. Then Father would carefully lead the team down the hill and across the bridges before we could climb back on the wagon again.”
Eventually missionaries fanned out to the east, west, and south. One of the fastest-growing areas became what is now the Jacksonville Florida West Stake. The missionaries met there in local schools to introduce people to the gospel. One day when the elders arrived at a school, they found a note on the door saying they were no longer welcome there. Fortunately one of their investigators, William Daniel Mann, invited the missionaries to preach at his home. Brother Mann became one of the first persons baptized in the area, and he later served as one of the first legislators in Florida.
The work was a little slower in the west, where law officers met each train arriving in Tallahassee to prevent Latter-day Saint elders from disembarking. Finally, in the late 1920s, missionaries were allowed in the town. They found the local post office, where they announced their presence and asked if there were any members living in the area. Hubert O. Walker, a member who had been baptized by traveling missionaries in Georgia in 1912, introduced himself and took the missionaries to his home.
Brother Walker’s wife, Ollie Green Walker, was not a member of the Church. When cottage meetings were held on their front porch, she gathered the neighbor ladies to one end of the porch and engaged them in loud conversation to try to hinder the elders in their preaching. Nevertheless, she was soon converted. In 1929 she attended a regional conference with her husband when Charles A. Callis, president of the Southern States Mission, called her to the stand and set her apart as Relief Society president of the Tallahassee Branch.
The gospel also spread south into the Orlando and Tampa areas. Jonathan Clark Cox and his wife, Shannon Rene Gasque Cox, are examples of the enduring diligence of strong Latter-day Saint pioneer families in the state. This young couple, members of the St. Cloud Ward, both have ancestors who were deeply committed to the gospel: Brother Cox’s great-great-grandparents were some of the original members in the Lake City area, and Sister Cox’s great-grandmother joined the Church at age 31 and raised all seven of her daughters in the gospel when her husband left because of her conversion.
At the turn of the century, Miami was a bustling frontier settlement supporting a population of 2,000. When two missionaries arrived in the area in 1909, they were warmly greeted by Julius C. Neubeck, a member who had moved his family to the area to work on the Florida East Coast Railroad. Thereafter, missionaries went to Miami each winter to preach, and in 1915 Brother Neubeck was called as presiding elder over Church members in Miami.
Five years later, on 14 November 1920, 18 members met on Miami Beach under a cluster of palm and sea grape trees to organize a Sunday School, and Elder Neubeck was appointed superintendent. For years, members met in the Neubecks’ tiny home, with classes being held inside the house, on the porch, in the yard, and even in an automobile.
Membership in Miami climbed to 180 by 1924, and members rejoiced when in October 1930 the first Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in the area was dedicated. The small band of Miami Mormons grew to include members from Sebastian in the north to Key West in the south and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. On 28 October 1938, the southern portion of the state was organized into the South Florida District.
In 1960 there were four stakes in the state, and the first Florida mission was created. Blair Conner and his family were Miami converts, baptized in 1963. Brother Conner was honored as the 3,000th member in the Miami Stake. “I’ve seen the Miami stake stretch from Fort Pierce to Key West and over to the Gulf Coast,” he said, “and I watched the Fort Lauderdale Stake being sliced out of that. The Church has grown well ever since.”
In the early 1960s, large numbers of Cubans arrived in Florida. Many of these refugees settled in Miami, having a tremendous impact on Church growth as they began to accept the gospel in record numbers. At first these converts received services through translators, but as their numbers grew, Spanish-speaking branches and wards were formed. In 1994 the first Spanish-speaking stake in the southeastern United States was organized.
Nicholas Biangel is a third-generation Florida member. His grandparents were among those early converts, and his grandfather, also named Nicholas Biangel, was the first Spanish-speaking patriarch in Florida. Sixteen-year-old Nicholas, a member of the Pembroke Pines Ward, is not surprised by the surge in membership among the Hispanic population. “It says in the Book of Mormon that the descendants of Lehi will receive the gospel,” he explained. “What we’re seeing here today is that very prophecy being fulfilled.”
The influx of immigrants from many different countries continues to change the face of the Church in southern Florida. Perhaps the best example of the broad range of cultural diversity within the stakes in this region lies in the Miami Shores Ward, where classes are taught in English, Creole, Spanish, and sign language. Members of the ward come from more than a dozen different countries.
“The diversity of our membership is really the glue that has held our ward together,” says Bishop Glen Larson. “Our differences have made us kinder and more patient with one another. … For many, we are their only family. It’s beautiful to hear our members sing the hymns in their own native tongue, and it’s a great blessing to know we are helping to build up the Church.”
A high point for many members of the Church came on 9 October 1994, when a temple was dedicated in Orlando, Florida. Since then, the gospel in Florida has continued to flourish. Currently the 100,000 members in this southern state make up 22 stakes, 158 wards, and 27 branches.