“We pray that all who enter these portals may recognize that we come here as Thy guests,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley during his dedicatory prayer for the Anchorage Alaska Temple on 9 January. “We are grateful for the inspiration which has come to build it and pray that Thy faithful people in this part of Thy vineyard may treasure it and use it for the purposes for which it is designed.”
Despite frigid temperatures, about 6,300 members attended seven dedication sessions held 9–10 January for the Church’s 54th operating temple, which is the second dedicated of the smaller temples and the Church’s northernmost temple. President Hinckley led a cornerstone-laying ceremony before the first dedicatory session. Also in attendance at the dedication were President Hinckley’s wife, Marjorie; Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Mary; Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy, President of the North America Northwest Area, and his wife, Bonnie; President Merrill D. Briggs and Sister Janet J. Briggs, temple president and matron; and Keith J. Anderson and R. Dan Farr, counselors in the temple presidency.
During a public open house held 29–31 December 1998, about 15,000 people toured the temple. After walking through the building, Anchorage mayor Rick Mystrom said, “I expected to get a tour of a building, but I think what happened is I experienced the temple instead of just seeing the temple. I walked away with a real sense of understanding why the Latter-day Saints are so committed to each other and committed to the Church. It was a very touching experience.” Catholic archbishop Francis Hurley said he was impressed by the quiet beauty of the temple.
Anchorage stake president Brent Wadsworth said: “The completion of the temple signifies and begins an entirely new era for Alaska. Everything we have thought about, everything we have worked for is going to change with the temple and its completion.”
Completed in just nine months and built next to the Anchorage Alaska Stake Center, the 6,800-square-foot temple has an ordinance room, a sealing room, a celestial room, and a baptistry. The temple walls are covered with gray and white quartz-flecked granite, and the temple design incorporates Alaskan motifs, such as likenesses of fir trees on the doorway pilasters, the state flower—the forget-me-not—on interior details, and the North Star and Big Dipper on the building’s west side. The temple district takes in about 18,000 members living in the Anchorage, Anchorage North, Fairbanks, Juneau, Soldotna, and Wasilla stakes and in the Anchorage mission’s Bush District.
Martha Swan of the Anchorage 17th Ward helped clean the temple prior to the dedication. “I wanted it to be really clean, because it is the Lord’s house,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave a speck of dirt. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to make every nook and corner clean. It is just beautiful. It is His house.” Local endowed members will continue helping clean and maintain the temple.
“May it be recognized even by those not of our faith as a place holy and sacred, the house of the Lord, built as an expression of love for Thee,” President Hinckley said in his dedicatory prayer. “May all who come with hope and high expectations leave with satisfaction and gratitude, having tasted of the sweet things of Thy divine work.”
Temple Announced for Fresno, California
The First Presidency has announced that the Church’s 99th temple will be built in Fresno, California. When this smaller temple is completed, it will serve members living in the Fresno, Fresno East, Fresno North, Fresno West, Hanford, Porterville, and Visalia stakes. The temple will be California’s fourth temple. As of 1 February 1999, the Church had 54 temples in operation, 28 temples under construction, and 17 temples in planning stages worldwide.
Ciudad Juárez Chihuahua Temple Groundbreaking
“In this temple district, we have members on both sides of the border,” said Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy, President of the Mexico North Area, at groundbreaking services held on 9 January for Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez Chihuahua Temple. “This will bring a uniting and joining of members.” He also said, “We want to be prepared and attend the temple, not just have the temple as a monument.”
About 1,700 members gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony, during which a regional choir sang. “This is an historic day for our community,” said El Paso Texas Stake president William Scott Johns. “But when I speak of community, I am not speaking of the cities that have borders and restrictions; I am speaking of the community of the Latter-day Saints.”
Octavio Seanez Flores, president of the Ciudad Juárez La Cuesta Stake, said, “This land has a destiny, and that destiny is to have a house of the Lord where we can do His work and our work to gain salvation.”
When completed, the temple will serve members living in 10 stakes and 2 districts. The Ciudad Juárez temple will be the second temple in the state of Chihuahua, where a temple will soon be dedicated in Colonia Juárez.
Villahermosa Tabasco Temple Groundbreaking
“Temples are, along with the Atonement, the greatest gift to mankind as well as the greatest tool to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of the Savior,” said Elder Richard E. Turley Sr. of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Mexico South Area Presidency, at groundbreaking services held on 9 January for Mexico’s Villahermosa Tabasco Temple. Because of limited space, attendance at the ceremony was limited to 200 people.
“Members must now develop within their homes a culture of temple attendance and participation,” Elder Turley said. “If you are faithful, the spirituality of the members will increase. There will be a measurable impact on the whole community through the faithfulness of the people and the beauty of the temple and its surroundings.” The temple will be built near the coast of Mexico’s isthmus.
Caracas Venezuela Temple Groundbreaking
“Let us think of today as the groundbreaking for a change in our lives,” said Elder Francisco J. Viñas of the Seventy, President of the South America North Area, at groundbreaking services held on 10 January for the Caracas Venezuela Temple. “As all temples are built upon solid foundations, in a like manner our lives need foundations that will sustain us and allow us to grow spiritually.”
Hundreds of local leaders and their families attended the ceremony, as well as Elder Viñas’s counselors in the Area Presidency: Elder Robert J. Whetten of the Seventy and Elder Walter F. González, an Area Authority Seventy. Also present were Elders Francisco G. Giménez, Daniel L. Johnson, and Carlos D. Vargas, all of whom serve as Area Authority Seventies. A stake choir and mission choir provided music.
Elder Whetten encouraged members to ready themselves for the temple through preparing “our hearts by pardoning all those who have offended us. Next, we ought to increase our love—that attribute that distinguishes us as Latter-day Saints—beginning with our families, our wife or husband, our children and then others who do not belong to the Church.”
Elder Viñas asked members to resolve “to begin a change in their lives that will permit them to enter the temple, to have a life clean enough to bring into the house of the Lord.”
Memphis Tennessee Temple Groundbreaking
“The presence of the temple in the community will spark the Spirit of Christ in hundreds of people,” said Elder Gordon T. Watts of the Seventy, First Counselor in the North America Southeast Area Presidency, at groundbreaking services held on 16 January for a temple to be built near the Memphis Tennessee North Stake Center. About 2,300 people gathered for the ceremony, which was conducted by Elder James E. Griffin, an Area Authority Seventy. Mayor Kenneth Fulmar and other community leaders were in attendance, and a 125-voice multistake choir provided music.
“Early members traveled to Salt Lake City for their first temple experience,” said Memphis stake president Darrell Danielson. “Later the trip was cut in half when the Washington (D.C.) Temple was built. Then came Atlanta, followed by St. Louis. Travel time was reduced from days to hours. Now some members will have less than an hour to go to participate in temple work.”
Elder Watts said, “This is the beginning of a new temple and a time for reflection. It should also be a beginning of our personal preparation to be worthy in every way to enter and perform labors for the living and the dead.”
The Memphis temple will serve more than 20,000 members living in seven stakes in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Another temple planned for Tennessee will be located in the Nashville area.
Mérida Yucatán Temple Groundbreaking
“We want to establish a culture of temple attendance,” said Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy, President of the Mexico South Area, at groundbreaking services held on 16 January for Mexico’s Mérida Yucatán Temple. “I know that the construction of this temple will add to the strength of the home. It will add to the love of husbands and wives. It will add to the peace in the Yucatán Peninsula.”
About 550 members from the states of Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo attended the ceremony, as did Elder Octaviano Tenorio, an Area Authority Seventy who serves as Second Counselor in the Mexico South Area Presidency. The temple site is located in a city near the well-known Uxmal and Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.
Mérida Central stake president Fermin Herrera Baez said, “In this beautiful city, the sun is always radiant, but it is no more resplendent than the hearts of the Saints who know that in this land of the Mayas there will be built a house of the Lord.” Abel Ordax Rosado, who served as the first president of the Mérida stake, said, “As the ground is cleared and made clean for construction, so must lives be made clean through baptism. Then, just as construction commences there also begins in us the growth of the delicious fruit from the word of God.”
Temple Presidents Called
The First Presidency has announced the callings of presidents for two soon-to-be-dedicated temples. William Clive Barney of the Layton Second Ward, Layton Utah South Stake, will serve as president of the Madrid Spain Temple. His wife, Jean Louise Kasparek Barney, will serve as temple matron. Meredith Irvin Romney of the Juárez Ward, Colonia Juárez Mexico Stake, will serve as president of the Colonia Juárez Chihuahua Temple. His wife, Karen Sue Ellsworth Romney, will serve as temple matron.