In the Central Valley of California, there are 44 teenagers who will never forget the city of St. George, Utah, with its hospitable people and its beautiful white temple.
The youths’ 18-hour stay there was the culmination of six months of planning, hard work, and cooperation between the youth and adults of the Tulare Ward (Visalia California Stake) and those of the St. George Second Ward.
The moment the weary travelers arrived at the Second Ward chapel after their 500-mile journey, they were met by an enthusiastic crowd of St. George youth who immediately sought out, tagged, and friendshiped each California teenager. Together these new friends shared the experiences of that day and the next. The anticipation of their meeting and their bond of common beliefs seemed to create an instant, comfortable friendship on both sides.
After an official welcome by Bishop Ross Taylor, the young people toured the tabernacle built during the same period in which the temple was constructed. Everywhere there was evidence of pioneer skill, artistry, and devotion.
Following the tabernacle visit, the group toured the Brigham Young Winter Home and caught a glimpse of the life of that great prophet and the times in which he lived.
After dinner in the homes of their hosts, the youth met at the templegrounds for the long-awaited tour. A lovely scene met their eyes. To one teenage girl, Shawna Brown, “the temple stood out like a gleaming jewel, shining forth with the Spirit of the Lord.” In this small, quiet town was the most magnificent building most of them had ever seen, a great sparkling building surrounded by deep-green lawns, a building normally brilliant white, bathed now in the golden glow of a setting sun. As the young people joined the long lines of those waiting to enter, they huddled for warmth in the unfamiliar chill of the southern Utah evening.
Inside there was peace and calm and cheerfully whispered “hello’s” between the white-clothed temple workers and the awed young visitors.
“What impressed me most,” said Julie Peterson, a convert of one year, “was that the workers in the temple were so at peace and so nice. I want to work there when I become older. Most of all, I know that I’ll marry in the temple, no matter what!” Liz Myers, a young investigator, commented, “It was beautiful, just walking through. It made me feel so clean inside. It was a great feeling!” Michelle Meadows said that being in the temple felt to her “like a little bit of heaven on earth—it was so peaceful and so beautiful.” As the group was passing through the last sealing room, one of the workers whispered to Claire Forman, “This is where you’re going to be married.” She answered, “Oh, yes!” Now, recalling that experience, Claire says, “There is no way I would even consider marrying outside the temple.”
The tour was over too soon. Too soon they stood once more outside the great building looking up at its inscription, “Holiness to the Lord.” But the influence of those few minutes may never end. To David Anderson, it brought greater meaning to going on a mission, coming back to get married for time and all eternity, and living a righteous life.
“We realized,” said Ruben Ruiz, “that the temple is the house of the Lord and that it was built for a purpose. We realized that the work done in the temple is sacred and that you need to be worthy to enter.”
Following the temple visit, the combined fireside in the Second Ward cultural hall concluded the evening. Three young St. George couples related the strength and meaning that temple marriage had brought into their lives.
The final event of the trip occurred the following morning among the red sandstone cliffs of Snow’s Canyon. Never had pancakes—complete with juice, bacon, and eggs—tasted so good. Following breakfast, the youth—lured by the cliffs around the little tree-and-sagebrush-covered valley—clambered up the sloping walls, which seemed almost stair-stepped for their benefit. Campers who chanced to be in the canyon that morning must have been startled as the hills literally burst forth into song. The final rendition was “I Am a Child of God,” sung by the Tulare teenagers from their mountaintop loft to their bishop, who stood looking up from the sands below. It was an impromptu, heartfelt expression of their love for him that neither he nor they will ever forget.
As the two groups exchanged addresses and goodbyes—the St. George youth to return to what was left of their late October Saturday, and the California young people to their journey home—no one doubted that all were spiritually richer than before. Bishop Taylor said that because of the enthusiasm of the California youth in their desire to visit the house of the Lord, the hearts of those in St. George had been reawakened to a remembrance of the great blessing of the temple and the particular privilege of living within its very shadow.
The feelings of all might be best summed up by the statement of Tulare’s Laurel class president, Karen McPherson, as she bore her testimony in sacrament meeting the day after the trip: “Bishop Dredge has been pounding into us for years, ‘Get married in the temple! Get married in the temple!’ And now I know why!”