The Swiss Temple

    “The Swiss Temple,” Ensign, June 1978, 80

    The Swiss Temple

    There seems little question that the Swiss Temple represented something especially meaningful to President David O. McKay, the prophet who selected the site in July 1952, dedicated it and broke ground on 5 August 1953, and dedicated the building in ten sessions beginning 11 September 1955.

    The first temple built in Europe, the Swiss Temple represented President McKay’s commitment to care for the spiritual needs of the Saints in the expanding church. It was the first temple to use modern media in the presentation of the endowment ceremony, now a feature in all new temples and most older temples that have been remodeled. Because of this decision to innovate, temple sessions at Berne were easily available in seventeen different languages.

    Furthermore, President McKay had evidently seen the temple in vision, its clean simple lines reminiscent of the Church’s first temple at Kirtland. He described it so vividly to Edward O. Anderson, a Church architect, that he was able to reproduce it exactly. However, as the design process went on, the original drawing was modified until President McKay, upon seeing the drawings, pointed out, “Brother Anderson, that is not the temple that you and I saw together.” The finished drawings, needless to say, reflected President McKay’s original description.

    President McKay addressed each of the ten dedicatory sessions and repeated the prayer for each. Then he spoke to each of the first three groups going through the temple for their endowments. That first week of operation was probably without parallel in the history of the Church: 285 endowments were performed in sessions that continued in six different languages, without a break, for forty hours. Twenty-nine couples were also sealed. (See Dale Z. Kirby, The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Switzerland, M. A. thesis, BYU, 1971, p. 130.)