The announcements of new holy edifices bring joy and tears
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For Latter-day Saints living in areas where small temples are to be built, there is much happiness.
In the October 1997 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: "There are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of temple ordinances? While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer, we believe, came bright and clear. We will construct small temples in some of these areas, buildings with all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances."
Following are reports from telephone and other conversations with a few of the many Latter-day Saints presently living in some of the newly created temple districts in Ukraine, Australia, Canada and United States.
Kiev Ukraine Temple
"People are excited; the announcement has had a big impact on missionary work," said Elder Duane Schonlau, a full-time missionary from Tabiona, Utah, serving as assistant to Ukraine Kiev Mission president, Wilfried M. Voge. "Baptism rates are going up," he added. "We are giving out more copies of the Book of Mormon, there are more invitations to Church meetings, and more investigators and converts at meetings."
"From the reports that I receive," said Elder Larry Reichenbach, a missionary serving with his wife in the Church's Europe East Area office (located in Frankfurt, Germany) as executive secretary to the area presidency, "even though the people are extremely modest in their economic conditions, having trouble surviving, they want to contribute."
Most of Russia is presently in this temple district, according to an area office report.
Melbourne Australia Temple
"Oh, yes, isn't it marvelous," said Edna Ord of Melbourne, Australia's Northcote Ward. "Everybody's excited. When I heard the announcement, I said, 'Oh, Elder McConkie, you were right.' " Sister Ord, a cheerful 84-year-old, explained she served for 18 years as secretary to the mission president in Melbourne. She said when Elder Bruce R. McConkie was mission president in Australia, he said to her, " 'I promise you, Edna, you will have a temple in Melbourne.' "
Sister Ord added: "We've been growing so fast; the missionaries are doing a very good job. When my grandmother joined the Church, two families met in this room I'm sitting in. My grandmother, Emma Watts Galloway, was baptized in 1902. Now [our family] has six generations in the Church and all are active."
Sister Ord is looking forward to the completion of the temple in Melbourne. "I can drive myself," she said happily, adding, "I'll be there on the second day," meaning the day after it is dedicated.
Her nephew, Dennis Woodford of Dalhousie Ward, Winnipeg Manitoba Stake, explained that Sister Galloway, who is his great-grandmother, was baptized by one of the first Australian converts, and that his Aunt Edna is the oldest member in Australia.
Sister Ord said she has served as ward and stake Relief Society president.
The Melbourne temple will be one of three in Australia, and one of four in the Australia/New Zealand Area where 188,000 members live in 54 stakes, 9 missions, and 19 districts.
Halifax Nova Scotia Temple
"Isn't this fabulous? We are very, very excited," said Carol Ray, institute and seminary teacher in the Fredericton Ward, St. John's New Brunswick Stake, and the stake music chairman. She was referring to the new small temple being built in Nova Scotia.
She and her husband, David, the ward temple preparation class teacher, along with other members living in New Brunswick have been driving to the Washington D.C. Temple or Toronto Ontario Temple. "It's 18 hours either way. For other people (of the Maritime provinces) in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, it's even further by another four or five hours. It's a big deal [to go to the temple] and very expensive for the people here. [The new temple] will be less than five hours away." Sister Ray said they will be able to go much more often, adding, with excitement, "We can go spontaneously."
This temple will accommodate the 7,700 members in eastern Canada's Maritime provinces.
Kona Hawaii Temple
"When the announcement came, people cried," said Kona Hawaii Stake Pres. Philip A. Harris of Captain Cook, Hawaii. "Needless to say, the people are excited. Many tears were shed."
"Of course the people are thrilled," said the stake president's wife, Olivia, in reference to the May 7, 1998, announcement of the Kona Hawaii Temple.
"Members were praying [when they heard of other temples announced]. It is very expensive" to attend the temple, explained Sister Harris. She said that members of the Kona Hawaii Stake and other Hawaii stakes "fly to Honolulu then drive one hour to the temple [in Laie] and one hour back [to the airport]. They go for three days. Members could only go once a year."
Kailua Kona, where the new temple will be built, lies at the southern end of the Hawaiian Islands, while the existing temple is located near the north end.
"Temple recommend renewals have increased," Pres. Harris said. "Many unendowed are getting their recommends. General activity has increased. We have set the evening of fast and testimony Sundays to be a special time for families to work on their family histories so they will have names ready to take to the temple. We have told bishops not to schedule any firesides or other activities" on those evenings.
He explained: "When I was first called to be the stake president two years ago, I wanted to know what the Lord wanted of me. I prayed often and fasted. One night I dreamt there was to be a temple in Kona." He said the building of small temples had not yet been announced and "knowing the logistics" of building a large temple in Kona, which would be impossible, he "thought that the dream meant the people were to be spiritually prepared" not that there was to be an actual temple in Kona. "Then the new temples were announced. Most thought they'd never see it in their lifetime. Then we heard a temple announced for Kona. I knew then that in my lifetime I would see a temple here." He explained the reaction of the people, members and "even non-members, shows the high esteem held for the temple." He said the structure "will be built by a main highway. It will become a landmark."
The Kona Hawaii Temple District includes 6,400 members.
St. Paul Minnesota Temple
According to Mel Hiscock, president of the Ft. Francis Ontario District, members of the district pay $200 in Canadian funds to travel two days each way to the Chicago temple. Pres. Hiscock said, "That $200 is a tremendous amount of money to most of these people who have very limited incomes."
He said when they get to the temple, they work non-stop, since they know it will be a long time before they can return. These Church members are now in the new St. Paul Minnesota Temple district. Distance will be half what it is to Chicago.
Full-time missionaries, Elders Andrew Hunsaker of American Fork, Utah, and Kevin Grover of Idaho Falls, Idaho, said at the temple groundbreaking, the St. Paul Minnesota Temple, will "definitely" help missionary work.
John Shaw of Silver Bay, Minn., a 14-year-old teacher in the Duluth (Minn.) Ward, who traveled 18 hours to the Chicago Temple, said, "Temple trips [to St. Paul] will be short. We'll be able to do more baptisms."
There are 19,130 members in this temple district.
Bismarck North Dakota Temple
"Never in my lifetime did I think I would live so close to a temple in North Dakota," said Bradley K. Leeser, first counselor in the Fargo North Dakota Stake presidency, with emotion evident in his voice, during a recent address at stake conference.
"This is a great blessing," he said, referring to the new Bismarck North Dakota Temple, adding, "It can be a one day trip [there and back]."
Members in the Fargo Stake have been driving 10-14 hours one way to the Chicago temple. The trip on a three-day stake bus excursion, usually twice a year, to the Chicago temple is $70 each person, for transportation and a motel room shared by four.
Often, after much anticipation and preparation, the trip is canceled at the last minute due to blizzards and icy roads. Some can only get to the temple on excursions, so every effort is made to avoid cancellation.
Valerie Guimaraes, Fargo North Dakota Stake Relief Society president, of Bemidji, Minn., said when she heard President Hinckley talk of small temples for remote areas, she thought, "There's got to be something for us."
Winnipeg Manitoba Stake Pres. Mark L. Spencer said it will help missionary work in Winnipeg to have a temple closer, in that investigators will be able to more easily comprehend getting to the temple. Winnipeg members have been driving 15 hours one way to the Alberta Temple.
Winnipeg is now in the Bismarck temple district, which includes 16,049 members living in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Canada.
Edmonton Alberta Temple
Marjorie H. Scully, Edmonton 2nd Ward, Edmonton Bonnie Doon Stake, said: "During President Hinckley's Canadian tour last August, he talked to us about the temple but he didn't announce that we were going to get a temple here. Then the official word came. It was so wonderful to know that Edmonton was going to get a temple. We had waited and hoped and prayed for years for this, and now the dream had come true. Having a temple 22 minutes away will change things dramatically."
To go to the Alberta Temple has been a a six-hour trip, Sister Scully commented. "Some of us have to arrange for time off from work as well as for babysitters. Most people don't drive there and back in one day, so sleeping arrangements have to be made as well. Now I can go at least once a month and hopefully more often and increase the amount of family names that I can do proxy work for in the temple. What a joy that will be! My heart fills with such love for my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ for sending this great blessing to us at this time. I'm also grateful to our beloved president who saw the need for temples to be nearer the people. I am truly thankful for a prophet to lead us in these latter days."
Regina Saskatchewan Temple
Sister Scully of Edmonton joined the Church in Regina when it was a little branch in April 1960. She didn't expect a temple in a place where there were so few members.
"The phone rang," she recalled. "It was our oldest son on the other end of the line. 'Are you sitting down, Mom? If you aren't, then maybe you should, because I have something really exciting to tell you. President Hinckley told the people in Regina that the Church is going to build a temple there.' All I could do was cry tears of absolute amazement and happiness. I could hardly believe what our son had told me but this was no rumor; it was true."
There are 3,800 members in this temple district.