Cover story: Historic Sabbath in Canada
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The dedications of the Halifax Nova Scotia Temple and the Regina Saskatchewan Temple on Nov. 14 mark the first time in Church history that two temples were dedicated on the same day. The temples are the 64th and 65th operating temples, respectively.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia In a land renowned for towering white lighthouses where mariners for many years have been safely guided around treacherous shores the newly dedicated Halifax Nova Scotia Temple now stands as a beacon of spiritual light to those in the maritime provinces of Atlantic Canada and parts of the state of Maine.
"It is impossible there are not words to adequately express our gratitude for this temple," said Richard Moses, second counselor in the Dartmouth Nova Scotia Stake presidency and chairman of the local temple committee.
"No longer do we just look at a picture of a temple. Now, when my daughters look out their bedroom window, they see the softly lighted figure of the Angel Moroni standing as a beacon over the area."
"Every time I've come here, even before I walk up the stairs, I shed tears of joy for this temple," said a sister as she waved to President Gordon B. Hinckley as he departed from the grounds following the third and final dedicatory session held Nov. 14.
Accompanying President Hinckley were Elder David E. Sorensen of the presidency of the Seventy and Elder Gary J. Coleman of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America Northeast Area. Plans to dedicate the Halifax Nova Scotia Temple were originally organized for Nov. 13, but were postponed a day when mechanical problems caused a delay in President Hinckley's flight plan.
On the same day that President Hinckley was dedicating the Halifax Nova Scotia Temple, President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, was dedicating the Regina Saskatchewan Temple, the 64th and 65th operating temples.
Atlantic Canada is composed of four provinces that occupy a geographic area roughly the size of the western United States. All provinces border the Atlantic Ocean, and in the case of two, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, inhabitants are no farther than 11/2 hours drive from the ocean in any direction.
Remote and largely untouched by the developments of modern society, the Maritime provinces have retained much of their old world beauty known to the early colonizers in the 1500 and 1600s. Vacationers are drawn to Nova Scotia to enjoy the 6,700 lakes that dot the peninsula, and to see the cluster of white blossoms stretched over acres of apple trees in the spring and the flaming colors of fall.
The temple is located in the Cole Harbour area of the city of Dartmouth, across the harbor from Halifax. The two cities are joined by two expansion bridges and, in recent years, have come under one municipal government.
The famed beauty of Atlantic Canada comes at a cost for members living in the far reaches of the temple district, such as Newfoundland. To attend the dedication, members in the Bay Roberts, Grand Falls and Corner Brook branches drove upwards of six to eight hours to a sea port where they were ferried to Nova Scotia during the night, then drove another four hours to the temple, while 16 members from the St. John's Branch flew.
Members in the state of Maine drove eight hours to attend. Members in New Brunswick and on Prince Edward Island also drove many hours.
"These are faithful people who don't consider attending the temple to be a sacrifice," Pres. Moses said.
"The temple has become something of a benchmark of beauty in the area," he continued. "People are aware of the distinction it adds to the community, which, in turn, has brought new respect for the Church. I know a non-member who has a picture of the temple hanging in his home."
This increase in community acceptance and awareness of the Church is the result of an on-going effort by members to build the community, Pres. Moses said. "Many members, like Bob and Evelyn Roberts, donate a morning each week to help feed underprivileged children in a food kitchen sponsored by another denomination. Others participate in civic affairs like arts councils."
The influence of the temple reached deep into the hearts of many non-members, continued Pres. Moses, noting the concern expressed by a reporter of the province's largest newspaper. "After completing a tour during the open house, and obviously touched by what he was feeling, the reporter commented that there was no way he could write what he felt in the small space he would be given for the article."
On another occasion, "A man dressed in leather and sporting many tattoos came to the open house. He was quiet during the tour and sat by himself in the celestial room. Soon, tears were flowing."
A member brought his non-member mother to the open house. Sitting in the celestial room she said, "I've never felt closer to God."
In retrospect, continued Pres. Moses, one of the greatest blessings of the temple is witnessed in the increased unity among the members in Maritime Canada and the state of Maine who are divided by cost and distance. "The temple is welding us together. It's had a unifying effect. As the choirs rehearsed, I saw members from different provinces singing together.
"When the dedication was postponed, members showed no irritation, but inquired what they could do, like opening their homes to help offset the expense of those who would need to stay an extra night to attend the dedication.
During the construction process, "we found the counsel of Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy to be true: the Spirit is in the details," said Pres. Moses, noting how the members found joy in making the temple as perfect as possible.
"When several flecks of grouting were found on the bottom of the baptismal font following some last-minute tile work a day prior to the dedication, members were willing to drain, then re-fill the font3."
Pres. Moses recounted an experience one evening in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, that demonstrated the love of the members for the temple. "We were taking a tour through the temple district to give a report on the progress of the temple and show them a sample of the granite stone.
"At one point, I asked for volunteers to crochet altar cloths. A blind sister sitting on the front row quickly volunteered. 'I'd like to do this,' she said, and rather forthrightly, requested a pattern. A hush fell over the others as they considered the sacrifice she was making. Then they quickly volunteered."
Aubrey Fielden, who joined the Church in 1953 with his wife, Thelma, and was among the first priesthood holders in the Maritimes following World War II, figures the missionaries back in 1952 "must have held their breath for what I would think of their rented building when I attended my first meeting," he said.
"But I came back, not for what I saw, but for what I felt."
Now a sealer in the Halifax temple, Brother Fielden took time during the dedication to reflect on the growth of the Church since his baptism; including, the organization of the first district, working evenings as an assistant building supervisor on the first meetinghouse in the late 1950s, and the creation of the first stake in the mid 1980s.
"The Church has come a long way in the past 46 years," he said. "We held our first meetings in rented rooms, now we have a temple. How could we not grow when we had such fine leaders, such as President Packer who served as a mission president over the area.
"We were there to watch the Lord work miracles."