DAVIE, Fla. — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf had to squint a bit Sunday as he greeted folks outside the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple. The Sunshine State had lived up to its name.
But a few UV rays weren’t enough to keep the LDS Church leader — or thousands of South Florida Latter-day Saints — from participating in the opening of Florida’s second temple.
President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presided over the dedication ceremonies of the newly built temple, located prominently off Interstate 75 between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
The new temple becomes the church’s 143rd in operation across the globe. It will function in one of the most culturally diverse corners of the globe.
Florida has long been a gathering place for people from other places. That’s particularly so in the southern half of the state where one’s just as likely to hear Spanish or Haitian Creole as English. And if you can’t find a hamburger stand close by, you can likely locate Colombian arepas or Cuban sandwiches.
Robert Pritt is like many such folks who call this Southern state their home: “I’m from somewhere else.”
Pritt’s the president of the LDS Church’s Fort Myers Florida Stake. While his cultural background may be different than many in his adopted community, he enjoys spiritual unity alongside the growing number of LDS Floridians celebrating the new temple.
“This is a beautiful day,” said President Pritt prior to the day’s first dedicatory session. “The spiritual growth of this area is about to increase dramatically."
More than 2,000 members participated in the three dedicatory sessions inside the temple. Legions of others watched the proceedings via closed-circuit broadcasts to LDS meetinghouses across the state.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy; and Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson assisted President Uchtdorf at the dedicatory sessions.
The new temple has quickly become a landmark in south Florida. Tens of thousands of visitors toured the building during the recent open house period. They discovered a distinctly Floridian structure. The color scheme throughout the interior is accented in cool blues and greens reflecting the state’s tropical environment.
Sawgrass leaves, palm fronds and other local natural elements are represented in ornate glass and metalwork in the baptistery and several other areas of the temple.
Local leaders here say the youths of the church will ensure the success of the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple. Being a Mormon boy or girl is not always easy in south Florida. They are almost always minorities in their schools. But many say the new temple stands as a “new friend” that provides steady support.
“This temple will change my life — it will help me prepare for my mission,” said 14-year-old Paul Valcin.
Paul joined some 1,200 other Mormon youths for a cultural celebration on the eve of the temple dedication. Titled “United by Our Faith,” the Saturday event was staged by the six stakes in southern Florida that comprise the new temple district. Through song, dance and video clips, the massive cast told the story of the rich Mormon history in southern Florida.
Other musical numbers saluted the efforts of Latter-day Saint Floridians in times of need, such as the aftermath of hurricanes and other disasters.
President Uchtdorf also presided at the event and offered brief words of counsel to the young performers.
“It is wonderful to be with you tonight,” he said. “President Thomas S. Monson loves the youth. I love the young people. My wife and I, we love to be here in Florida.”
The local LDS youths, he added, “are a sunshine for Florida.”
“Show through your goodness and your kindness what this gospel and this church is all about.”