Gerry Avant, LDS Church News
The Sunshine State lived up to its name Sunday, May 4, and it wasn’t just the blue skies that caused an extra glow in southern Florida.
An added aura of brightness emanated from the faces of Latter-day Saints who rejoiced as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf dedicated the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple, the Church’s second temple in the state and the 143rd temple in operation worldwide.
During his stay in the Fort Lauderdale area for events connected with the temple dedication, President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, made several references to the blessings of having a temple in southern Florida.
He commented about the beauty of southern Florida, the area “between the vast Atlantic Ocean, the sawgrass prairies and the Gulf of Mexico beyond.”
“I am impressed not only by the natural beauty of Florida, but also by its people, and the rich, inspiring heritage in Church history,” he said.
He spoke of how temple ordinances and temple covenants brought great strength and blessings to the early Mormon pioneers when they had to leave Nauvoo, Illinois, on their exodus to the West.
“Temple blessings were almost out of reach for the early Saints in Florida,” he said. “They were pioneers in their own way. They had to travel thousands of miles to receive their endowments. Those early Florida Saints journeyed to the temples in Salt Lake City and Mesa, Arizona. Later, the Saints in Florida helped build temples in Washington, D.C., in Atlanta and finally in Orlando. Today, the long-awaited hour has come when a temple is dedicated in Fort Lauderdale.
“No one can read the stories of the early Church members here in Florida without having a feeling of gratitude and love for these early Saints.” he said. “Tears come to my eyes when I think of the many sacrifices made and the devoted service given by these early members in Florida. It was not easy and often dangerous for these Saints, whose history was mostly written long after the handcarts arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.”
President Uchtdorf spoke of the heritage bequeathed to LDS Floridians by stalwarts in the gospel such as George Paul Canova, president of the Sanderson Branch, who was killed in 1898 as he and his companion, Thaddeus Hill, were ambushed while returning from a missionary conference.
“The lives of these Florida pioneers are testimonies of the power, truth and goodness of the gospel message,” President Uchtdorf said. “As we dedicate the Fort Lauderdale Temple and honor the Lord, we also remember and honor these faithful members who prepared the way.”
President Uchtdorf offered the dedicatory prayer of the temple and conducted the first and third sessions; Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducted the second session.
Other General Authorities participating included Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and Assistant Executive Director of the Temple Department; and Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop.
Each of the Brethren was accompanied by his wife: Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, Sister Kathy Christofferson, Sister Melanie Rasband, Sister Marsha Richards and Sister Lesa Stevenson.
Also speaking during the dedication were members of the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple presidency: Jerry R. Bogges, president; Thomas Preston Smith, first counselor; Robert H. Beck, second counselor. Portia Bogess, temple matron; and Marilyn Kay Smith and Wyla Jean Beck, assistants to the temple matron, also spoke.
M. Anthony Burns, coordinator of the temple dedication committee, and Brook P. Hales, secretary to the First Presidency, were called upon to give remarks.