About 15,000 people attended the final dedication ceremony for a $35 million Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple on Sunday, capping the church's nine-day world conference.
Since the temple sanctuary holds only 1,600 people, thousands viewed the service on closed-circuit television across the street in the RLDS Auditorium, the Stone church and five other RLDS churches.The dedication was carried on two local cable channels and nationally, by satellite. Toward the end of the service, 350 homing pigeons were released. They circled the crowd outside the temple, which is known for its stainless steel spiral, and then split off in several directions.
"We had hoped that they would circle around a little longer," said Howard S. Sheehy Jr. He is one of two counselors who with the church president make up the First Presidency.
Participants at the conference represented nearly 40 countries. Many were involved in dedicatory worship services during the week at the temple. The regular services were held simultaneously in the auditorium.
President Wallace B. Smith made the dedication speech.
"Just in the four years since we broke ground for this sanctuary, we have seen our hopes for peace with greater justice and freedom . . . be dashed . . . then rise feebly in the Holy Land, only to be threatened once again by extremists on both sides of that terrible conflict," Smith said.
He said the quest for peace begins "with our own hearts and wills and is based on our relationship with the God to whom we dedicate this place of worship and prayer."
Bunda Chibwe, a delegate from Zambia, said the physical appearance of the temple met his expectations.
"The building is beautiful," he said. "But my expectation is to see it fulfill its purpose of peace, and I feel it will do this. People are coming here to learn of peace and go back to their homes to fulfill that."
The RLDS church emerged during the 1850s from a schism over leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following the death of church founder and prophet Joseph Smith. It has some 240,000 members, compared to the LDS Church's 8.4 million.