ATLANTA — On a calm and beautiful spring day, President Thomas S. Monson rededicated the Atlanta Georgia Temple in two sessions on Sunday, May 1.
The skies were clear and, perhaps most significant, hardly a breeze stirred — a welcome respite in a region of the country beset by more than 100 tornadoes during the past week.
Some attending the rededication were still waiting for word on the status of homes of relatives, friends and acquaintances. Among them was Richard Youngblood, president of the church's Chattanooga Tennessee Stake, who said church leaders and members are waiting for clearance from emergency officials and law enforcement to enter areas hit by the tornadoes. He said high winds and tornadoes rated as F-3 and F-4 hit several areas within his stake (a stake is similar to a diocese), which takes in parts of Georgia and Alabama.
"The path of the tornadoes was 34 miles long and a half mile to two miles wide," he said. He and other church leaders in the area are still assessing damage. "All our members are safe. A few were injured, but there were no fatalities in the stake.
The Atlanta temple, which serves Latter-day Saints throughout Georgia and parts of Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina, had been closed since July 2009 while extensive refurbishing work was done. Except for the baptistry, the interior has been completely redone.
During his time at the temple, President Monson shook hands with dozens of church members, paying special attention to children ages 8-12, teenagers and others he felt needed a handshake or a hug.
Vivian Frost of Atlanta said she has been undergoing a lot of hardship recently. She said that President Monson shook her hand and then "looked into my eyes. He tilted his head and smiled. He didn't say the words, but I felt he was telling me that everything was going to be all right."
The temple was built and originally dedicated in June of 1983 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency. President Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, participated in that event nearly 28 years ago.
Participating in the rededication with President Monson were Elder Russell M. Ballard of the church's Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Walter F. Gonzalez of the presidency of the Seventy who has supervisory responsibilities for the church's North America Southeast Area and Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and executive director of the church's temple department.
Some 2,400 members of the church attended the two sessions of the rededication in the temple. Thousands more watched a broadcast of the sessions in stake centers throughout the temple district.
On the eve of the rededication, 2,500 youth from throughout the temple district participated in a cultural program titled "Southern Lights," which recapped through music, song and dance some of the history of the state and of the Church in Georgia.