In the dedicatory prayer of the Mount Timpanogos Temple, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley prayed:
"May its beauty never be marred by evil hands. May it stand strong against the winds and storms that will beat upon it. May it be a beacon of peace and a refuge to the troubled. May it be a holy sanctuary to those whose burdens are heavy and who seek Thy consoling comfort."
Two decades later, temple presidents, matrons and patrons share how they have seen the fulfillment of those words.
"President Hinckley said the temple would be a beacon of peace, of refuge for people," said Sydney Reynolds, temple matron from 2011-2014. "I think that has been a landmark statement for the people who serve there. It's been a place of peace and refuge from the cares of the world."
This month marks 20 years since the Mount Timpanogos Temple — the 49th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — was dedicated on Oct. 13, 1996. In recognition of that milestone, Sister Reynolds and others have shared highlights, memories and blessings received through service in this temple.
Ninth temple in Utah
President Hinckley said the need for the Mount Timpanogos Temple, Utah's ninth, stemmed from congestion at temples in the Salt Lake Valley and Utah County. He addressed the question at the temple groundbreaking in American Fork on Oct. 9, 1993, according to "Temples of the New Millennium," by Chad Hawkins.
"Why build another temple in Utah? The answer lies in the pressure on the Provo Temple and Jordan River Temple," President Hinckley said. "The Provo Temple is the busiest in the church."
The site chosen in American Fork had previously been used as a church welfare farm, and featured majestic Mount Timpanogos and the Wasatch Mountains as a backdrop. The design for the temple resembled the Bountiful Utah Temple, according to an LDS Church News article.
Nearly 680,000 people toured the temple during the six-week open house before it was dedicated by President Hinckley on Oct. 13, 1996. Fifty-two general authorities spoke in 27 dedicatory services, which featured 27 different choirs from the area, the LDS Church News reported.
"It was a special occasion," Don Clark, one of the choir directors, told the LDS Church News. "The choir members felt angels were singing with us."
Open house and dedication
Responsibility for the open house and dedication was delegated by the First Presidency to three stake presidents in northern Utah County. Stephen M. Studdert was called by President Hinckley to serve as chairman of the temple open house and dedication committee, Sherm Robinson served as open house coordinator and Gary Worthington as dedication coordinator. Each member of the trio related memorable items that stood out from their experience.
Their leadership committee gave more than 100,000 assignments to members during the open house and dedication. It's been heartwarming over the intervening 20 years to see many of those members return to "their" temple or reflect on the sweet feelings they felt or realize how the temple has blessed their lives, the trio agreed.
"I don't think there has been many weeks when someone hasn't acknowledged what a good experience it was for them to serve at the temple," Robinson said.
One special assignment involved the Primary-age children from all 44 stakes in the new temple district. Each ward was asked to organize a choir of Primary children that would take a turn standing outside the doors of the temple singing songs of the Savior in an effort to inspire reverence during the open house, Studdert said.
"(These Primary choirs) completely changed the experience for people as they walked in," Studdert said.
Some members were asked to help escort the children to and from the temple for safety purposes. One man initially complained about his "crummy assignment" to usher the children safely across the street to the temple. Studdert later heard the same man express a change of heart in a church meeting as he realized it was a privilege "to escort Father's children all day, every day, to the house of the Lord," Studdert said.
The developmental center
The day before the open house tours began, the First Presidency extended a special invitation to residents and family members of the nearby Utah State Developmental Center, a facility that provides care for people with disabilities, Studdert said.
Among the residents was a man in his 60s who had been at the center almost his entire life. In that time, this person had never spoken a word that anyone understood and didn't recognize family members. Because of these difficult circumstances, the man's brother and family hadn't visited in more than a decade, Studdert said.
Initially, the brother and his wife had doubts about taking their disabled family member through the temple open house. But they prayed and felt impressed to come. Upon their arrival, the man recognized his brother and they embraced, Studdert said.
The man was a little unsettled and agitated as they pushed him in his wheelchair towards the temple, and they worried that the change of environment might be too much for him to handle, but they pressed on. As they entered the temple by the recommend desk, "complete peace" came over the man. He looked over at a painting of the Savior holding a lamb in his arms and shocked everyone by saying his first clearly understandable word — "Jesus."
"No one had ever heard him speak a word they could understand in his whole life. He folded his arms like the Savior in the painting and they continued through the temple. He remained silent and calm all the way back to the center," Studdert said. "The spirit of the temple touched him in a way that was hard for others to explain. To me, that was one of the sweetest, most tender moments of the whole experience."
Transmitting live sessions
The dedication of the Mount Timpanogos Temple was one of the first to experiment with transmitting a live broadcast to area stake centers, Studdert said. (The Bountiful Utah Temple dedication in 1995 was viewed via closed-circuit television from the Tabernacle on Temple Square, the Bountiful Regional Center, the Brigham City Tabernacle and the Ogden Tabernacle, according to lds.org.)
With the technological development of an encrypted signal, Worthington was given less than 10 days to find 12 off-site locations to which the temple dedication could be broadcast. But in a short amount of time, he had the 12 sites, he said.
"I had stake presidents calling me from Springville, Payson and other areas wanting to know if they could get extra tickets for members of their stake. I said, 'How would you like to bring your whole stake?'" Worthington said. "They were flabbergasted. I was amazed that within a day, we had 12 locations, including the American Fork Tabernacle, the Provo Tabernacle, the Missionary Training Center and others. That was the start of it. It was an amazing thing."
'Spiritual radiation therapy'
President L. Edward Brown was a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy before he was called to serve as a president of the Mount Timpanogos Temple from 2008-2011. He shared a few recollections of his service.
First, if he performed a sealing and found out the couple had nonmember relatives waiting outside, he did his best to go and meet them. On one occasion, such a group shared an observation that made President Brown smile.
"It seems like everyone who walks through the door has a look of happiness or joy on their face," President Brown was told. "A simple observation but profound in many ways."
The former temple president recalled sealing parents to children. One time he asked a boy what was going to happen that day. "We are going to become a forever family," the boy told President Brown. "That really brought forth tears from a number in that meeting."
He was often impressed as he walked into the baptistry around 5 a.m. on a school day and found more than 100 young men and women dressed in their Sunday best, reading the scriptures and waiting for their turn to perform baptisms for the dead. The record number was 183, and sometimes the temple had to open the doors 30 minutes earlier to accommodate the large numbers so the youths could get to school on time, President Brown said.
One time he asked two teenage sisters why they came so often.
"The younger of the two said, 'So we won't be so ornery.' Can't you hear her mother almost saying, 'You kids need to go to the temple,'" President Brown said with a laugh. "But I think that explains something about the soothing effect of being at the temple and our ability to think, ponder and get back out in the world again."
One of the great blessings of temple attendance is the sanctifying and cleansing influence of the Holy Ghost that changes people, he said.
"It's like spiritual radiation therapy," President Brown said. "You walk in and leave a better person. If ever there is a place on the earth where the Holy Ghost can work at virtually full power, it's got to be in the temple."
Lessons and observations
Patsy Garrett has served off and on at the Mount Timpanogos Temple for close to 10 years. She was one of the first ordinance workers called and has also served as assistant to the matron. She is touched by the dedication of people who have served there over the years, she said.
"Once you serve in the temple, it blesses your life so much that you don't want to give it up," she said. "As I come back and go to the temple now, there are still people serving that I served with at the very beginning. The light of the temple gives senior members the power to keep going and feel needed, that we're doing something important."
Her husband, Dean Garrett, a counselor in the temple presidency with President Brown, believes the temple has protected the community spiritually and blessed him individually. The site of the temple inspired him as he drove there each morning around 4 a.m., he said.
"The temple has always drawn me upward, especially on those days when things were tough in my personal life, and helped me to realize and focus on the important things," Garrett said. "I think the temple on the hill is an important symbol of the community."
President Noel Reynolds and Sister Sydney Reynolds served as president and matron of the Mount Timpanogos Temple from 2011 to 2014. As president, patrons often came to President Reynolds' office and related their remarkable experiences.
"I was able to see how consistent temple service changed their lives, often in dramatic ways for the better," he said. "It became a testimony to me that our Heavenly Father does want us in the temple. When we are there, he can change and shape us to become the people we need to be to be prepared to return to his presence."
His wife, Sydney, remembered how busy the temple became following President Thomas S. Monson's announcement lowering the age of missionaries in 2012.
"The temple was just flooded with young people responding to the call of a prophet, and they were ready," she said. "It was impressive to see the response of the young people."
One of the tender memories of Sister Reynolds' temple service involved a family sealing in August 2011.
A couple from the Democratic Republic of the Congo came to the Mount Timpanogos Temple with their returned missionary daughter. The rest of the family had been sealed previously in Johannesburg, South Africa, while the daughter was serving her mission. Speaking in French, sealer Gerald Faerber performed the ordinance. As they concluded, Faerber felt prompted to ask if they had any questions, he later wrote.
The mother asked about the sealing of infant children. She remembered they had a son who only lived four days, and had forgotten him when they went to the temple in Johannesburg. She asked if he could be sealed to them, Faerber wrote.
This mother remembered the essential information and the paperwork was prepared. With the help of a young man asked to stand in as proxy, another special sealing took place.
"The spirit was very strong that evening," Faerber wrote. "What a blessing to know that Father in Heaven inspires his children, especially in the temple."
The experience emphasized the Lord’s desire for families to be united, Sister Reynolds said.
"That boy wanted to be an eternal part of his family. Everyone felt the powerful presence of the Spirit of the Lord in the sealing room as the Lord brought that family together with an almost forgotten child," Sister Reynolds said. "Miracles happen in the temple daily — maybe even hourly."
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