Thousands tour London and Swiss temples

Two of the Church's most visible and oldest structural manifestations of growth and dedication - the London and Swiss temples - attracted thousands of people to open houses earlier this month.

Closed more than two years for extensive remodeling and refurbishing, both temples were opened to the public for tours before special ceremonies were held to rededicate them.The London Temple, located in the village of Newchapel, near North Lingfield in the county of Surrey, was open to the public Oct. 8-14, attracting more than 55,200 people. It was rededicated Oct. 18-20. Open house for the Swiss Temple, located in Zollikofen, a southeastern suburb of Bern, was held Oct. 8-17, drawing more than 32,900. Its rededication dates were Oct. 23-25.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve attended open house events in England and Switzerland. "At both temples, the people were very impressed, members and non-members alike," he said.

"The open houses gave Church leaders and members opportunities to invite special guests, including friends, relatives and neighbors, as well as public officials, including government, business, civic and municipal leaders."

Elder Ballard said the general public was impressed, and many members were pleasantly surprised to see what had been done to improve the temples.

"Both temples have been dramatically remodeled," he explained. "There has been interior construction with more endowment and sealing rooms added. In the London Temple, a floor was added, giving it four floors instead of the original three within the original structure. We practically have brand new temples where the old ones were."

He said the open houses not only gave members who had been to the temples an opportunity to see what changes had been made, but also served as a "very good introduction to the temple for children, youth and those adults who have not been to the temple."

"Some of the non-members who visited the temples were touched emotionally so that when missionaries contact them later they will want to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ."

He said the open houses, in effect, were preludes not only to the rededication of the temples but also to "the rededication of the whole area, the lands that are in these temple districts. Events such as these bring an increase of the Spirit of the Lord, the touching and softening of the hearts of the people."

Elder Ballard said those who attend such open houses become refocused. "There is something about walking through a temple, even before it is dedicated or rededicated, that causes people to stop and think about what is really important and of value in their lives."

Bryan J. Grant, public affairs director for the Europe North Area, said the London Temple open house was "the best single event in terms of its effect on the general public that we've ever had in Britain."

"The media coverage was incredible. We had over 1,000 column inches of reports in newspapers, with over 200 column inches in the national media. We had national and regional television coverage. We even had a feature on the BBC [British Broadcasting Corp.] World Service."

Church leaders didn't rely solely on the conventional media for open-house publicity. Two hundred thousand flyers were printed and distributed to every home in the area surrounding the temple. "We saw to it that every house received a flyer, which featured a color photograph of the temple and the dates and times of the open house.

"We focused on the theme that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to see the inside of the temple. Above the photograph of the temple was this statement: The last time you could tour this building was in 1958.' [An open house preceded the original dedication of the temple Sept. 7-9, 1958.] Beneath the picture was:The next time is for six days during October 1992.' The dates were listed, and a map showing the temple's location was also included."

People have driven past this building and have noticed how beautiful it is, particularly at night," Brother Grant said. "They have just wondered what goes on inside. When the open house was held, many came out of natural curiosity.

"It was an astounding experience for many people. They were visibly moved, some to tears. Two non-LDS ladies, when asked what they thought of the experience, said quite simply, This is the house of the Lord.' Some asked,How can I join your church?' "

Kym Blaker, assistant public affairs director for the Europe North Area, said: "The sheer number of people who were queuing up to go through was amazing. In some cases, people had to wait up to 21/2 hours to go through.

"People from all different walks of life came, everybody from the very young to the elderly. One thing that was interesting is that a lot of people who visited the open house in 1958 came back again."

Michael Obst, public affairs director for the Europe Area, said much favorable media coverage was given during and after the Swiss Temple open house. Among dignitaries attending the Swiss open house was the equivalent of the president of the U.S. Senate, or Speaker of the House for the Swiss Legislature. The mayor of Munchenbuchsee, the village in which the temple grounds are located, attended a special function for special guests. "The mayor talked about the relationship of the Church with the community since the temple was dedicated in 1955," Brother Obst reported. "He said we've always been good neighbors."

Brother Obst, whose office is located at area headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, said the open house events "were very organized, with typical Swiss precision. There was a very loving, kind and calm spirit about the open house. People commented time and again about how impressed they were with the happiness that radiated from the tour guides and those conducting the tours and welcoming them. No harsh words were spoken. It was an extremely positive experience for those attending."

Brother Obst commented on the success of the open house: "There are only about 6,500 members in Switzerland. With that member base, it is just amazing that nearly 33,000 people attended the open house."

He related there were were numerous positive experiences resulting from the open house. "A couple came from Spain," he said. They had read in a newspaper about the open house, and they took a plane to Switzerland just to attend. Earlier, they had investigated the Church and wanted to know more about temples. They took the opportunity to visit one. They said they felt a good spirit about the building.

"Another couple were introduced to the gospel for the first time during their tour of the temple. They attended a baptism on the evening after they had visited the temple. They said they felt the same spirit at the baptism they had felt while visiting the temple and they recognized that as the Holy Ghost."

The Swiss Temple open house featured guides who speak a variety of languages. "The Swiss Temple serves all the European languages, and now Russians, Czechoslovakians, the Polish and Ukrainians can be hosted at the temple. It was fantastic to hear all those languages being spoken in the presentations before people entered the temple. We had video presentations going on simultaneously in French, Italian, German and Spanish."

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