Open house at San Diego Temple begins

Despite "blustery, rainy weather" on the opening day of the public tours at the San Diego Temple on Feb. 20, nearly 21,000 people attended, said Clyde Romney, chairman of the open house committee.

"A driving rain settled on the California coast Feb. 18 as we started the VIP tours,"' Brother Romney related. "We had heavy winds and intermittent rains. Nonetheless, visitors came out in huge numbers."As the public tours started Feb. 20, there was a beautiful rainbow that arched directly over the temple as people arrived. Bright sunshine was flooding the lot, but there was a visible storm off the coast. People were lined up with their raincoats and umbrellas. Tours were scheduled to start at 8 a.m., and at 6:45 a.m. there were hundreds of people at both entrances of the temple grounds."

Brother Romney explained that the open house is scheduled to run Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m.-9 p.m., until April 3. The temple will be dedicated in 23 sessions April 25-30.

He said that about 2,510 persons attended the VIP tours Feb. 18. These included local temple committee members and their families; the media; civic leaders, including the chief of staff for the governor of California; the editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune; local business leaders; Mexican government and business officials; the chief executive officer of San Diego Gas and Electric; and the presiding judge of the superior court of San Diego County. Also attending were members of the San Diego City Council and mayors of most of the cities in the area.

VIP tours continued Feb. 19, with 4,908 attending. These tours included local military leaders, such as the commanding general of nearby Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and the commander of the 11th Naval District, based in San Diego. Also attending tours were education leaders, more local business and government leaders and members of the local clergy.

Continuing, Brother Romney explained that there were also special tours for those living in the vicinity of the temple, of whom more than 3,000 attended, and for priesthood and auxiliary leaders from the 26 stakes in the temple district, which includes stakes in Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico.

Each VIP group was greeted in the temple chapel by Elder David B. Haight of the Council of the Twelve, and then divided into smaller groups for guided tours through the temple. Brother Romney said mainly General Authorities guided tours, including Elder Dean L. Larsen of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy, who is also chairman of the temple committee, and Elder Jack H Goaslind of the Seventy. Elder Groberg is president of the North America West Area, and Elder Goaslind is one of his counselors.

Also helping were regional representatives Elders Lance Wickman and Craig Bullock, and Derek F. Metcalfe, managing director of the Church's Temple Department.

Brother Romney explained that open house visitors first enter a pavilion on the temple grounds, where they can watch a short video about temples and see exhibits. He added that public tours through the temple are self-guided. (See Feb. 13 Church News for earlier story on the open house.)

Volunteers work in shifts, with about 160 on each shift, he continued. Volunteers include full-time missionaries and members from the temple district.

Brother Romney said the response from visitors to the open house has not only been "favorable, but also enthusiastic." He said comments have included "awe-inspiring," "a peaceful feeling," and "absolutely superb."

Elder Wickman told the Church News: "This open house is an enterprise that is made possible by the collective faith and devotion of so many people. One can't participate in this without a profound feeling of gratitude to be part of such a wonderful manifestation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in action."

He said there are countless stories of how the temple is affecting lives. Many such stories are familiar to Jo Ann Autenrieb, who coordinated clean-up efforts prior to the open house. She said there have been miracles in the lives of Relief Society sisters who helped clean the temple.

"The ward Relief Society presidencies prayerfully called members to help," related Sister Autenrieb, former Relief Society president of the San Diego California North Stake. "One ward president went to three less-active members and invited them to come unto Christ and participate in preparing the Lord's house. One sister cried while she cleaned and asked how she could prepare herself for the temple."

Temple Pres. Floyd L. Packard said, "This is the most excitement I've ever seen in the area, and I've been here for 35 years. The temple was announced in 1984. Ever since, the members here have hardly been able to wait for this time to arrive - and now it's here." - Julie A. Dockstader

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