Temple open house: 'bridge to community'

Hard work and faith have resulted in miracles in the success of the open house of the San Diego Temple, said Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy.

"There has been a spirit of unity between the various stakes and wards involved in the open house that has been marvelous to behold," said Elder Groberg, president of the North America West Area and chairman of the San Diego Temple committee. "These people have worked hard. They've dedicated themselves. They've been united and this has allowed the Lord to send forth His Spirit."He added that the open house, which will end April 3, has "given those who aren't members and some less-active members a feeling that the Church stands for good things. We really are a spiritual people, and we believe in Christ. The open house has been a miracle."

The temple is scheduled to be dedicated in 23 sessions April 25-30.

The open house, which began Feb. 20, ran six days a week. An average of 19,000 visited the open house per day, with attendance on some days reaching more than 20,000. According to early estimates, more than 700,000 people attended the open house.

Visitors were greeted in a pavilion in the parking lot of the temple. They saw exhibits, displays and a video about the purpose of temples, and then went on self-guided tours of the interior of the temple.

Handling the influx of people were about 10,000 volunteers from the temple district, which includes stakes in the San Diego area, and stakes in Mexicali and Tijuana, Mexico. Full-time sister missionaries from the California San Diego and Mexico Tijuana missions, and sister missionaries serving on Temple Square in Salt Lake City also helped during the open house. Volunteers were divided into three shifts per day of about 180 per shift. They worked as tour hosts and hostesses, guides in the pavilion, shoe cover attendants, parking attendants, medical personnel, health and safety attendants, and special needs attendants. The latter helped people with special needs, such as those with disabilities.

Elder Lance B. Wickman, regional representative and vice chairman of the temple committee, said the open house was a "marvelous experience" and was a "great bridge to the community."

"The visitors who have come have been most gracious and complimentary, not only about the temple, but also about the people who serve here at the temple - the volunteers. I think the beauty of our people and our faith have been on display here at the open house.

"The faith and goodness of the Latter-day Saint people have radiated from these volunteers. Most people came expecting to see a beautiful building. They left conscious of the fact they've seen a beautiful people also."

For example, Elder Wickman said that before public tours of the temple began, he was interviewed by a reporter from a local television station. "She was captivated not only by the temple, but also by what she had learned about the teachings of the Church associated with the temple, such as the doctrines of eternal marriage and eternal family relationships.

"After the interview was over, she continued asking me questions about the Church's beliefs," he continued. "She said when she came that morning, she had been rather negative because of negative things about the Church she had been told. When she left, she said she felt completely the opposite."

Elder Wickman added that there have been many such success stories related to the open house. He credited the "ideal location" of the temple, the temple committee that includes many local members, and "a great association with people at Church headquarters. It's been a great team effort."

But the key to the success of the open house, he said, has been the faith of the volunteers serving on the temple committee and in whatever capacity was needed. "No task has been too menial," he related. "People have done whatever asked."

He said he has one image in his mind he will never forget. "It was just a few days before the open house. We had a few members from local wards come for a dress rehearsal. It was on a Sunday afternoon. I looked over at the entrance to the pavilion and there was a Relief Society sister dressed in her Sunday best kneeling, spreading duct tape so people wouldn't trip on the carpet. That image will always be with me."

Temple Pres. Floyd L. Packard told the Church News: "This open house has had a more profound influence in the lives of our members and non-member friends than anything I've seen in Southern California, and my wife and I have been here for 35 years."

He said 1,200 members have been called to work at the temple after its dedication. "There's a tremendous feeling of excitement among our members," he said. -

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