This may be the Sunshine State, but the radiance around central Florida Oct. 9-11 went far beyond any atmospheric conditions as the Orlando Florida Temple was dedicated at Windermere, about five miles southwest of Orlando.
Adding to the brilliance of an already spiritual event was the presence of President Howard W. Hunter, the first prophet to attend a temple dedication since President Ezra Taft Benson presided over the dedication of the Las Vegas Temple in 1989.President Hunter pronounced the prayer to dedicate the Orlando temple Sunday morning, Oct. 9, in the first in a series of 12 sessions over three days. He also delivered four addresses during the dedicatory sessions. Before returning to Salt Lake City Monday afternoon, Oct. 10, he had presided over seven of the sessions, as well as a ceremony in which historic artifacts were sealed in the temple's symbolic final "cornerstone."
The Orlando temple is the 46th temple of the Church in operation.
All three members of the First Presidency participated in the three-day dedicatory event. Taking turns conducting the sessions, delivering addresses and reading the dedicatory prayer offered in the first session by President Hunter were his counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson.
The members of the First Presidency delivered a combined total of 25 addresses during the dedicatory sessions.
"What a beautiful occasion this is for us to step out of the busy, noisy world into the peace and quiet of the temple, where our thoughts can turn to things of the Spirit and we truly feel ourselves in the presence of God our Eternal Father," President Hunter declared in the first of his addresses.
Also participating in the dedication sessions were President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Council of the Twelve; Elders James E. Faust, Joseph B. Wirthlin and Richard G. Scott of the Council of the Twelve; Elder W. Eugene Hansen of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; and Elders Alexander B. Morrison and Stephen D. Nadauld of the Seventy. Elder Morrison is the former president of the North America Southeast Area, and Elder Nadauld is the current area president. Elder W. Don Ladd of the Seventy, who is a native of Florida attended the temple dedication with his mother, who lives in the temple district, and addressed that session. (See page 5 for excerpts from addresses by members of the Twelve and the Seventy.)
The Orlando temple district covers 23 stakes in Florida, seven stakes in the Caribbean and one stake in Georgia. A total of 20,670 members attended the dedicatory sessions. (Reference was made that the Orlando temple will be used by members in the Caribbean for "only a season" since a temple has been announced to be built in the Dominican Republic.)
Members filled the sacred edifice's many rooms for each session, exhibiting a reverence befitting one of the most significant and glorious occasions in the Church. The members' radiant smiles practically gleamed in the pre-dawn hours as they lined up for the first dedicatory sessions each morning. As the last group exited the temple in twilight each evening, tears glistened on many smiling faces. Again and again, there was evidence of the blending of gratitude and humility, exuberance and joy that scarcely could be contained.
President Hunter proclaimed the Orlando temple is the Lord's holy house. "It was built in His name. It was built according to His commandment. It was built for His glory and for His purposes."
He spoke of the open house held in the weeks prior to the dedication, and noted that guests came to view the temple from far and near, members of the Church as well as those who are not members. "People of many nationalities and religions and from all walks of life have come to visit the house of the Lord," he said. "We have received a report that 93,261 visitors came through during the open house. Many who came were deeply touched by what they saw and especially by what they felt. One of the local clergy who visited the temple made this statement: `It is very impressive. The structure is magnificent, and the people were very hospitable and welcoming. It is obvious the temple was built for the Lord.' He then went on to say that he was struck not only by the beauty of the building but also by the intensity of faith displayed by our Church members."
President Hunter spoke of ordinances performed in temples, and related a personal experience pertaining to the sealing ordinance:
"As many of you know, my father did not join the Church until he was well into his adult years. On my 46th birthday, my wife and I participated in an excursion of the Pasadena California Stake to the Arizona Temple in Mesa. Members of our stake assembled in the chapel for a brief service before the endowment session.
"I was called upon to speak by the temple president. While I was speaking to the congregation, my mother and father came into the chapel dressed in white. I had no idea they were going to be in the temple, nor did I know that my father had been preparing for his temple blessings. I knew that my mother had been anxious about it for some time. I was so overcome with emotion that I was unable to continue speaking. President Pierce, the temple president, came to my side and explained the reason for the interruption. This was a birthday I have never forgotten because on that day they were endowed and I had the privilege of witnessing their sealing, following which I was sealed to them. Six weeks later in the Los Angeles Temple, my sister, Dorothy, was sealed to our parents. This has been a great strength to me."
President Hunter further said: "We long to see the day when every priesthood bearer will love his wife and family enough to kneel together in the sacred temple and be sealed as an eternal family. After we receive this ordinance for ourselves, we should labor unceasingly to provide these same blessings for our ancestors who died without the privilege of receiving them.
"We encourage all of the adults present today to come to the temple as regularly as you can. We further encourage you who have received the temple ordinances to live true and faithful to the covenants you have made."
In another dedicatory session, President Hunter spoke specifically to the young people in attendance. He encouraged them to perform the important vicarious work of baptism for the dead, and to come to the temple for their endowments and to be married when they are older. He also encouraged them to always remain worthy and qualified to return to the temple.
"The gospel plan that the Lord revealed is not complete without a temple, for it is herein that the ordinances necessary for His plan of life and salvation are administered. The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke on this subject many times, emphasizing that the temple is essential to the full program of the kingdom. While the Nauvoo Temple was under construction he said, `The Church is not fully organized in its proper order and cannot be until the temple is complete.' " (History of the Church 4:603.)
President Hinckley, in several of his addresses, spoke of the Church pioneers in Florida, men and women of faith who kept the torch of gospel truth burning brightly despite persecution and much hardship.
"This temple cost many dollars," President Hinckley observed. "It's expensive to build temples because of quality of workmanship that goes into them, but behind all of that is a greater price which has been paid for the establishment of the work in this area."
President Hinckley spoke of several who had significant roles in building up the Church in the South, including Elias Kimball, the first mission president in the South; John Morgan, who wrote the tract The Plan of Salvation; Elder Charles A. Callis and Elder LeGrand Richards, both of whom served as presidents of the Southern States Mission before being called to the Council of the Twelve; and Ben E. Rich. (See separate story on page 7.)
In another session, President Hinckley noted that he has participated in the dedication or rededication of all but five of the Church's 46 temples in operation. He has spoken more than 100 times in services such as those held to dedicate the Orlando temple.
He recounted some of the events leading up to the selection of a site for the Orlando temple, and of the years of its construction. "The Lord wanted His house here, and His spirit will abide here and all this area will feel its influence," President Hinckley said. He acknowledged it is quite a distance from some parts of Florida and Savannah, Ga., but it is closer than Salt Lake City where many of the members' forebears had to go for their temple blessings.
"We dedicate this structure as the Lord's house, but He will be most happy if we will use it. It isn't standing here as a monument or a decoration, beautiful as it is. It is constructed as a place where we may come and partake of the blessings to be found here. What a blessing to have it nearby."
President Monson spoke of his many visits to the South, and said when he is in the South one word flows through his mind, courtesy.
"Whenever the word courtesy flows through my mind, I think of those who seem to exemplify courtesy in all that they do.
"The temple is a place of courtesy. There will be those coming to the temple who will not know which way to go, and you wonderful workers, who shall work here in the temple and labor diligently, always be kind, always go out of your way to let every person know that he or she is welcome in the House of the Lord."
He said he was reminded of the scripture, '"How shall I find my way except some man should guide me?"' (See Acts 8:31). Let us be good guides as we, with courtesy, make everyone feel at home in the temple."
President Monson spoke of the counsel he and his wife, Frances, were given by Benjamin Bowring, who performed their marriage ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple. "He said to us, 'I would like to give you two young people a formula, which, if you follow, you will never have a misunderstanding that will last longer than one day.'
"He said, 'Every night kneel down by the side of your bed and one night, Brother Monson, you offer the prayer, aloud, on bended knee.' Then he turned to Frances and said, 'the next night you offer the prayer, aloud, on bended knee. You will never retire angry with one another, and no misunderstanding that terminates at the end of one day will ever get out of line. You might find that there will be a momentary problem during a day; but, when you come home and you kneel in prayer, any animosity will leave, and pure love will fill the room and fill your hearts.'"
In another address, President Monson said he noted the presence of many children. "I urge every parent to have in the bedroom of each child a picture of this beautiful edifice, so that as they kneel by the side of their children, they can point to the holy temple and prepare their children for the day when they might enter, here to receive their endowment and to be married at a sacred altar."
President Monson further said: "As this temple is dedicated, I know the Lord would wish us to rededicate our lives. The Lord speaks frequently about house building. He said, 'A house divided against itself shall not stand.' Remember His counsel to build a house on a rock rather than on the sand. Then He gave that beautiful architectural plan for you and me to fashion the temple which our spirits occupy. You remember the words of the apostle: 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' (I Cor. 3:16.) We are fashioning a temple of God. Through a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, He counseled: 'Establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.' (D&C 88:119.)
"Such is my prayer today -that we would fashion our personal temples and dedicate our lives to the Lord as this building is dedicated to Him."
Time and again, the First Presidency emphasized the importance of members always being worthy to hold a temple recommend. They repeatedly urged members to prepare themselves to receive those blessings, and encouraged members who have recommends to attend the temple as often as possible.
Music had a significant role in the dedicatory events. A different choir performed for each of the 12 sessions, and a chorus of 200 youth sang outside the temple at the ceremony to place the cornerstone. Without fail, the singing of "The Spirit of God Like A Fire Is Burning," written for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and the "Hosannah Anthem," composed for the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, enhanced the spiritual atmosphere of the occasion.