Church dedicates its 50th temple

Two great rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi, have their confluence in this city, bringing to mind Joseph Smith's bold prophecy of March 20, 1839.

Referring to the Missouri River, the Prophet, while imprisoned in the Liberty Jail, wrote:"As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints." (D&C 121:33.)

Today, St. Louis has a visual symbol of the fulfillment of that prophecy, a dedicated House of the Lord, the 50th operating temple in the Church.

President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the St. Louis Missouri Temple Sunday, June 1, in the first of 19 sessions that concluded June 5.

He presided over sessions Sunday and Monday, June 1-2, and then departed. President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, arrived to conduct sessions June 3 and part of June 4, and President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted sessions the remainder of June 4 and on June 5.

In addition to President Hinckley, speakers on the first day included Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder W. Eugene Hansen of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; and Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy and president of the North America Central Area.

The General Authorities were accompanied to St. Louis by their wives: Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley, Sister Barbara D. Perry, Sister Ruby O. Haight, Sister Jeanine S. Hansen, and Sister Anne H. Pinnock.

In a traditional ceremony before the first session, President Hinckley applied mortar to seal a cornerstone cover bearing the inscription, "Erected 1997."

A choir of Young Single Adults from local stakes sang "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet" as President Hinckley and others of the Brethren came out of the temple for the ceremony.

"In sealing the cornerstone, we announce that the temple is completed and ready for dedication," the prophet explained.

He then invited the other General Authorities in turn to apply mortar, joking that it isn't as easy as it looks to apply the "Missouri mud."

"That's about as good as I can get it," Elder Haight remarked after applying some mortar.

"Don't worry; they'll take it all out" and redo it, President Hinckley replied, drawing chuckles from onlookers.

He invited some of the children who were present to apply some mortar.

"Don't walk on [the mortar], it will get in the carpet," he cautioned the youngsters with a smile.

Television viewers in the area were able to watch the cornerstone ceremony carried on a Sunday morning public affairs program over local station KTVI.

Despite mostly overcast skies and intermittent showers, thousands of Church members gathered for dedication sessions from throughout the temple district, which comprises Missouri and parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. More than 93,000 Latter-day Saints live in the district.

Tears and hugs reflected the emotions - mainly joy at having a temple in their midst - of many of those coming out of the dedicatory sessions.

A Church member commented that while he has lived in St. Joseph, Mo., he has been in four districts, each with the temple progressively closer to home: Manti Utah, Denver Colorado, Chicago Illinois and now St. Louis Missouri.

"Our lives have changed because of the temple," said Stephanie Daher, Relief Society president in the St. Louis South Stake. "There are a lot of people who, because of the temple coming and their being challenged to prepare to attend the dedication, have put their lives in order. A Relief Society sister came up to me one Sunday and whispered, `I'm worthy to go to the dedication.' She had been having a problem with the Word of Wisdom, but stopped smoking so she would be ready."

Sister Daher served as a volunteer usher during the opening session on June 1. She commented that the morning had been overcast, but just as the session was to begin, sunlight streamed in through the prism glass and fell on the podium. For her, it seemed to indicate that the Lord is pleased.

Located in the suburb of Town and Country west of downtown St. Louis, the temple gives a striking appearance to motorists on adjacent U.S. Highway 40. From the highway, the building's single 150-foot spire, topped by a gold-leafed Angel Moroni statue, rises above a wooded area just east of the temple grounds. Green highway signs direct travelers to the temple.

Pres. Stuart R. Preece of the Missouri St. Louis Mission said the mission has some 2,000 referrals attributable to the presence of the temple. Many are concentrated around the area in which the temple is located.

"A lot won't pan out, of course, but still, many are interested," he said. "We have a few now that have committed to batpism, and the missionaries are teaching a lot of discussions."

Pres. Preece agreed that the temple has had a spiritual influence in the St. Louis area, where there has been virtually no opposition, but rather, keen interest.

"People around the temple have been watching it and wanted to come see it. One person came into the mission home to tell us how happy he is that St. Louis has its very own Mormon temple now, just like San Diego and other cities."

The temple has generated enormous good will, Pres. Preece said, adding that missionaries and the Temple Committee speakers bureau together have filled some 200 engagements, telling people in schools, clubs and churches about the temple.

With the spiritual leavening, there seems to be an awareness among Latter-day Saints in the Midwest heartland, that this, the newest dedicated temple, helps fulfill the words of the hymn traditionally sung at temple dedications:

"The Lord is extending the Saints' understanding, Restoring their judges and all as at first. The knowledge and power of God are expanding. The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst."

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