Since the announcement last October of a temple in Houston, members in this - the 4th largest city in the United States - and the surrounding temple district have been eager for the day when ground would be broken to make a long-anticipated dream a reality.
That day arrived Saturday, June 13."I thrilled as I came into this site this morning and thought how lovely was the morning . . . music ringing through the grove," remarked Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen of the Seventy and president of the North America Southwest Area.
He was joined by his counselors, Elders Angel Abrea and D. Todd Christofferson of the Seventy, in speaking at the service and breaking ground for the Houston Texas Temple.
A combined regional choir conducted by David Arntsen of the Kingwood stake with his wife, Carlie, as organist, provided music for the groundbreaking ceremony. Attendance for this occasion was by invitation only as the site is a heavily wooded property and parking is not yet available. The 600 in attendance were bused in from the nearby Cypress Texas Stake Center.
Stake presidencies, bishops and stake Relief Society presidents and their spouses from the 28 stakes located within the temple district, along with business and community leaders and the media, gathered early Saturday morning in the heat and humidity typical of this Gulf Coast area.
The temple site is located in the northwest suburb of Spring. The land for the temple was purchased from Don Hand, the developer for the neighboring subdivisions.
Elder Mickelsen paid tribute to Mr. Hand "who for reasons unknown to him at the time, preserved this land for the construction of a temple." (Please see accompanying story on this page.)
The only other temple in Texas is located in Dallas, five hours away. Many of the stakes in the temple district have faithfully filled buses on a monthly basis to take Church members to Dallas.
Elder Mickelsen reminded the members that temple attendance shows children faith. "They will consider our lives good, honorable and right as we show our dedication to sacred things," he said.
He asked the congregation to teach their children - many who will make their first covenants in the Houston Texas Temple - the significance of the temple.
Elder Mickelsen closed his remarks by blessing those in attendance with love and harmony in their homes, and asking all to be good Christians and neighbors.
He then gave the dedicatory prayer of the Houston Temple site. He began by saying that as "we now turn the earth, so would the temple help to turn souls to God." He noted that the temple would enhance the pristine beauty of the site and be a source of peace and beauty that would bring a feeling of serenity to the neighborhood.
Ten gold shovels were then taken to the softened dirt and the groundbreaking ceremony was performed by Elders Mickelsen, Abrea and Christofferson, Don Hand (president of Greenwood Properties), Gordon Spencer (Spencer Partnership Architects), and Harold DeLaMare, Bevan Blake, Collins Steward, Doug Stewart and Ben Bennett (Houston Temple Executive Committee). All in attendance were then given a chance to break ground and take pictures of this historic and significant event.
Elder Abrea conducted the hour-long ceremony which began at 9 a.m. Maria Abrea was also in attendance with her husband. "Go home, tell your children, your grandchildren, your friends and acquaintances that you have been here today," counseled Elder Abrea before the site was dedicated. "We are making memories."
He emphasized that temples are different than meetinghouses.
The express purpose of temples is for worthy people to perform ordinances which bind together the living and the dead. It would be impossible to contemplate the hereafter without the love of family members together with the enjoyment their association brings, he said. Why were temples built anciently or in our time? There will someday be literally thousands of temples around the world dedicated to the same purposes as outlined by Peter in 1 Pet. 4:6.
"We are making memories," Elder Abrea re-emphasized, then expressed his testimony of God, the restored gospel and of the Savior.
Elder Christofferson pointed out that this was the "ceremonial first step" to the upcoming completion of the Houston Texas Temple.
He noted that members in the temple district all have two years to prepare for the temple dedication.
Elder Christofferson spoke of humility, repentance, obedience and submission, admonishing listeners to ask themselves: "What aspect of my life should I bring into harmony in the next two years? What do I need to give up? What do I need to yield? What should I add? Is my nature one of a sincerely broken heart and contrite spirit?"
Over the door of the new temple will be the words, "Holiness to the Lord." Elder Christofferson asked, "What will make each of us more holy as we enter the temple doors?"