Big Sky Country splendor graces open house tours

BILLINGS, Mont. — "Isn't this unusual weather for this time of year," Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi exclaimed while looking into the bright-blue, cloudless sky in front of the Billings Montana Temple Friday, Oct. 8. Elder Kikuchi, a member of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America Central Area presidency, made the comment during the first day of the public open house of the temple.

Indeed, Montana can deliver unexpected blizzards, as was experienced at the temple groundbreaking in the spring of 1998.

By Tuesday, Oct. 12, some 13,200 people had toured the temple at 3100 Rim Point Drive in the northwest corner of the city, reported David Hein, multi-stake director of public affairs. The temple lies directly below the Rim, a beautiful rock formation extending along the north edge of the city.

The temple includes three sealing rooms, two endowment rooms, a cafeteria and clothing rental facilities. It is not one of the new generation of smaller temples that President Gordon B. Hinckley announced after the Billings Temple was planned.

Beginning Oct. 5, Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy and North America Central Area president, Elder Kikuchi and local Church leaders conducted three days of special tours for building contractors and craftsmen, government and community leaders, news media representatives, local clergy, educators, business people and those living in the neighborhood of the temple.

"I thought it very positive," said Pres. Michael G. Bowman of the Billings Montana East Stake regarding the clergy tour. "A uniting spirit was there. There were [many local] denominations."

After Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley returned home from his temple visit, he called and asked if he could come again with his family, President Bowman noted. "It's great to see that kind of reception. He is a very gracious man."

On Oct. 7, Elder Pinnock gave Montana Gov. Marc Racicot a personal tour.

"We were delighted that the governor came," Elder Pinnock said. "He really went out of his way to be here. His wife was at home very sick."

Elder Pinnock added that Gov. Racicot "was very grateful to receive the invitation but even more grateful to be able to be inside. He just loved being here. His daughter, Annie, fell in love with the chandeliers and the way the temple was decorated."

The governor was pleased with the emphasis the Church places on families, added Elder Pinnock, who presented him with a porcelain statuette depicting a family.

Pres. Bowman related that during one of the special tours, "600 neighbors came from the immediate neighborhood and had lots of nice questions. As they leave, they want to come back with friends. In the celestial room, non-members bow their heads and close their eyes."

The open house has been well-publicized through local media. A local television reporter interviewed Elder Pinnock. Brother Hein was responsible for placing a full-size, several-page, color newspaper insert in the Oct. 8 issue of the Billings Gazette commemorating the temple, according to Pres. Bowman.

The temple will be dedicated Nov. 20-21.

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