Cover Story: Amid rays of sunshine, 59th temple dedicated

SPOKANE, Wash — The fourth smaller temple in the Church — built in a land called Opportunity — was dedicated Aug. 21 by President Gordon B. Hinckley as rays of sunshine broke through dark thunder clouds.

The new Spokane Washington Temple, nestled in the Spokane suburb of Opportunity in a lush, verdant eastern Washington valley, is the Church's 59th operating temple and will serve members in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana — providing them with all the temple blessings.

"I'm enthusiastic about [the smaller temple]," President Hinckley told the Church News "because it extends the opportunity for temple blessings to so many more of our members." (Please see related article on this page.)

Some 32,000, in fact, when speaking of the Spokane Washington Temple district. And size also seems to have little bearing on the temple's presence in the valley. Motorists driving on Highway 27 should have no problem picking out the gleaming white granite building from among farm houses, wheat fields and pine trees. The new edifice is adjacent to the Spokane Washington East Stake center and an LDS recreational complex. The site of the temple was once a softball field. Trees planted in the 1980s to provide shade on the field now form an almost perfect border separating the temple from the complex.

More than 16,000 attended the 11 dedicatory services Aug. 21-23, with 1,900 gathering for the first session on the morning of Aug. 21. Some 520 were seated in the temple that morning, while about 1,180 watched proceedings in the stake center via closed-circuit television. Another 200 were gathered on the southeast corner of the temple to view the 8 a.m. ceremonial sealing of the coverstone, on which is engraved, "Erected 1999." Those outside huddled together, some wrapped in blankets, on an uncommonly frigid August morning. Dark clouds greeted them, with light rain, thunder and chilling winds.

A poignant moment came when President Hinckley exited through the front doors of the temple and walked around the side to the cornerstone. At the same time, the sun broke through the clouds onto the faces of an 88-voice youth and young-single-adult choir, directed by Jennifer Madsen, as they began to sing, "The Morning Breaks."

Accompanying the Church president to Washington for the temple dedication were his wife, Marjorie; Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Ruby; Elder Henry B. Eyring, also of the Quorum of the Twelve, with his wife, Kathleen; and Elder John M. Madsen of the Seventy and his wife, Diane.

After the last notes of the first cornerstone hymn faded, President Hinckley thanked the choir and then proceeded with the cornerstone ceremony. With trowel in hand, he dipped into the mortar and dabbed some onto the top of the coverstone. He then invited Elders Haight, Eyring and Madsen to take a turn, then temple Pres. Frank E. Wagstaff and his counselors, John Reading and Garth Briggs.

As the members of the temple presidency were taking turns with the trowel, President Hinckley turned and saw two boys in matching suits toward the front of the crowd. Calling them to the cornerstone, he invited them to place some mortar on the coverstone. The boys, identical twins Chris and Jon Wagstaff, were so excited they could hardly contain themselves. One boy jumped up and down.

"Make a pie," President Hinckley told them, as he instructed them about the trowel. "A mud pie?" one of the boys asked, bringing a chuckle from the congregation. The second boy didn't want any help in putting his mortar in place. He wanted to do it by himself.

Earlier, before they knew they would be asked to help the Church president, they spoke with the Church News, which asked them why they enjoyed being there. "Because it's a holy place," Chris replied.

Four dedicatory sessions were held that first day. By mid-morning, the air had warmed and by afternoon, the weather had become hot. Four sessions were held the second day, and three the final day. The Spokane Washington Temple opened for ordinance work Aug. 24 and was filled to capacity.

Having the temple filled to capacity aptly portrays the joy of the members here in finally having their own temple. Previously, they have had to travel over a mountain pass — sometimes treacherous in winter — to Seattle, 200 miles to the west. Members here welcomed the announcement and groundbreaking of the new temple in August and October 1998, and their joy and participation in the construction progress have continued unabated through the dedication. Even young children weren't to be denied their part. Some helped landscape the grounds on July 4 with toy wheelbarrows, removing unwanted small rocks from the site. One mother brought her three sons from Troy, Mont., that holiday weekend to help with the landscaping and camped one evening beside a nearby lake.

"We can't possibly calculate the impact [of the new temple here]," Elder Madsen, first counselor in the North America Northwest Area presidency, said in an interview before a dedicatory session. "Many children and young people — I don't think they can ever be the same. I have thought also of the thousands of young people who went through the open house and saw the beauty of His House and were undoubtedly touched by the Spirit of the Lord. These young people will have a wonderful impact upon their friends — whether member or non-member."

Even a truck driver from Albuquerque, N.M., was emotionally touched by the temple. According to the history of the temple, a copy of which was placed in the cornerstone box, the driver, Rush Hashie, who is LDS, transported the statue of the Angel Moroni, the oxen and baptismal font to the temple site in April. But he had not been aware of the nature of his cargo until he arrived at the temple site.

The history, compiled by temple historian Mark Bickley, records: "Brother Hashie was so overcome with emotion when he learned what his cargo was that he went to the grove of trees just east of the temple and cried."

Another man emotionally involved with the temple was Dale Reese of the Belle Terre Ward, Spokane Washington East Stake, who was the building project manager. Since last March, he spent 14- to 16-hour days at the temple site. One of his most poignant memories was the laying of the sod in early August, just before the open house. "The landscaping company that was supposed to do it failed to get the job done sooner," he related. "I and some other members started rolling the grass out and it looked bad. It was basically dead. Look at that grass now," he said, looking across the grounds. "It's gorgeous. All we did was water it and pray. That grass looks like it's been there for five years. You don't even see any seam lines in it. It was all done by members."

Through the laying of the sod, the making of more than 14,000 special handkerchiefs on which were tatted the outline of the temple and the words "Spokane 1999," and the coordinating of parking for the dedication, many Latter-day Saints, and even some non-LDS people who have helped in various capacities, have been touched.

A parking attendant, Mark Mescall of Moscow, Idaho, directed cars while his wife, Kimberly, attended a session. Non-LDS, he was asked why he gave up a Saturday afternoon to work in the hot sun at a "Mormon temple."

"Because I love my wife, and when you love someone, you do what's important to them."

The same could well be said for the work now being done for loved ones in the newly dedicated Spokane Washington Temple.

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