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100 temples: 'Tremendous undertaking' is fulfilled

On Oct. 1, President Gordon B. Hinckley will dedicate the Church's 100th operating temple, the result of an increase of 47 temples in two years time. For the first time, temples have been built in smaller cities, providing access for those who are not able to afford costly travel to a distant location. These new temples — Houses of the Lord where the most sacred ordinances of life are provided — have had a spiritual impact, uplifting members of temples districts in ways that are not always evident. The above related stories are examples of how the new temples are blessing the lives of members.

It has now been 30 months since President Gordon B. Hinckley caused a sensation by announcing in general conference a program to construct 32 smaller temples to make an even 100 operating temples by the end of the 20th Century. With the dedication of the Boston Massachusetts Temple on Oct. 1, 2000, that goal will have been reached.

It is now time to reflect on and marvel at President Hinckley's prophetic vision and dynamic leadership that have brought about the fulfillment of this dream. But mainly it is a time for Latter-day Saints to express gratitude to the Lord for hastening His work and bringing the spiritual blessings of temple attendance in closer proximity to so many more people.

Even with the dramatic surge in temple building in recent years and the announcement in 1997 of the introduction of a what President Hinckley called "small, beautiful, serviceable" temples to be built in areas of the Church not likely to grow very rapidly in the near future, the thought of 32 temples built in less than three years seemed startling.

Yet those in touch with the statements of past Church leaders should not have been overly surprised.

President Brigham Young in 1863, for example, foresaw the day when "there will be hundreds of [temples] built and dedicated to the Lord." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 395.)

And as the drama of 32 temples by the end of the century began to unfold, President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, saw a familiar passage of scripture in a new light.

Having accompanied President Hinckley on a whirlwind tour of 12 Canadian cities in nine days, he quoted D&C 124:36, "For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead." He then reflected: "The first stop in every one of those cities [we visited] was a stake center, looking for a place to build a temple, because we're building temples, for the most part, at stake centers. And in these temples is where baptisms for the dead can take place." (From Nov. 8, 1998, Family History Satellite Broadcast, quoted in Church News, Nov. 14, 1998.)

Indeed, most of the 32 newly constructed temples are located adjacent to an existing stake center or meetinghouse, or a site where one is planned. In view of the recent proliferation of new temples and the rapidity with which they can be constructed, it is not difficult to imagine a day when every stake of Zion will have a temple in convenient proximity.

And it is momentous that three of the newest temples are at sites already sanctified by past events of great spiritual import or pioneer sacrifice. One, the Palmyra New York Temple, is already operating just a few paces from where the Father and the Son appeared to the 14-year-old Joseph Smith and opened this gospel dispensation. Another is being constructed at historic Winter Quarters, near present-day Omaha, Neb., where hundreds of pioneer Saints lost their lives to the elements while en route to establish the headquarters of Zion in the Mountain West. And the Nauvoo Temple is being built on the site in Illinois of the original in that "City of Joseph" where a number of significant doctrines pertaining to eternity unfolded.

At this historic juncture, the Church News takes a look what President Hinckley called "a tremendous undertaking" and contemplates his 1998 pledge that "when these . . . 32 are built, there will be more yet to come."

E-mail: rscott@desnews.com

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