MONTICELLO, Utah — A severe drought is afflicting southeastern Utah, a fact remembered during the day of rededication of the Monticello Utah Temple by President Gordon B. Hinckley on Sunday, Nov. 17.
But for some, the area's prolonged lack of rain and snow wasn't the only drought. It was their thirst to again serve in their own temple that was quenched with the reopening of its doors.
"It was a pretty good end to a seven-month drought," said Obid Hamblin, Moab Utah Stake patriarch, speaking of the dedicatory services he had just attended. "It's been a hard seven months without our temple."
Monticello Utah Stake President J. Terry Eardley said, "Most of the people I've talked to are just excited that the temple will be open again. We can go back to our temple and do our temple work again."
The expanded and remodeled temple was rededicated in one session by President Gordon B. Hinckley, who also presided over the first dedication July 26-27, 1998. The temple district includes 13,000 members in the Blanding Utah Stake, Blanding Utah West Stake, Durango Colorado Stake, Moab Utah Stake and Monticello Utah Stake.
Besides those attending in the temple, others viewed the proceedings of the rededication via satellite broadcast in the stake center in Monticello, the meetinghouse adjacent to the temple, and stake centers in Moab and Blanding. There was also a rebroadcast of the rededication in the afternoon at the stake centers and meetinghouse to accommodate those who couldn't attend the live session.
President Hinckley was accompanied at the dedication by his wife, Marjorie, and by his first counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, and his wife, Frances; Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Ruby; and Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy, president of the Utah South Area, and his wife, Jean.
The temple was rededicated five years to the day from the date of the groundbreaking, noted President Eardley, who was early in his tenure at that time.
The temple closing for renovation in such a relatively short time, putting members back on the road to distant temples like the one in Manti, Utah, was brought on by themselves.
Temple president Lisle G. Adams said, "The facilities we had were just not adequate to take care of the work that was being done. The patrons of the temple responded so wholeheartedly to having a temple here."
While closed for the renovation, the size of the temple was increased from 7,000 square feet to 11,225 square feet. It was extended on the southeast and southwest sides, adding space on two sides of the baptismal font. An extension was built on the north end as well, all the new construction in complete harmony with the original white marble exterior. The celestial room was moved into the north addition, making room for a second ordinance room. A second sealing room was added. The extra space also provided for expansion of the dressing rooms and the laundry, the addition of a cozy but elegant brides room and a waiting room, and the repositioning and improving of the offices.
The day of rededication thrilled members young and old. Breanna Voorhis, age 8, beamed afterward, even as she stood outside the temple in the face of a bitterly cold wind, hoping to catch a close-up glimpse of President Hinckley. Four years earlier she had been terribly disappointed that she was too young to attend the dedication, said her mother, Barbara. In the meantime, she was somewhat mollified when she was able to accompany her parents as they traveled to the temple from her home in Pagosa Springs, Colo., with a youth group to do baptisms for the dead. While she couldn't participate in that experience, President Adams met her in front of the temple and explained to her the temple and its blessings. But Breanna's dream came true when she heard that the temple would be dedicated again and she would be old enough to attend.
For John Himmelberger, who is nearly 84, the second dedication was just another blessing in his life since he joined the Church in Monticello in 1964. "When I came here (in 1951) the Church was so small," he said. He watched the building where the town's single ward met originally was added onto three times until it is now a stake center. And then, though he never dreamed it was possible, he watched the temple being built. He credited the advances to "people dedicated enough to the Church to pay their tithing."
Bishop Larry Yarbrough of the Cortez 3rd Ward, Durango Colorado Stake, about 60 miles distant, said of the second dedication, "It's wonderful to come back so early. It's a blessing to have a temple so close." Enjoying the spiritual occasion was his entire family, including daughter Sasha who severely sprained her ankle playing high school basketball and hobbled around on crutches in the parking lot as she maneuvered to see President Hinckley as he left the temple.
President Adams, a descendant of pioneers who settled the area, was eager to see temple work begin again under improved circumstances.
One of the first three "smaller" temples announced by President Hinckley, it was the first one completed. President Adams said it was built as a "test" temple, close to Salt Lake City where Church leaders could watch and see how it would work out. What they learned from it, they used to improve later temples and now have come back and taken care of every deficiency with the recent renovation, he added.