ZOETERMEER, Netherlands — Visitors approaching The Hague Netherlands Temple for the public open house get their first view of the temple as they drive along a shady tree-lined street. Their hearts skip a beat as they first see the stunning structure with its polished, Italian granite, said O. Jay Call, serving as a public affairs missionary with his wife, Jeanette.
After touring the temple they find the interior, with its cherrywood doors and striking Austrian Strauss crystal chandelier as stunning as the facade, he said.
"To build a temple in the Netherlands was certainly an inspired decision of our living prophet," said President Harold G. Hillam of the Seventy and Europe West Area president. "It will be a magnificent blessing to the saints and all noble people here. It has been impressive to see how sincere they are in their desire to know about the temple. It is very apparent how important families are to the people who have come to the open house. The explanation of families forever seems to resonate to these wonderful people."
Temple open house tours for the media dignitaries and special guests preceded public tours that began Aug. 17. President Hillam, accompanied by Elder Wayne S. Peterson of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe West Area, and Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe Central Area, welcomed the media and guests.
Members of the two area presidencies were present to acknowledge the participation of both areas in the building of the temple. Construction on the Hague temple began while the Netherlands was part of the Europe Central Area, but with realignment of the area in July, the Netherlands became part of the Europe West Area.
Thousands are expected to tour the temple until the open house ends Aug. 31. Comments of the first visitors reflected the hallowed, sacred feelings they experienced. "This truly is a very special place," remarked one visitor.
President Johannes D. Noot of the Rotterdam Netherlands Stake and spokesman for the Church in the Netherlands said, "We open the temple to the public because we want them to know us and better understand our relationship with Jesus Christ and our commitment to the well-being of people and families. We know with a surety that it will become a landmark for the City of Zoetermeer, just as has happened with other cities in Europe and the rest of the world where there are buildings like this one."
The temple will be dedicated in four sessions on Sept. 8. It will serve more than 13,000 members in The Hague Temple District, which is comprised of three stakes in the Netherlands and two stakes in Belgium and France.
Dutch architect Albert van Eerde, though not a member, noted the unique feelings of the temple. "From the start, over three years ago, I felt this project was more than just a job. I am very proud and honored that I was part of a process that led to this magnificent building, but also to a home for all of you. Every time I enter the celestial room I feel the serenity and peace we are all looking for at certain times. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity of establishing this building, which will probably be the best I will ever build."
èveline Panhuyzen, said, "For me and my family it is a privilege to have the temple near by. Now we don't have to drive five hours to Frankfurt, we can go to the temple by bike in 10 minutes. It is a great feeling to be able to go to the temple often to do work for our ancestors."
Visitors expressed similar feelings. A resident of Zoetermeer remarked, "The temple is a good thing for our community. It is a beautiful building and there is a wonderful spirit here."
An elderly man who lives across the street from the temple and is not a member, struggled through pain and inconvenience to attend the open house. He is deaf and paralyzed but is able to operate his specially equipped wheelchair by use of his chin.
Paul van't Schip, a member working at the temple that day, assisted him and was able to communicate through sign language. When the man was told that a gift of a Tabernacle Choir CD would be given to each special guest, he said, "I cannot listen to it yet, but when I am with my Heavenly Father I will be able to hear beautiful music. I am so happy I could be here in the house of the Lord."
During construction, on any day, a constant flow of onlookers could be seen around the temple. Some came in cars, while others rode bicycles, since cycling is a common way of life in the Netherlands.
With its level land, the Netherlands is a beautiful green country, unique in the spring for its ubiquitous floral and bulb gardens and fields. Windmills dot the land, with a few still providing wind power to drive flour mills, sawmills, oil-press mills and paint mills.
The temple is a gleaming jewel that adds to the beauty of the Netherlands and seems to be the culmination of the 161 years of missionary effort.
The Church's presence here goes back to 1841, when Elder Orson Hyde, on a missionary journey to Jerusalem, spent more than a week in Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
First missionaries in the Netherlands were Elders Paul Schettler and A.W. Vander Woude who arrived Aug. 5, 1861. By May 10, 1862, they had baptized 14 people in Amsterdam and organized the first branch there. On March 12, 1962, the first Dutch Stake, the Amsterdam Stake, was organized. It was later renamed the Holland Stake. It was the first non-English speaking stake in the Church.
In Belgium, the Church had it's beginning when Mischa Markow, a Hungarian converted in Turkey, came to Belgium and converted members of the Esselman family in 1888. Three missionaries from the Swiss and German Missions were then sent and within two months baptized 80 people. In 1891 Belgium became part of the Netherlands Mission. The first stake in the country was the Brussels Belgium Stake, organized February 20, 1977.
For many years the Church was not allowed to own property in the Netherlands and it remains difficult to obtain permits to purchase land. Official recognition of the Church was received in August 1955, after nearly 20 years of petitioning. Legal recognition gives the Church the right to hold property.