FREIBERG, Germany — The days preceding the open house of the Freiberg Germany Temple in early August were filled with torrential rains and strong winds, causing what some experts said was the worst flooding in 200 years in central Europe.
Homes were washed off foundations and scattered for miles downstream. Railroad tracks were washed out and freeways closed. Mud and water sloshed through historic buildings.
But construction and landscape workers at the temple continued through the storm, sometimes having to stake newly planted trees bowed to the ground in the wind.
President Gerhardt Grnewald of the Freiberg temple assured those preparing for the open house that "the sun will appear, and the people will come."
To the delight of members and missionaries, the skies soon cleared and the ground began to dry. Despite the record flooding and the aftermath of destruction that consumed the attention of civic leaders and the media, 1,800 dignitaries attended special tours prior to the public tours which began Aug. 17.
Television crews and newspaper reporters were impressed by what they saw and felt in the temple and were positive in their reports, and by Aug. 26th, 12,370 people had attended the open house, according to President Grnewald.
While flooding in nearby Dresden "was like a horror movie," according to a quote in The New York Times, the newly renovated temple created a sense of peace and beauty, said Church members who strolled the grounds, often gazing at the Angel Moroni statue which was not part of the original temple.
Originally dedicated in 1985 by President Gordon B. Hinckley as the 33rd temple of the Church, the temple has been under renovation since July 2001 to accommodate an increase in membership in the eastern European countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania.
"Visitors, many from Freiberg, said they felt the wonderful spirit of the temple and invariably referred to it as 'our temple,' " said Sister Claire Freedman, who is serving a public affairs mission with her husband, Elder Eugene Freedman.
A common expression among visitors dealt with the peace of the temple. "My family and I are impressed with the simplicity and reverence of the temple rooms. We were able, for a moment, to forget the troubles of the world," said one family.
Another family, one which had lost their possessions in the flood, visited the open house, even though their desperate circumstances suggested they care for their needs. They were feeling distraught over their loss when the parents remembered the temple open house and felt impressed to attend.
"Coming to the temple refreshed us and gave us new hope," they told Sister Grnewald, temple matron, who heard their story and conducted their tour.
Members from surrounding stakes flocked to the temple to feel the spirit they knew would be there. "This is the greatest thing I have seen in my life," said Sister Katja Hahnsel.
Harald Baer, a representative of the German Catholic Bishop's Conference who attended, said, "This is not the first LDS temple open house I have visited. The important thing for me was to meet your people again who have this special belief. I feel your beliefs are important to you and characterize the kind of warm and friendly people that you are. For myself, I can say this is the beginning of an open dialogue."
The open house continues through Aug. 31. The temple will be dedicated in one session on Sept. 7.
The Freiberg Germany Temple was originally built in German Democratic Republic and dedicated four years before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the eventual unification of Germany. It was the first temple built in a communist-ruled country. East German leaders who would not allow their citizens to travel outside their country suggested the temple be built.
"They trusted me, and I trusted them, and the result was marvelous," said President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency who worked with the East German government for 20 years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.
"I've never seen such a transformation as took place once the borders were opened and our people could meet freely, attend what they wanted to attend and say what they wanted to say," he said. "There's a light that shines upon the temple, and that light shines in the countenance of the members of the Church."
More than 90,000 people visited the open house prior to its original dedication in 1985.
"People came in rain, in wind, in cold weather, standing in line sometimes three hours to see the temple," said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Seventy.
The reconstructed temple is 13,300 square feet, nearly doubling the size of the original temple.