ESPOO, Finland — A congregation of about 600 Latter-day Saints crowded into the Helsinki Stake Center — sisters sitting and brothers standing — March 29 to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Helsinki Finland Temple.
Most later traveled on to the temple site on a beautiful, rocky hill in the neighboring city of Espoo, 6 miles away, to see the ceremony's completion.
The temple will serve Finland's 4,500 members as well as members in Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Presiding at the groundbreaking, Elder D. Lee Tobler of the Seventy, president of the Europe Central Area, told the congregation the building of a temple in Finland confirms the faithfulness of the saints in this area.
"By the building of a temple, the Lord demonstrates to you that you are worthy to receive a house which He can call His own," he said.
Elder Tobler encouraged those present to prepare for the temple and cleanse themselves. "This is also a great day for those Finns who look upon us from the other side," he said.
Standing on a wooden platform dampened by the spring weather, Elder Tobler; his wife Darlene; President Ismo Maata of the Helsinki Stake; President Jukka Lehtimaki of the Tampere Stake; President P. Blair Hoyt of the Finland Helsinki Mission; Sven Eklund, groundbreaking committee coordinator; and Hanno Luschin, construction project leader; grasped shovels and turned the first soil for the new temple. Elder Tobler reminded the participants that the prayer offered at the site would supplicate for a blessing upon the construction work. The dedication of the temple and the grounds will occur when the temple is completed, sometime next year.
After the leaders had broken ground with their shovels, the children were asked to come and turn some soil. Dozens of children responded hastily. Some had brought their own little shovels. Many adults also participated in the historic event and a few dug into the ground with their bare hands.
President Lehtimaki recounted that Apostle Frances M. Lyman dedicated the country of Finland for the preaching of the gospel in 1903, and in 1946, Elder Ezra Taft Benson, who was serving as an apostle at the time, rededicated the land.
For several decades before the Stockholm Sweden Temple was completed in 1985, members from Finland faithfully traveled to Switzerland to attend the temple. Their hopes for a temple were recognized when President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the Helsinki Finland Temple on April 2, 2000. The past three years have been a time of eager preparation and waiting.
"The temple is a blessing to our entire country," said President Maata of the Helsinki Stake. "It is heaven in the midst of chaos, and there we can find heavenly peace. Evil will not reach us there. In the temple we can be as bright as the sun, as shining as the moon."