ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In spite of cold weather and under a beautiful full moon, members began to line up hours before the rededication of the Anchorage Alaska Temple Feb. 8 by President Gordon B. Hinckley. No complaints were heard, as joyful hearts and anticipation seemed to ward off the chill. More than 5,700 attended the rededication here during a time of year when the sun doesn't rise until 9 a.m. They gathered at the temple and at meetinghouses in Alaska and one meetinghouse in the Yukon Territory where the one rededicatory session was broadcast.
The newly remodeled Anchorage Alaska Temple is one of 117 temples worldwide, counting the Apia Samoa Temple which is being rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire last year. When the Anchorage temple was originally dedicated in January 1999, it became the 54th temple in operation.
Having a temple nearby makes a difference in the lives of members, said Elder Stephen A. West of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America Northwest Area.
"I think living worthily to be able to go to the temple is a benefit in itself," he said in a Church News interview. "What members learn in the temple affects their attitude toward marriage and the family by knowing it's for eternity, not just a transitory relationship. Learning about our families gives us an incentive to live up to what has gone before. It also helps them face death with a much greater knowledge that death is not the end. What we learn also gives an understanding of some of the things in qualifying or living a Christian life."
Elder West spoke of his memories after attending the recent open house for the Anchorage temple. He was one of two missionaries there 48 years ago and helped screw down the pews in the first chapel in Alaska. He has watched the Church grow over the years and is happy that there is a temple here. (Please see Feb. 7, 2004, Church News for article on the open house.)
Accompanying President Hinckley in Anchorage and speaking at the rededication were Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve; and members of the North America Northwest Area presidency: Elder Quentin L. Cook, area president; Elder West; and Elder Keith K. Hilbig, second counselor in the area presidency. Traveling with their husbands were Sisters Mary Hales, Mary Cook, Martha West and Susan Hilbig.
The newly remodeled edifice is 11,937 square feet, with the expansion including men's and women's changing rooms, office space, laundry area and patron waiting room, and the addition of a second ordinance room seating 50 people. The temple has been closed since April 2003 for expansion.
Expressing joy at the reopening of the temple was temple President Merrill D. Briggs. All temples are special, he said during a Church News interview, but "this is our temple. It's for all the people of Alaska and the Yukon Territory. It impacts us spiritually, traditionally and financially."
He feels the temple has impacted the members with increased spirituality and expressed the hope that members will come often to share the "spirit of Elijah. The temple is accommodating growth to serve second- and third- generation members that are beginning to stay here, rather than move outside when they retire."
Anchorage Alaska Stake President Mel Nichols was coordinator of the local temple committee. "As the (original) temple was built and dedicated and as I have watched its impact on the saints in my stake and I believe throughout Alaska, that impact has been far greater than I would have anticipated. I have been surprised by the number of people who, because the temple was right here and visible now, also believed it was attainable for them."
President Nichols continued: "With the open house, the wonderful cultural event, 'In the Shadow of the Mountain — A Gathering of Saints in Alaska,' the special member fireside Saturday evening and the dedication itself, I have felt a spiritual reawakening in myself and in the stake. I have had five first-time temple recommend interviews in the past week.
"Having the prophet here and being able to share the temple with our friends and neighbors and community leaders has been a marvelous thing for us all. I shall never forget the choir singing the 'Hosanna' anthem at the close of the dedication. The Spirit was so strong I looked to the ceiling expecting to see angels singing because I could not believe that much beautiful music could be coming out of only 20 people."
Several members attending the rededication shared the impact of the temple in their lives. "I have been here since 1976," said Anna Louise Peterson of the Russian Jack Ward, Anchorage Alaska North Stake. "We have watched the Church grow. It has been marvelous to see this temple and to see it grow. Having it here enabled me to do a great many things for my family and will make it easier for me to do much more."
Dolores Wendte of the Campbell Park Ward, Anchorage Alaska North Stake, said: "It makes me a happier person because I can go to the temple. It's much easier when you live near. It makes it more convenient to do the work we're supposed to do for our ancestors. And we have lots to do."
Alan Rudolph of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, has been the Church project supervisor for the remodeling of the Anchorage Alaska Temple. "Each temple has a flavor of its own — this is exquisite. It will have a wonderful transition and teaching experience. It will be like walking into another world. It's always nice for the saints to have a temple. You are remote, you have a temple. Use it. Don't take it for granted. Use it. Keep it full. You're very lucky!"
A 20-voice choir sang at the dedication, conducted by Charlene Mulcady of Turnagain Ward and accompanied by Monica Brewster of Brayton Ward.