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Copenhagen's temple opens doors

City leaders, media impressed by changes to a landmark

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — They came by bus, train and ferry from the far reaches of this island country that is steeped in Church history. When they arrived, it was cause to rejoice.

"As our bus came down the street and we saw the temple we all applauded," said Ewa Saila.

Just as the Copenhagen Denmark Temple opened its doors to the public on May 1, buses arrived at the open house filled with members from Gothenburg, Skovade, Jonkoping, Jylland, Horsens, and Fredericia. Many rose at dawn. They crossed bridges and sailed on ferries during their journey, some traveling up to six hours, singing hymns along the way. Many buses arrived bringing families who had planned for years for this occasion.

Prior to the public open house, members of the media as well as public officials were invited to a special showing of the 118th temple of the Church.

"We invite you to witness not only the great beauty of the temple, but to feel of its spirit and its sacred nature and purposes," said Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy and president of the Europe Central Area as he extended a welcome to the Danish media gathered April 27 at the Nitivej Chapel to begin an open house tour of the Copenhagen Denmark Temple.

Throughout April 27 and 28 nearly 600 invited guests — including members of Parliament, mayors, leaders of business, and prominent clergy from Denmark — walked through the temple on guided tours. More than 6,120 visitors had toured the temple by May 3. The open house continues through May 15.

Written comments by visitors reflect appreciation for "the experience of seeing the beautiful temple, the peace-filled rooms with happy people," and "the wonderfully beautiful craftsmanship."

One guest wrote, "Thanks for the arrangement. It has helped to demystify and enlighten."

The most common response was like the couple who wrote, "All the rooms give a feeling of solemnity."

Eighteen news reporters attended the open house, representing all three national newspapers and various radio stations. An evening news reporter suggested that viewers not miss this "once in a lifetime opportunity." Channel 1, a primary national television news broadcast, gave a comprehensive report on the first temple in Denmark.

An interview with President Jens Andersen of the Copenhagen Denmark Stake on the main radio show for morning commuters was repeated twice. Response from listeners was positive and immediate. Newspaper journalists were generally factual and positive, emphasizing the family aspects of temples.

The neo-classical Copenhagen Denmark Temple is unique in structure and history. The building, located on Priorvej 12 in the community of Frederiksberg near the heart of Copenhagen, was originally dedicated as the Priorvej Chapel on June 14, 1931. Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve in his dedicatory prayer said that this was "to be a place where Thy truth, the eternal gospel of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, shall be taught, both by precept and example, and where the introductory ordinances, which belong to this Church can be performed."

The chapel was later remodeled and served as a meetinghouse until 1999 when, on March 17, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced plans for the Copenhagen temple. On April 24, 1999, the site was rededicated by Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy who served as President of the Europe North Area.

The traditional hand-formed red brick from the old building has been preserved in the new temple, and the front faade retains its original columns. The original door has also been restored and new granite steps added. Five long windows on each side feature colored art glass from England, and above them the roof is made of copper, with a copper clad dome. A brick wall encloses a private garden, paved with granite, and includes raised planter boxes filled with blossoming trees, bushes, and spring flowers. The garden features a tranquil reflecting pool.

Materials used in the interior of the temple are distinctly Danish and Swedish. Murals and paintings depict scenes from local landscapes, while carpets, light-colored pear and maple woods, and handcrafted furniture create a mood of serenity and reverence.

Johan S. Koch, vice-chairman of the temple committee, said the "influence from heaven" can be felt by those participating. "The Spirit has grown stronger and stronger," he said. "Hearts are moved."

When the Church building of Priorvej was completed in 1931, the area consisted of a scattered group of low-rise homes and other small buildings, except for the buildings along Borups Alle. The low-rise buildings in this century have been replaced by five-to-six-story apartment buildings.

Because of the location of these apartment buildings, the neighbors have been unavoidably involved in the process of the temple construction. Near the end of construction, missionaries from the Denmark Copenhagen Mission delivered invitations to a special neighbor open house.

After touring the temple, one neighbor hugged Sister Rita Jensen who has served with her husband as a construction missionary. The woman said, "What I love about it is that it fits into the community. You have made it so beautiful that it doesn't stand out. It is like it belongs."

Elder and Sister Jensen remember the two weeks before the open house when the neighbors, seeing scaffolding and so much still to do, were skeptical that the temple would be completed.

"They kept coming to us and saying, 'It is not going to be finished. It won't be ready on time.' Both sides still needed to be cleaned. We needed beautiful warm weather and no rain. We refer to this as a miracle." Surveying the magnificent exterior and the tidy gardens, Elder Jensen repeated, "More than a blessing; it was a miracle."

The Nitivej Chapel, a new meetinghouse near the temple built at the same time, was also completed prior to the open house. Here, groups were formed and given the introduction video at the start of the tour. Visitors passed by an 8-foot copy of Bertel Thorvaldsen's "Christus" statue in the chapel entryway. Numerous copies of the "Christus" stand in temple visitors centers. The sculptor was Danish, and the original statue is in the Vor Frue Kirke (The Church of Our Lady), minutes away in downtown Copenhagen.

Those who belonged to the Priorvej Ward over the years are filled with joy as they climb the granite steps and enter the foyer of their new temple. "I was baptized in this building 26 years ago," confided one. "I had a very good feeling today. I have always loved this building."

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