Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department has been involved with numerous temple dedications in many parts of the world. Perhaps none has had the personal impact as the rededication of the Atlanta Georgia Temple.
Elder Walker and his wife, Vicky, were living near the temple when it was built and dedicated in 1983. "We had a young family," he said in a conversation with the Church News. "I served as a tour guide at the original open house. To come back 28 years later as the executive director of the Temple Department has been a delightful experience. Being here has brought back many happy memories for Vicky and me. We are really pleased to be part of this. The beautification of this temple is magnificent."
He said that as the temple aged it became necessary to refurbish the plumbing and electrical systems and other parts of the building. Since the temple needed to be closed for that work, the First Presidency decided to completely redo the interior of the temple.
Refurbishing work began after the temple was closed on July 1, 2009. The interior has been reconfigured to feature high ceilings in the foyer and the space that was a full-service cafeteria has been made into a large non-patron waiting room. The temple has four sealing rooms, one of which is high capacity, and there are progressive ordinance rooms.
"The roof above the celestial room was raised six feet, which allowed for the placement of windows with outside light atop the room. It has added a much grander and more beautiful look, not only with the height but also light," Elder Walker said.
He noted that things have changed since the temple was first dedicated. "At that time, the Atlanta Georgia Temple was the 21st operating temple in the world, the first in the southern states. It was intended to serve Latter-day Saints throughout the entire Southeastern United States as well as the islands of the Caribbean. Now, we have temples in all of the surrounding states, and even a temple in the Dominican Republic. The temple district for the Atlanta temple is now comprised of the state of Georgia (the Savannah stake is assigned to the Columbia South Carolina Temple district) and small parts of neighboring states."