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Hartford Connecticut Temple open house: ‘A gift’ for New England

Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Processed with Snapseed. Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Processed with Snapseed. Credit: Tamara L. McMurdie
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.

FARMINGTON, CONN.

One of the many things Jillian Juarez has loved about volunteering at the Hartford Connecticut Temple open house has been the drive from her home.

The three-week open house — which began Sept. 30 and ends Oct. 22 — coincided with the peak of autumn in New England, when the area’s dense greenery transforms to vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange.

The soon-to-be dedicated temple resides in Farmington, a suburb west of Hartford and about a 40-minute drive from Sister Juarez’s home in nearby Granby. Sister Juarez, a member of the Bloomfield Ward, Hartford Connecticut Stake, drove to the temple on little back roads lined by the autumn foliage.

“It’s a more peaceful experience just getting to the temple,” she said.

Sister Juarez spent a full week volunteering as a parking attendant during the open house. Not just once or twice but continually, she said, people would pull over to thank her for the opportunity to attend. “Overwhelmingly, the people here seem to be happy to have the temple here in Hartford.”

Kevin Starr, local chairman of the Hartford temple committee, said, “The response from the community has been tremendous. [Visitors] have stopped us and thanked us for the opportunity to view the beautiful building and feel the special spirit that has been here.”

Many people, he added, have wanted to come back and bring their friends.

Sister Juarez said that the temple open house has provided ample missionary opportunities as she has invited her friends to come and learn more about who she is and what she believes. “I’ve loved the reaction of my children. They give out invitations constantly,” she said.

To meet, greet and prepare for the tens of thousands of visitors, thousands of local members — like Sister Juarez — offered their time and service.

“People have volunteered with enthusiasm and come back with enthusiasm,” Brother Starr said. “It’s a very humbling thing to see that response and to see how people have felt as they’ve been able to serve in some way, everything from putting on foot covers to watering plants.”

Traci Smith, a member of the Manchester Ward, Hartford Connecticut Stake, coordinated the cleaning effort of the temple every night. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be in charge of making sure the inside of the temple is perfect. I love that responsibility,” she said.

And as much as she loves being in the temple, the best part, Sister Smith added, was being able to include her children in service. “I loved vacuuming the carpets with my daughters and allowing them to serve as well. It makes them more excited to work towards going to the temple when they’re older.”

One especially memorable experience for Sister Juarez came as she was serving with another volunteer. This woman had only recently returned to full Church activity and had volunteered to help clean the grounds. When Sister Juarez asked her why she was serving so much, the woman replied that she loved the temple and thought it was beautiful but had originally felt like she couldn’t go inside yet.

One day, a member of the temple presidency took her and personally gave her a tour of the temple.

In relating this experience, the woman told Sister Juarez, “I’ve never felt so much that the Lord was aware of me for letting me know that it’s OK and that I am His daughter. I just want to be here every day … to feel close to my Heavenly Father.”

Sister Juarez said overall that’s the message she has taken away from serving during the open house. “We’re all sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father — members and nonmembers alike. That’s what I see in people’s eyes when they come. [The temple] is a gift for all of us here in New England,” she said.

The temple will be dedicated Sunday, Nov. 20, in three sessions that will be broadcast to meetinghouses in the temple district.

President Thomas S. Monson announced the Hartford Connecticut Temple during the October 2010 general conference and participated in the groundbreaking event on Aug. 17, 2013. The temple — which will be the second in New England following the Boston Massachusetts Temple — will serve members from Connecticut, Rhode Island, southwestern Massachusetts, and eastern New York.

rsterzer@deseretnews.com

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