Known for its desert grandeur, abundant cacti and locations for western classic movies, Tucson can now add to its list of credits the newest House of the Lord.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on Sunday, Aug. 13, dedicated the Tucson Arizona Temple, presiding over three sessions.
Officiating with President Uchtdorf was Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle; Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Benjamín De Hoyos, General Authority Seventy; Elder Kevin R. Duncan, General Authority Seventy; Elder Larry Y. Wilson, General Authority Seventy; and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.
With his wife, Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, by his side, a smiling and affable President Uchtdorf greeted attendees waiting in line for the first of three dedicatory sessions and interacted appreciatively with volunteers helping with shoe covers for people entering the temple.
The first session included the customary cornerstone ceremony, a ceremonial sealing of the cornerstone with mortar to signal completion of the temple.
Stepping outside of the temple with other Church leaders and their wives, President Uchtdorf spoke for several minutes to spectators gathered to watch the ceremony, remarking that “it is a reminder of Who is indeed the Cornerstone of our faith.”
Mentioning the Santa Catalina mountain range to the east, he said, “In August it has never been as green as it is now.”
Referring to a heavy rainstorm in the middle of the night, he said it had cleared out the air and made it even more beautiful. “And it was, I think, an additional concert that said to us this is the House of the Lord,” he said alluding to the youth cultural celebration that was staged the previous evening in connection with the temple dedication.
The temple, he said, is “the intersection of terrestrial and celestial bearings, which bring us harmony of earth and heaven through the House of the Lord.”
He commented, “Let us just remember that as we seal this cornerstone, it is also a moment to seal our hearts with the great purpose of our life. The temple is the place to teach the purpose of life. It is the moment where the world around us hopefully will see with us the goodness of the House of the Lord. … You are living in an area with wonderful friends, with great people who support the growing of the Church in this beautiful area.”
He spoke of the Mormon Battalion soldiers who, despite having been among the Saints driven from Nauvoo, elected to serve their country. “And when they came down here in 1846, they didn’t expect that in … 171 years, there would be a House of the Lord here. But it is, and what a wonderful time to recognize how things move on.”
President and Sister Uchtdorf each applied mortar to the cornerstone cover, followed by other Church leaders and their wives and finally by several children whom President Uchtdorf invited to come forward from among the spectators.
A choir of young single adults selected from throughout the temple district performed expressly for the cornerstone ceremony.
“I’ve been doing Church choirs for 40 years, and this is the finest Church choir I’ve ever directed,” said Brad Hayashi of the Tucson Arizona Stake.
Choir member Brittany Butler, Tucson Arizona West Stake, said, “It has been one of the most inspirational and moving experiences of my life. I couldn’t ask for a more spiritual experience. I’ve drawn closer to my Heavenly Father. To be able to work with my peers in a choral setting has given me the opportunity to learn from them and improve my closeness to God and Jesus Christ and to build my testimony through song.”
Tyler Merrill, also a member of that stake, said singing in the choir changed his life by giving him a new testimony on the power of music. “It illustrated to me the power of prayer. One of the songs we sing is about prayer, and it gave me a very special appreciation for that subject. I’ve never felt more connected to the Savior than at this moment because song is prayer. It’s a very special prayer. And to be a part of this very special prayer at this very special moment is something I will always treasure in my life.”
For President Uchtdorf, who presided at the Tucson temple groundbreaking in October 2015, returning to the city for the temple dedication is something of a homecoming. It was in Tucson in 1965 that he received his type rating as a commercial airline pilot with Lufthansa in a Boeing 727 aircraft.
Prior to that, in Phoenix, Arizona, he received his qualification as a fighter pilot and during that period, received his endowment in the Mesa Arizona Temple.
But dedicating the Tucson temple is yet more meaningful for him for other reasons.
In an interview with the Church News held inside the temple the day before the dedication, he said, “Every time a temple is dedicated to the Lord, it is a special occasion, not only for the neighborhood or the state or the country, but also for the people who come here to build a legacy in their lives which is eternal.”
Referring to the beauty of the desert landscape in Tucson, he said some, depending on background and preference, might wonder how that can be seen as beautiful.
“Yes, it is beautiful, it is wonderful and it is a diversity which we should cherish because it’s the Lord’s work,” he said. “And that is how life is, how individuals are. We’re so different.”
By coming to appreciate the gospel of Jesus Christ and the path the Lord provides, “which is represented in such a wonderful way right here in the temple,” people can then accept one another for their diversity and be more happy, President Uchtdorf said.
“We will be a greater blessing to our neighbors, to our friends, to those around us and they will see the light which comes from the temple.”
And the Tucson temple is a particularly shining edifice, both day and night, with its powder-blue dome topped with the figure of the Angel Moroni, he said.
“So I know that in this place, in this part of the country, there’s a new light which is just being established right here by the Lord for a purpose, and we can be so grateful that we are a part of that and that he has granted us to live in a time to see these miracles happen. Our gratitude can be expressed by our dedication to this great work and to sharing it with those around us without any excuses, with courage but with love, with kindness, with openness.”
Located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains on the northeast outskirts of the city, the temple is the 157th in the Church and the sixth in Arizona, with others operating in Mesa, Snowflake, the Gila Valley, Gilbert and Phoenix.
Proceedings of each of the three dedicatory sessions were transmitted live to Church meetinghouses throughout Arizona.
Characteristic of Arizona’s erratic monsoon season, predicted showers threatened to dampen both the temple dedication and the cultural celebration the night before. In fact, heavy rainfall late Saturday and early Sunday prompted a flash flood warning in the area lasting until 6:30 a.m.
But fair skies and hot weather prevailed for both the dedication and the cultural celebration.