A site in the general area of Preston, England, has been acquired in anticipation of the future construction of a temple, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced Oct. 19 during the second day of ceremonies to rededicate the London Temple.
The London Temple, closed for the past 21/2 years for extensive remodeling and refurbishing, was rededicated Oct. 18-20, with 13,100 members from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland attending 10 sessions.President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, announced that the site is in an area rich in Church history in the British Isles. The first converts in Great Britain were baptized in 1837 in the River Ribble at Preston. The Preston Ward is the longest continuously functioning unit in the Church anywhere in the world.
The temple, to be constructed in the Preston, Lancashire, vicinity, will serve members of the Church in the northern part of England, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. At present, the geographic region has 20 stakes.
President Hinckley made the announcement of the site on the day that members from the vicinity of Preston and other areas in the proposed temple district were assigned to attend the rededicatory services. As the announcement was made, an audible response of delight rustled throughout the various rooms of the temple. Many wept.
President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, told the Church News that the site selected for the temple is "a tranquil, typically beautiful English countryside dotted with wildflowers." He described the site as easily accessible, being located where three major motorways converge.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve said the proposed temple is a reflection of the "upsurge in interest of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. The Church has always been strong in the north of England. A number of young returned missionaries are serving in bishoprics, on high councils and in stake presidencies, and this is a sign of the future of the Church in this part of England.
"In England, we now have second-, third-, fourth-, and even fifth-generation members of the Church. Wherever you see that happen, you see the Church grow and become stronger all the time. When you see parents raise their children and send their sons and daughters on missions, you know their focus is on the gospel of Jesus Christ."
President Hinckley and Elder Ballard served as missionaries in the British Isles in their youth. Both reminisced on the progress of the work during the years since they were tracting and preaching the message of the restored gospel, often with little success. And both expressed appreciation for and amazement over the progress that has been made since they labored here.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Seventy and president of the Europe North Area, also served as a young missionary here. He said the announcement of a temple in the Preston area adds to an already rich history.
"Work of the restored gospel began in the British Isles in 1837 when Elder Heber C. Kimball and six others arrived," he said during one of his addresses during rededicatory events for the London Temple. "They had a terrible struggle even to get here, but when the boat landed at Liverpool, Elder Kimball leaped to shore before the boat docked, so anxious was he to begin the work. Under the inspiration of the Lord and pursuing a contact with a family of Joseph Fielding, he decided to go to Preston and begin missionary work there. The success he had is legendary even though he labored less than one year here on his first mission.
"On April 6, 1840, Elder Kimball, then 38, arrived a second time in the company of Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt and George A. Smith. Two other apostles, Elders Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor, were already here. Willard Richards was ordained on April 14, 1840, bringing to eight the number of apostles of the Lord laboring in the British Isles.
"Their message was that the restoration of the gospel was one of the great steps left before the Savior would return. Their success was magnificent."
Elder Holland said thousands of converts emigrated from the British Isles to join the saints in the building up of Zion. "The growth of the kingdom owes much to the Island of Great Britain," he said.