Some 1,700 people gathered here April 17 on a cloudy day as the first shovelsful of dirt were turned for the new temple in Anchorage, Alaska.
Presiding at the groundbreaking was Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America Northwest Area presidency.The new 7,000-square-foot temple, one of the smaller-scale temples the Church has recently begun or announced, will serve 24,000 Latter-day Saints in Alaska and in the Yukon and Northwest Territories of Canada.
Before the groundbreaking, Church leaders and members gathered in the Brayton stake center, adjacent to the temple grounds, for a brief service. Pres. Melvin Perkins of the Juneau stake offered the invocation. A combined choir of more than 200 voices from the Juneau, Wasilla, Soldotna, Anchorage, Anchorage North and Fairbanks stakes provided music. Directing the choir were Kerma Kenley and Sally Lindquist; providing accompaniment were Jan Kiester and Monica Brewster.
During his remarks, Elder Hammond told those listening: "This is a remarkable and a glorious day! We are met together under the direction of the prophet of God, Gordon B. Hinckley. He sends his love and his blessings to you. His heart and his spirit are here and will be felt by us during this hour together."
During his address, Elder Hammond mentioned other sites where smaller temples, which he termed "holy spots," have had groundbreaking ceremonies, including Monticello, Utah, and Colonia Juarez, Mexico.
"Perhaps the groundbreaking ceremony for a temple is to give the Saints a period for repentance, a period of inner cleansing, a period for greater sacrifice prior to the construction and ultimate dedication of the temple itself, to the end that a multitude of worthy people may pass through the sacred portals of the Lord's Holy House to receive a fullness of the blessings of the temple for themselves and to vicariously do the same for others.
"During the coming months, I would encourage each one of you to prepare yourselves spiritually," Elder Hammond continued. "This can be a family sharing time, when even the children can become involved in the spirit of temple construction."
He encouraged members to study the revealed instructions of the Lord for building temples as found in the scriptures. "Your daily prayers together can be a source of bonding as you implore Heavenly Father to bless all the workers involved in the construction of the temple.
"All will know that one day each member of the family will enter therein to receive the ordinances and blessing found only in the House of the Lord. Fasting and prayer will take on added meaning as each family member watches the walls of the temple, raised on a firm foundation, covered with an imposing roof and beautifully decorated, eventually come to completion. From the oldest to the youngest prepare yourselves spiritually for the day of completion."
Elder Hammond said the building of the temple will bring sincere interest from friends and neighbors. "It will give you an opportunity to invite them into your homes to study the restored gospel with the missionaries to explain the great plan of happiness, and to bless their lives individually and collectively."
He counseled members to become more Christlike with one another and to develop loving relations with spouses and children. He also urged faithfulness in the paying of tithes and offerings. " . . . Each penny," he added, "is indicative of obedience, faith and character."
He also encouraged members to prepare family history records, "having a list to take with you to the temple to do the necessary saving ordinances for them.
"There is something remarkable about the building of a temple," Elder Hammond continued. "As it is raised up, the warming, enlightening shadow of its very presence is thrown upon all those in the community, both members and non-members alike.
"This beautiful city and this great state will be blessed, as will all those who dwell therein, because a Holy House of the Lord is to be erected here."
After the service in the stake center, Elder Hammond and other local Church leaders led those in the meetinghouse to the temple grounds about 50 yards south of the building. There Elder Hammond offered a dedicatory prayer. After Pres. Nigel G. Wappett of the Fairbanks stake offered the benediction on the services, Elder Hammond and local leaders broke the ground. Local members were then invited to turn over shovelsful of dirt.
"Words can hardly describe the excitement and joy we feel at having a temple in our midst," said Anchorage stake Pres. Brent Wadsworth. " Members here in Alaska have been hoping and praying for a temple and now it is to become a reality."
One such family at the groundbreaking, grateful for the coming temple, was Walt and Bonnie Warner and their seven children, Jessica, 15; Crystal, 14; Walt II, 12; Heidi, 11; Annie, 9; Mariah, 7; Joseph, 6; and Kayreah, 2.
"My heart is just full," Sister Warner said. "This means that I can go to the temple on a regular basis. Also, my children will have a temple they can attend and someday they can go there and be married. We came because we wanted them to feel the spirit of the temple and give them something they could guide their lives on."
Crystal and Jessica have done baptisms for the dead in the Alberta Temple. Speaking of the temple in Anchorage, Crystal said: "This means a lot to me. It's exciting because we can go to the temple more often and do baptisms for the dead so they can get their work done."
Jessica added that she loved going to the Alberta Temple to do baptisms. "I'm really excited to have this temple here so we can do more baptisms. It was a special experience for me, and I'm excited that now I can do it a lot more often."
The new Anchorage temple will include such features as a stone-clad exterior, custom art glass windows and the traditional statue of the Angel Moroni atop the temple spire. Local leaders estimated the temple will be ready for an open house and dedication by the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.