Overcast skies and a cold wind did not dampen the high spirits of close to 1,000 people who attended the groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 17 for the Bismarck North Dakota Temple.
The week-long rainy period in this central North Dakota area let up for the activities and the first shovelsful of soil were turned in this joyous historical event, the building of the first temple in the Dakotas.Presiding and conducting the 11 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony, held on the grounds of the Bismarck North Dakota Stake center, was Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America Central Area. Also in attendance were Bishop Keith B. McMullin, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; Elder Thomas A. Holt, Area Authority Seventy in the North America Central Area; President John R. Reese of the South Dakota Rapid City Mission; present and former Church leaders of the temple district; and the local architect and contractor assisting the Church architectural staff.
The temple district includes the Winnipeg Manitoba Stake, Pierre South Dakota District and the two North Dakota stakes - Bismarck and Fargo, whose boundaries spill into Minnesota and South Dakota.
Prior to the ceremonial breaking of the ground for the temple, music, talks and a site dedicatory prayer were held inside the warm and dry stake center. Many drove four to seven hours from communities in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Canada, through wind and rain, both coming and going, which at times caused low to zero visibility."
An 80-voice adult choir sang during the service. They met at 9:30 a.m. for their only practice of three hymns - "High on the Mountain Top," "Come, Ye Children of the Lord" and "Now Let us Rejoice" - under the direction of Luke Howard with Dorothy Peel accompanying, both members of the Fargo North Dakota Stake.
In his remarks, Elder Johnson said, "I don't think we fully comprehend the majesty of this occasion. I believe this is more significant than any one of us can conceive. This may be smaller than many temples but it will have the power of God and every blessing will be there."
Continuing, Elder Johnson declared, "Consider your ways," in reference to scriptural accounts where the Lord instructed the people "as they prepared for the temple." He said the people had not received the blessings because they had not lived worthily. Every foundation stone
of the templeT gives Satan less power as every person considers their ways and attune their lives to the gospel plan, he explained.
To those whose spouses are not able to go to the temple, Elder Johnson said, "If you live for that blessing, the day will come when you will receive it. To achieve your eternal goal," he said, "whatever it takes, it'll be worth it."
In his dedicatory prayer, Elder Johnson said, "Thou doth love us above all things. May angels attend this construction. There are those watching and waiting for this work to be accomplished. We are filled with gratitude for Thy blessings and desire to keep our promises. May every youth desire to be worthy of the temple."
Bishop McMullin implored "everyone within the sound of my voice and the sound of your voices, that you will pray that the Lord will temper the elements. As the walls of the temple go up, let your faithfulness go up."
He explained that although the 10,000-square-foot temples are small, they "do not look small."
"We'll see what a wonder God has brought about," he continued. "Many of Lehi's descendants are here
in the DakotasT. We have a sacred obligation to them." There are 11 Native American Indian reservations in the Dakotas and many children of Lehi live in Canada directly north. Bishop McMullin issued a challenge to every Anglo-American coming to the temple to bring two children of Lehi.
Elder Holt remarked, "What a great, marvelous spiritual experience." He explained that CTR, to a member under 12 years old, means Choose the Right, then added, "CTR to 12 and older should also mean `have a Current Temple Recommend.'
"Prepare yourselves," Elder Holt admonished members for the time when the temple is completed and dedicated. "Be ready. Be worthy to serve in the House of the Lord."
Bismarck Stake Pres. Richard A. Adsero, a native to North Dakota whose parents were North Dakota pioneer converts, spoke of the history of the Church in North Dakota.
"Some of us are a little disappointed in the weather today," he said, and then made reference to the early missionaries who traversed North Dakota in bitter cold weather in search of converts. Although there is record of missionaries and members in the Dakotas periodically in the mid-1800s, Pres. Adsero said the Church was permanently established in 1898 when four missionaries, while waiting for a train, dedicated the state for missionary work in a grove of box elder trees near a Fairmount, N.D., depot. He said the first mentioned baptism in North Dakota was in 1912 and in "1922 the first known LDS family in Fargo."
Total membership in North Dakota in 1960 was 904 members; membership is now 5,200." Until the Fargo Stake was organized in 1977, North Dakota remained the only state of the union without a stake of Zion.
Local citizens seem to be accepting the temple project well. Full-time missionaries serving in Bismarck, Elders Trent English of Las Vegas, Nev., and Jay Dresser of Orangeville, Calif., said they had taught "48 discussions this week and invited people
to the groundbreakingT." Lots of people commented positively on the news of the temple. "The Lord is softening the hearts of the people," they said.
As William Case, Bismarck stake mission president, ushered and listened to the beautiful tones of the choir practicing "High on the Mountain Top," before the ceremony, he said, referring to the building of the temple, "That
the musicT explains it. That's exactly how I feel."
When Jill Kruckenberg, a Mia Maid in Wahpeton, N.D., Branch, learned a mandatory cross country practice had been set the day of the groundbreaking for the 10 runners competing in the state meet, she was saddened to think she would not be able to go to the meet. The groundbreaking was four hours from her home. She would not have time to get to either of two practice times. A phone call was made to the coach. On hearing of the predicament, and particularly of the building of a temple in Bismarck, the coach arranged a third practice time for a special practice Saturday evening for one person - Jill.
Kent Danielson of Bismarck Ward said the stake has two temple trips a year to the Alberta Temple, 900 miles away. One trip is for stake youth, the other is for families. His wife, Nancy, said, "I've been walking on a cloud since this was announced. I was crying on the way here."
Another Mia Maid, Jennifer Archer of Minot, N.D., 1st Ward, was greeted by Brother Danielson before the groundbreaking service began."How are you?" he asked. Her reply was instantaneous, "Happy! Happy! Happy! It's not every day you get to come to a groundbreaking."