As cartographers in ancient times placed the Jerusalem temple at the center of their maps, so should Latter-day Saints place the temple at the center of their personal lives, said Elder Hugh W. Pinnock before breaking ground Nov. 14 for Canada's third temple.
And the new edifice, the Regina Saskatchewan Temple, will be roughly in the center of Canada's western plains, built on a 3.2-acre site in Wascana View, a suburb of Regina, the provincial capital and the home of the legendary Royal Canadian Mounted Police or "Mounties."One of the new generation of smaller temples, the Regina temple is expected to be finished in late summer or fall 1999 and will serve a temple district that corresponds with the Saskatoon Saskatchewan Stake and some branches in the Canada Winnipeg Mission.
As president of the North America Central Area, Elder Pinnock of the Seventy presided at the ceremony. Weather was clear but cold, so the 480 in Attendance gathered in the meetinghouse in Regina for a 90-minute meeting before proceeding to the temple site, where the ground was broken.
In addition to Elder Pinnock, those addressing the meeting were stake Pres. D. Lawrence Penner; Pres. R. Dean Layton of the Canada Winnipeg Mission; Pres. Kenneth A. Svenson, second counselor in the mission presidency and former Saskatoon stake president; and Elder Blair S. Bennett, Area Authority Seventy.
A stake Young Women Choir performed "Families Can Be Together Forever."
Elder Pinnock began his talk by bringing greetings from President Gordon B. Hinckley and by giving some information about the temple to be built:
- Half of the 3.2-acre site will be occupied by the edifice, with ample parking; a meetinghouse that will accommodate two or three wards eventually will be built adjacent to the temple.
- The temple will have a baptistry and adjoining spaces, a small office area, a "rather generous" entry and main foyer; dressing rooms; two endowment rooms; two sealing rooms; and a 700-square-foot celestial room.
- A 7-foot statue of the Angel Moroni will top the single spire.
"Spring will be reborn in a way different than any other spring experienced in Regina or Saskatchewan," Elder Pinnock said, "a spring bursting with hope because we know that soon, through another season, we will have a temple here."
He encouraged those in attendance to "take this message to others who may live next door. Let's make sure that those in positions of responsibility - elected officials and others - know something about this building and that we hope they will attend the open house. Of course, it's going to be a magnificent place of focus for everyone."
It is within the temple, Elder Pinnock said, that worthy Latter-day Saints make covenants and perform ordinances "so we may be with our Heavenly parents once again and also with our earthly mother and father."
He said he recently talked with a mother who lost a little girl through disease. "Through tear-stained eyes, the mother communicated profound grief but looked to me and said, `I could not endure the pain of not being able to talk and laugh and tease my daughter except I know we will be together again. We are sealed together!"
Elder Bennett recalled occasions when he thought life could get no better. These included his marriage in the temple, the birth of his first child, his son receiving a mission call and him holding his grandchildren. "We understand the feelings and the bond of children to parents," he said. "We understand the importance of a family, and in the temples of our God, we are able to forge those family bonds that will span the eternities."
Pres. Penner reflected on the day last Aug. 3 when President Gordon B. Hinckley announced at a regional meeting in Regina that a temple would be built there. "We felt a unique spiritual joy and excitement that I'm sure all of us will always remember," he said. "History was made then, and history is being made today."
The excitement felt that day has been sustained and has grown, he remarked. "I think that for many, the act of groundbreaking is a necessary sign to say, yes, it is a reality; we are actually going to get a temple here in Saskatchewan and Regina."
Pres. Layton also reflected on President Hinckley's announcement. "It was as big a shock to me as it was to you, brothers and sisters, because when I packed (to come to the mission field), the brethren said, `Only bring your clothes.' I brought all but my temple clothes; I did not bring those with me. There wasn't supposed to be a temple in this mission. But I'm thankful for the opportunity we'll have to attend the temple here in Regina."
He said blessings will attend the province when the temple is built and that he expects missionary work to increase as a result.
Pres. Svenson sketched the history of the Church in the area, noting that missionary work began in Saskatchewan in 1925, when four elders from the North Central States Mission were assigned to Regina and Saskatoon. But not until 1934 was a branch organized in Regina.
Growth continued, and in 1959, a district of the Western Canadian Mission was formed that included Regina, Saskatoon and Medicine Hat. It was divided in 1961 into the North and South Saskatchewan districts.
With the oil industry boom in the 1960s, the Church experienced growth, with many LDS people from Alberta and elsewhere moving to the province for employment.
The Canada Winnipeg Mission was organized in 1976, and a significant building program was undertaken. Regina and Saskatoon already had meetinghouses, and others were constructed in Flin Flon, Prince Albert and Melfort, with buildings purchased by the Church for use as meetinghouses in other locations.
In 1978, the two districts were combined and organized into the Saskatchewan Stake. At the same time the Fort Qu'Appelle mission district was organized, composed entirely of descendants of Lehi.
In fact, Pres. Svenson said, the Church membership in Saskatchewan has always included a significant proportion consisting of what Canadians term "aboriginal people," or Indians. "Of the approximately 3,500 current members of the Church in Saskatchewan, between a quarter and a third are of aboriginal ancestry," he added.
He said the first LDS missionaries on the Carry-The-Kettle Indian reserve arrived there in 1947, and by 1948, members of the Spencer family were the first people on the reserve to be baptized. Even before their baptisms, the Spencers had temple work performed for a deceased daughter.
Since about 1930, the population of Saskatchewan has remained stable at about a million people. Many residents, including members of the Church, have migrated elsewhere, yet the Church membership in the province continues to increase in actual numbers and in percentage of total population, Pres. Svenson said.
Wielding shovels with Elder Pinnock at the groundbreaking were Elder Bennett, Pres. Layton, Pres. Penner and Pres. Donald W. Danskin of the Fort Qu'Appelle District in the Canada Winnipeg Mission.
Then, others were invited to come forward and turn shovelsful of earth, including a few children.