CHORLEY, England Ian D. Swanney never tires of seeing the Preston England Temple, which stands atop a hill in picturesque Lancashire.
As president of the temple, he drives to it nearly every day. Yet at first sight of it each morning he feels as though he's laying eyes on it for the first time, he said.
Standing as a beacon adjacent to two heavily traveled roads, the temple makes a definitive statement about the Church's presence in this part of England.
Several thousand motorists see the impressive edifice as they drive by it every day. At night, when floodlights illuminate a statue of the Angel Moroni atop the temple's sole spire, passersby and area residents see an added dimension of beauty.
Factoring in Sundays when the temple is closed, Pres. Swanney and his wife, Anne M. Swanney, temple matron, have driven to the temple no fewer than 150 times since the time it was dedicated last June.
"We never lose the lovely feeling of seeing the temple as we drive toward it every day," Pres. Swanney said. "When we arrive early in the morning, it's still dark. The temple is lit up. It looks beautiful in all kinds of weather, but on stormy days, it seems to have such a strength about it. We don't have many days with sunshine, but when it is bathed in sunlight, it is lovely. The thrill of seeing the temple on that hillside never goes away.
"The temple is adjacent to Junction 8 of the M61 motorway. I love the vision that all motorways seem to lead to the temple. I think of individuals, couples and families as they prepare for the journey here. I think of them driving, and the sense of anticipation they feel, and then the thrill of getting the first sight of the temple. You can see it from a long way off. The steeple just draws eyes right up to the statue of Angel Moroni.
"The temple is a great symbol of our message to the world. It's sort of silently displayed, yet it's noticed by everybody. It's a beacon to all. It invites questions."
He said that a group of 20 people from another church arranged to visit the temple grounds and others have shown an interest in learning about the edifice. "We received a request from tour guides who have been asked questions by people as they pass the temple," he said. "They want to know what it is. The tour guides don't always know how to answer, so they've asked if they can have a meeting with us so we can explain to them what the temple is so they can inform their clients.
"We've had a number of people who come to the door of the temple and ask if they can have a tour of the building. We take the opportunity to visit with them and explain about temples and their purposes."
Most of all, Pres. Swanney said, the temple is a source of inspiration for Latter-day Saints in the temple district. "We are so blessed to have two temples in England, the one in London and now this one in Preston," he said. "It means so much to members here who have had to travel such long distances to the temple. The members in the Shetland Islands, for example, had to travel 14 hours on an overnight ferry to the mainland in Scotland, and then had an 11-hour drive to London. Now, the drive portion of their trip to the temple is just five hours. That's still a long journey, but the members love having the temple so much closer."
Pres. Swanney said that he constantly is impressed by the attitude of members who attend the temple. "We have people from many walks of life come here," he said. "Many are elderly. We have quite a number who have disabilities, some who use varying degrees of support one stick or two sticks. We have some members who have hearing impairments or who are deaf. We have married couples and single members who come to the temple as patrons and who serve in the temple. All are vital to this work.
"The youth who come to do baptisms for the dead love the work that they do here. We try to speak to youth groups when they come. It's wonderful to see young people committed to temple work. If they just keep that in their lives they will weather the storms of the world that are going to hit them."
Pres. Swanney spoke of his regard for his counselors, the assistants to the temple matron, temple missionary couples, ordinance workers and all the staff of engineers, maintenance workers, security personnel and others who contribute to keeping the temple in operation.
"It's quite wonderful to see how everyone is united in a goal to create a spirit of welcome and love to all who come to the temple," he said. "When people leave, they express reluctance of having to go back into the world after having been in the temple."