APEX, N.C. The nearly 1,000 people who gathered here Feb. 6 not only participated in a memorable groundbreaking for the Raleigh North Carolina Temple, but also learned of the sacrifices and dedication of early missionaries and members in the area.
Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America East Area presidency presided at the ceremony, held on a cool morning in a clearing on the temple site, surrounded by towering pines. The temple will be constructed in Apex a town close to Raleigh that is experiencing tremendous residential growth next to a planned stake center.
"Latter-day Saints believe that whenever the gospel is on the earth, there is a divine command to build temples," Elder Dunn said, explaining the pattern of temple building from the time of Joseph Smith. "The blessings of attending the temple are at the heart of Latter-day Saint worship, and early sacrifices to build these sacred buildings were willingly made as a means of securing the blessings of the Lord.
"There will now be a temple near you. It is in the temple that links are formed that can unite families forever and where each individual receives the opportunity of eternal salvation. Work can also be done for others so these blessings can come to those who have passed away before receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Ward and stake leaders from the eight stakes in the temple district, made up of 27,600 members brought their families to the groundbreaking ceremony. Music for the ceremony was provided by a 100-member Raleigh North Carolina Stake choir, directed by Kevin Hopkins and accompanied by Gary Adams.
During the service, Elder Dunn acknowledged and thanked members of the local government and chamber of commerce in attendance. These dignitaries later joined Elder Dunn; Elder David W. Ferrel, an Area Authority Seventy; Pres. Max Esplin of the North Carolina Raleigh Mission; and current and former stake presidents in breaking the ground with gold-painted shovels. Then others, including Primary children, took turns in breaking the ground.
Two weeks prior to the groundbreaking, more than 1,200 youth worked at the site, removing small trees and clearing underbrush for the ceremony. (Please see related story on page 11.) Members also built the stage, adorned with pine-needle swags.
During his remarks, Raleigh North Carolina Stake Pres. John Taggart said that neighbors around the site received temple plans in a friendly manner. "We have good neighbors here," he said, "and we will be good neighbors ourselves."
Pres. Taggart suggested, however, that for the members there was yet another temple construction. Quoting the Apostle Paul he said, " 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God.' (1 Cor. 3:16.)
Elder Dunn asked those in attendance to sanctify their lives in and out of the temple. "Only the home," he said, "could be compared to the temple in sacredness."
He reminded those in the congregation of the history of the Church in North Carolina, noting that the first missionary entered the area in 1838. From 1867 through 1895, 120 missionaries labored in the state. However, the first stake was not organized in North Carolina until Aug. 27, 1961. A second stake was organized a month later and by 1962, a third stake was organized.
Today, said Elder Dunn, emphasizing the growth of the Church in the area, there are 12 stakes in North Carolina (eight are part of the Raleigh North Carolina Temple District).
After the ceremony, Ralph Ingram, Raleigh North Carolina Stake patriarch and former stake president, remembered the many predecessors who helped build the Church in North Carolina. His family, like many early members, traveled to Salt Lake City for their first temple experiences. "This is the day we have dreamed about," he said.
Jean Carlett of the Wilmington North Carolina stake echoed his and other members' feelings. "We're making history today and I am thrilled to be a part of it," she said.