EDMONTON, ALBERTA In a crowded stake center and in proceedings carried by audio feed to 19 other locations in northern Alberta and part of British Columbia, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the Seventy presided over the Feb. 27 groundbreaking for the Edmonton Alberta Temple.
"This is a monument of your faith, and Heavenly Father truly has answered your prayers," declared Elder Kikuchi, second counselor in the North America Central Area presidency, regarding the temple, which is being constructed to the west of the Edmonton Alberta Riverbend Stake Center.
The 10,500-square-foot temple, with its gold-leafed Angel Moroni statue rising 80 feet above ground level, will have prominent visibility to motorists on the adjacent Whitemud Freeway.
An estimated 3,500 people witnessed the service. They included those who filled the stake center chapel and cultural hall and others linked by audio feed in the Edmonton Millwoods, Edmonton Bonnie Doon and Grande Prairie stake centers. The feed was also carried to meetinghouses in Cherry Grove, Fort McMurray, St. Paul, Athabasca, Lloydminster, Vermillion, Wainwright, Drayton Valley, Devon, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Fairview, Hinton, Edson, White Court and Slave Lake.
A video tape of the service was shown later in the day to members of the Red Deer Alberta Stake.
Those locations are all in the five-stake temple district.
With such a large and far-flung congregation, only a representative 300 people could be invited to come out to the site where the ground was broken. The congregation seated in the stake center saw the groundbreaking by video feed, while an announcer narrated it for those in other meetinghouses who were listening via audio feed.
Elder Kikuchi and Elder Blair S. Bennett, Area Authority Seventy, turned the first shovelsful of soil. They were followed by a group composed of the five stake presidents in the temple district and the president of the Calgary Alberta East stake who represented the five stakes in the Calgary area.
The third group to wield the gold-colored shovels consisted of city, provincial and federal dignitaries including Edmonton Mayor Bill Smith; Ian McClelland, Rahim Jaffer and Jack Ramsay, members of Parliament; and Albert Klapstein of the Provincial Legislature. They were followed by groups consisting of long-time residents and recent converts in the area; young-married couples and Primary children; and youth.
In remarks given in the chapel, Elder Kikuchi said: "The temple is a place to know our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
He added that the temple is the place where Heavenly Father's children can, will, and must receive the essential and sacred ordinances to return to His presence.
"The temple is a place to learn the great plan of our Heavenly Father," he said. "This is a place for our thanksgiving, for instruction, for understanding the mystery of God and also our ministry in the Kingdom of God, God's theory, God's principle, God's doctrine."
Those who go to the temple will be armed with God's holy power, Elder Kikuchi declared, citing a prophecy and prayer of Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple.
In his talk, Elder Bennett separately addressed three groups whom he called the "pioneers," the "builders" and "our future."
To the first group, "those faithful brothers and sisters who were present when our members here were less than 100," he said: "It is because of your commitment and your unwavering devotion to magnifying your callings that our numbers have swelled
To the "builders" or stake missionaries, he said: "The construction of a temple in Edmonton will provide you with significant opportunities to open your mouths. May the Lord bless you as you magnify your callings. And now, go forth and do so."
And to "the future," the children or "youth of the noble birthright," he said: "The Edmonton temple will serve as a beacon, a guiding light in your lives. Plan your futures around this holy edifice. It is our desire that you establish ownership of the temple in your lives."
LeRoy Rollins, who was the first stake president in Edmonton, gave a historic overview of local Church history. He spoke of the Gordon family of six, the first Church members to live in the area as they undertook a government contract in 1914 but who stayed only two years and then moved south.
He said that in the 1920s, university students and government employees who were Church members came, though no records were kept of their meetings, so the first recorded meeting was Feb. 26, 1933, at the Alph and Mabel Strate home. This small group soon became a branch of the Lethbridge Stake.
"About 1935, N. Eldon Tanner and Solon E. Low came with their families, effectively doubling the membership of the Latter-day Saints in Edmonton," Brother Rollins said. "N. Eldon Tanner [later a counselor in the First Presidency] became a highly loved and respected leader of the Saints here, standing in that position of leadership for the next 16 years
"I had the privilege as a young school teacher of attending the branch in those years. In my first trip to Edmonton I was impressed with how I was welcomed by Pres. Tanner, how he reflected a spirit of love, how he gave me a sense of being needed and how he recognized my personal worth."
Brother Rollins recalled that members by 1943 grew tired of cleaning up beer bottles and other debris in rented halls so that services could be held. Through their sacrifice, a building was finally dedicated on White Avenue in 1951 by President Stephen L Richards of the First Presidency that is still in use today.
The branch was divided, and by May 19, 1953, the Western Canadian Mission was formed. The Edmonton Stake was organized on Nov. 15, 1960.
"Over the 12 years that I had the privilege of being stake president, the membership doubled to 16 wards and branches," Brother Rollins noted. "It's interesting that the Church grew from 2 million in 1960 to 10 million now, five times [the size in 1960]. This area [Edmonton] grew from roughly 2,000 of then to the 15,000 of now, which is 7 1/2 times. For this we should be grateful."
A combined choir from the Red Deer, Bonnie Doon, Millwoods and Riverbend stakes provided music under the direction of Maureen Williams and accompanied by Tammy Garside.
Even before the groundbreaking, site work had commenced; the level was already several feet below the usual grade, and pilings were already installed. Binder Construction in Alberta is the contractor.
The temple will be the second in Alberta and will eliminate the need for Church members to drive many miles south to Cardston for temple sessions.