SPOKANE, Wash. More than 11,000 people toured the new Spokane Washington Temple the first weekend of a public open house, Aug. 6-7.
From throughout the temple district, which includes parts of northern Idaho, members and others came, including government, civic and religious leaders for VIP tours Aug. 5.
Emotions were varied, but people were excited as they left the temple. Non-LDS visitors looked very pleased and expressed their appreciation for being able to see the sacred edifice, which will be dedicated Aug. 21-23 in 11 sessions and opened for ordinance work Aug. 24. The new temple is adjacent to the Spokane Washington East Stake center. A softball field east of the stake center was used for the temple site. The property surrounding the temple includes well-kept lawns accented with trees.
Mayor John Talbott expressed his thanks for being able to attend and said what a wonderful experience it was for him and his wife to visit the new edifice. "You could almost sense the spiritual component of the progression [through the temple]," he said.
Among many others attending the VIP tours were the Rev. Robert Spitzer, president of Gonzaga University; Jim Lorenzen of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Pastor John Shaffer of the Manito United Methodist Church; and the Rev. Roger LaChance of the St. Pious Catholic Church. Also present were many members of the media.
Hosting the VIP tours were Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy and president of the North America Northwest Area, and Elder Gordon G. Conger, a counselor in the area presidency and an Area Authority Seventy. Also present were temple Pres. Frank Wagstaff and Matron Jane Wagstaff. Elders Hammond and Conger alternated in giving a short introduction and then presenting a temple video. Representatives of the media were given an opportunity to ask questions. Then, they were given personalized tours of the temple during which each room was thoroughly explained and questions were addressed.
Following each VIP tour, a reception was held. A beautifully boxed compact disc by the Tabernacle Choir was given as a gift to those who attended.
Also hosted for VIP tours were members of the surrounding neighborhood. Neighbors began to arrive prior to 6:30 p.m., and by the time the tour was to begin, the room where the video was shown was filled. Some 164 people took advantage of this tour opportunity.
Media coverage of the new temple has been positive. This also reflects the community response. A recent article in the Spokesman-Review, Sunday, Aug. 1, brought many people to see the temple. KREM-TV had a positive two-minute news report that was broadcast throughout the Northwest.
Some visitors from the Seattle area attended the public open house. One woman, Lois Baker, and her son, Kao, flew in from the Seattle area. "I had to wipe my mom's tears," Kao said, commenting on the temple video shown prior to the tour.
There was a group from Kent, Wash., near Seattle, who attended with 50 youth, as well as a youth group from Federal Way, Wash., who arrived early the morning of their tour and helped set up for the public. About 50 members from a Spanish-speaking branch from Toppenish, Wash., arrived around noon on Aug. 7. They had traveled all morning to see and tour the new edifice.
When youth were asked how they felt about the temple, the expressions were varied, including "pretty," "beautiful," "elegant," and "spiritual. I want to go there when I grow up."
One young man, 15-year-old Gary Sabrin, said, "It was a good trade for a softball field."
Bishop Glenn Birch and his wife, Shirley, of the Spokane 11th Ward, were overwhelmed with the temple. The only thing Sister Birch could say was "exquisite."
Speaking of the open house and upcoming dedication, Anne Reading, an assistant matron, said: "This is such a marvelous experience for the people in this area to have an open house and temple dedication. It's a small, comfortable temple, and we have to remember that it is the Lord's House and not ours."
Concerning his feelings about the new temple, Garth Briggs, second counselor in the temple presidency, said: "Spokane a few months ago went through a very severe windstorm in which trees were blown down. I felt concerned about my own property because some of the houses close by were destroyed, so I asked an expert to check my trees. He said, 'You don't have to worry because your trees have deep tap roots.'
"I thought about this in relationship to our temple in which the tap roots have been a part of my life and my family's life. It's a comfort to come and see the rooms similar to where our children were sealed to us and give them a greater appreciation of the temple and have them look forward to attending the temple themselves."
Member and non-member alike shared tender experiences. One woman attending the open house brought a friend who is sight-impaired. Since not many people were going through the temple at that time, it was possible to stand in each of the rooms and quietly describe what each room looked like and tell what took place in each room.
One non-LDS visitor was overheard saying, "There are pictures of Jesus everywhere. Maybe they do believe in Jesus."