Like the blessings that were showered upon the early saints who prepared themselves spiritually for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836, the dedication of the Columbus Ohio Temple on Sept. 4-5 was a spiritual celebration a time of festive reverence for the second temple built in Ohio.
"Much has changed in the 163 years since the Kirtland Temple was dedicated," said President Gordon B. Hinckley, who presided over the dedication of the Church's 60th operating temple. "Our people are more accepted now. It is a new day of opportunity. The struggles of Kirtland are past. Today, we have large congregations."
Kirtland, located in northeastern Ohio near Cleveland, is approximately 160 miles from Columbus. The Columbus Ohio Temple is located in western Columbus on property adjacent to the Columbus Ohio Stake Center.
Accompanying President Hinckley to the dedication were his wife, Marjorie; Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Barbara; and Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy and president of the North America East Area and his wife, Sharon. For Elder Perry, this was a time to recall treasured memories of his service as a missionary many years ago in Columbus, like how he strengthened his testimony of the Book of Mormon while studying in a basement kitchen.
A misty-eyed sister speaking to no one in particular stood near the stake center, transfixed by the beauty of the white temple cast against the rich blue September sky. "We are very happy to have a temple," she said.
She was one of approximately 11,000 members who attended the dedication from the 10 stakes that comprise the temple district. Six dedicatory sessions were held during the two days. Proceedings were broadcast throughout the temple, and to the chapel and cultural hall in the adjacent stake center, and to a meetinghouse in nearby Dublin, Ohio.
Many members recalled President Hinckley's visit on April 25, 1998, when he addressed a capacity crowd and announced the construction of a temple in Columbus near the stake center.
As local members began researching the history of the property, they learned that the land had ownership ties to Julia Clapp Murdock, a devoted member of the Church who lived at the time of Joseph Smith in the Kirtland area.
On April 30, 1831, the same day that Emma Smith's twins were born and died, Julia died after giving birth to her twins. Julia's husband, John, who was among the first to join the Church in Kirtland, felt unable to rear the twins and asked the Prophet and Emma to care for them. The gesture somewhat softened Emma's sorrow. (One of the twins, Joseph, died a year later after being exposed to the cold on the night when the Prophet was dragged from the John Johnson home where he was residing, and beaten and tarred by a mob.)
Julia's father, Orris, was a member of Sidney Rigdon's congregation, but did not join the Church as many others in the congregation did after hearing Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer preach the gospel. Orris actually became embittered toward the Church.
About this time, the brother of Orris, Abner Clapp, followed his brother to Ohio from New York and took ownership of land in central Ohio that is now the temple site. Records show he was the first landowner to live on the land. As far as can be ascertained, Abner did not share his brother's animosity toward the Church.
"As far as we can tell," said David Martin, who researched property records, "good and honest people have always owned the land."
"The thing that always astounded me," said Pres. Don M. Mortensen, who served as president from 1973-80 when only one stake was organized in Columbus, "was that, as we projected ahead and envisioned where the stake should be, the Lord helped us accomplish our goals in half the time.
"The sacrifice and prayers of faithful Saints accomplished what's been done here," he said.
"We didn't build this temple with our hands like the Saints in Kirtland did," said Pauli Morello, regional public affairs director. "We built this temple with our hearts." Sister Morello celebrated her 24th wedding anniversary by scurrying around the temple grounds caring for the media, while her husband, Mike Morello, stood some distance away orchestrating the steady flow of patrons for each session.
"Everyone has been focused on this temple," she continued. "I don't know anyone who hasn't done something."
"I could tell countless stories of young people helping," said Neil C. Farr, second counselor in the temple presidency. "One evening, during the open house, we had some young women cleaning the celestial room after tours that day. Gradually, all the young women left except one. When she came out, tears were streaming down her cheeks. She simply said, 'I can't wait to attend the temple.' "
The night before President Hinckley arrived, little girls dressed in Sunday clothes helped their mothers carefully tie plastic booties around the feet of approximately 125 metal chairs to prevent damage to the carpets.
Using a pocket knife, another young woman gingerly scraped smudges from the mirrors used in two windows that were specially built to look like the windows crafted by Truman O. Angell in the Kirtland Temple. Brent Harris, of the Cambridge Branch, Columbus Ohio East Stake, built the two windows for the Columbus temple.
With his parents working inside the temple, 9-year-old Daniel Christofferson strolled up and down the grounds outside the temple for several hours, peering under shrubs and looking around bushes for debris. "No one asked me to [clean]," he said. "I just wanted to."
Clyde and Doris Stewart, a missionary couple from the Rexburg Idaho Stake called as project supervisors, understood their role to be more than merely overseeing construction workers. They looked for ways to share their testimony of the temple from one generation to another by speaking at youth firesides.
"We learned that the Lord was interested in this temple," said Sister Stewart. "At times, Clyde would wake up at night feeling there was a problem with the construction. He would arise early the next day and would find those errors just as he had felt."
"This has been a Zion-like project," said Ed Hammond, who assisted with the operational details of preparing the temple. "People would come to the door and say with excitement, 'I'm here to clean, what can I do?'
"All the way down the line, we had the right people willing to help, like Erik and Lois Mars who are landscapers. They worked late at night landscaping the grounds while their baby slept in the carriage. Randy and Michelle Franklin uprooted trees that were on the temple site and planted them around the grounds prior to construction. They came each day to water the trees to see that they took root. Kevin Clawson built a handrail to help steady people as they pulled booties over their shoes during the open house.
"We told him what we needed," continued Brother Hammond, "and in two days, he built a 2-foot wide, 8-foot long stand with handrails. It worked so well, it's being sent to the Detroit temple to be used during the open house there."
Shannon Allen of the Beavercreek Ward, Dayton Ohio East Stake, wanted to record her feelings of the dedication before leaving the temple grounds. Standing beside her car, she held a video camera at arm's length and, speaking into the microphone, counted the blessings that have filled her life since joining the Church nearly two years ago.
"I'm so happy now that I have the gospel in my life. People outside the Church don't know what they are missing," she said.
Pres. Jerry N. Martin of the Columbus Ohio Temple said he never considered the eight-hour drive to the Washington D.C. Temple to be a sacrifice. "He's always loved the temple," said his son, David. "He'd take weeklong vacations to Washington, D.C., with my mother and only attend the temple, not the other sites."
Pres. Martin's participation in the dedicatory sessions was limited because of debilitating complications following surgery. "To be able to attend three sessions, when the day before the dedication it looked doubtful that he would attend any, I feel he was sustained," said David.
The weather during the two days of the dedicatory events was unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the 90s. Members often stood in line, with beads of perspiration forming on foreheads, gazing at the lightly variegated white marble of the temple as it glistened against the deep, azure blue skies.
"It's a sight I'll never tire of," said one woman to her husband.