COLUMBIA, S.C. Judging from comments made during the early days of the open house, the Columbia South Carolina Temple nestled in the Bible Belt South is blending in with its new neighbors and enhancing the traditions of family and church that comprise the fabric of Southern life.
VIP and media tours were held Sept. 23-24, presided over by Elder Monte J. Brough of the Seventy and president of the North America Southeast Area. In speaking to the media, he said: "We're very busy in this part of the world. We've seen tremendous growth. We expect more than 100,000 people to tour the temple."
The general public open house began Sept. 30 and runs through Oct. 9, with the exception of general conference weekend.
"It's not been easy for a person to be a member of our Church and live in the South," Elder Brough told the media. "We want people to know we care about them and hope you care about us in return."
VIPs who attended the open house included leaders from business and other religious organizations, and government officials. Deputy Chief of Staff Michael LeFever represented South Carolina Gov. James Hodges, who was unable to attend because he was evaluating flood damage caused by Hurricane Floyd.
"My daughter takes piano lessons from a member of your Church," the deputy chief said. "While sitting on the couch waiting for her, [I would look at] a picture of this temple right in front of me. Each week I could see the excitement grow with this family. I never dreamed I would get such a personal tour."
The deputy chief read a personal letter from the governor, acknowledging members of the Church in South Carolina for their hard work in making the temple a reality.
Also among the honored guests was Rabbi Philip Silverstein. "You are the only Church that cares about the spirit of Elijah," he said. Rabbi Silverstein told the group he was a descendant of the tribe of Joseph.
A special guest of the Church was Kofi Abotchie, head of news at Radio Gold in Accra, Ghana. Mr. Abotchie spent time in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Washington, D.C., before arriving in Columbia on a fact-finding mission about the Church and its temples. He expressed his pleasure with what he learned.
Following a tour for residents in the neighborhood, the president of the homeowners association said, "Call us day or night and we will help with the landscaping or anything else."
Like the Columbus Ohio Temple, the white variegated marble of the Columbia South Carolina Temple was quarried in Vermont. Six dedicatory sessions will be held Oct. 16-17.