BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Holding a sea of colorful umbrellas, an estimated 2,300 Church members gathered here in a rainstorm for the groundbreaking of the Birmingham Alabama Temple Oct. 9.
"The heavens are weeping for joy this morning," said Pres. Richard D. May of the Birmingham Alabama Stake as he conducted the service marking the ceremonial beginning of Alabama's first temple.
Located in the Birmingham suburb of Gardendale, adjacent to the Gardendale Branch meetinghouse, the Birmingham Alabama Temple was announced Sept. 11, 1998. The temple district includes approximately 30,500 members from seven stakes: Bessemer Alabama, Birmingham Alabama, Fort Walton Beach Florida, Huntsville Alabama, Mobile Alabama, Montgomery Alabama and Pensacola Florida.
Elder Stephen A. West of the Seventy and second counselor in the North America Southeast Area presidency, presided at the groundbreaking and offered the site dedicatory prayer. Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy offered remarks. They were accompanied by their wives, Sister Martha West and Sister Patricia Wickman. Pres. W. Legrand Hutchison of the Bessemer stake, Valeria M. Mitchell of the Huntsville stake, and Olson F. Scroggins of the Birmingham stake also spoke, recounting historical events from the area.
Elder Wickman, said he felt "a special spirit of history, rich in the air" at the ceremony.
"There is more being dedicated here today than ground," he said. "The dedication of you in being here is evident. But through the priesthood of God, a dedication will be pronounced that will have an effect in the lives of all who reside within this temple district."
Before offering the site dedicatory prayer, Elder West expressed appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the groundbreaking service.
"When we drove in about an hour before this meeting was to start, we saw already hundreds of people here, umbrellas up," he said. "And my wife and I started to cry. We were touched by your faith."
Elder West told the congregation that life takes sacrifice. "You are sacrificing here as you come today, as you sit in the rain. And it will take sacrifice to come to the temple. It will take commitment and it will take belief. It will require of each of us that we live worthy of having a temple recommend. . . . Yet it really is not a sacrifice, it really is a blessing."
The temple, he concluded, is a gift. "A gift is of no value if it is not unwrapped," he explained. "We need to unwrap it by coming to the temple, by using the temple, by getting the blessings that flow from it."
At the conclusion of the program, Elder West and Elder Wickman, along with the seven stake presidents in the temple district and Pres. Perry Webb of the Alabama Birmingham Mission, participated in the temple groundbreaking using gold-painted shovels.
Afterward a group of pioneer members, who had lived in the area for more than 60 years, and children were invited to participate.