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Regina prairie, now a place of fulfilled dreams

REGINA, Saskatchewan — The Church's 65th temple was dedicated Nov. 14 at what some members describe as a "forgotten place on the Canadian prairie."

Forgotten no more, this spot on the prairie now is a place of fulfilled dreams; dreams that became reality with the dedication of the Regina Saskatchewan Temple.

President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, presided over the temple's three dedicatory sessions, which were attended by 2,020 members.

President Packer officiated at the dedication in Regina while President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over the dedication of the Halifax Nova Scotia Temple.

Plans called for the dedication of the Regina temple to follow one day after the dedication of the Halifax temple. But plans were abruptly altered Nov. 12 when technicians were unable to repair mechanical difficulties with the airplane that was to carry President Hinckley to Nova Scotia, causing a one-day postponement of the dedication in Halifax. Out of consideration for the travel demands placed upon members attending the dedications, it was decided to hold both on the same day.

President Packer was assisted in the Regina Saskatchewan Temple's dedicatory events by Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy, second counselor in the North America Central Area Presidency; Elder Blair S. Bennett, Area Authority Seventy, of Edmonton, Alberta; Pres. R. Dean Layton, Canada Winnipeg Mission; and Regina Saskatchewan Temple Pres. Lorin J. Mendenhall.

In just above freezing weather, a biting cold wind and under heavy gray skies, a 30-voice choir, under the direction of Judy Bowers of the Saskatoon 2nd Ward, gathered to practice a few moments prior to the cornerstone ceremony outside.

"This isn't cold," said some passersby on their way inside the temple, seemingly implying that there are colder days ahead in Saskatchewan winters. The cold seemed to strengthen the singers' melodious rendition of "Let the Mountains Shout for Joy," and "How Great Thou Art" as they sang with fervor and energy.

Before President Packer applied mortar to the cornerstone, he warmly greeted a shivering, yet smiling, audience of a few hundred members who looked on. "None of us are masons," he explained. "This is like repentance. You know about repentance. It has to be done over right." He applied mortar to the cornerstone, then gave the tools to Elder Staheli and Elder Bennett, saying of the latter, a dentist, "It's just like filling a tooth."

Donna McKay, wife of Prince Albert (Saskatchewan) Branch Pres. Duane McKay, commented on the relatively mild weather for this time of year in this part of Canada: "They've been predicting storms for two weeks. You know the Lord's hand is in this. November is well-known for freezing rain. We've been very fortunate in traveling to get here."

Prince Albert is a four-hour drive to Regina. Many other families drove hundreds of miles for the event.

The temple district includes the Province of Saskatchewan, a 252,000-square mile area in central Canada that has a population of 1 million, of whom some 4,500 are members of the Church. Members from other nearby provinces also attended the dedication.

"It's nice. I could stay there [in the temple] all day," said Margaret Johnson of Flin Flon Branch, Saskatoon Manitoba Stake, who will turn 89 on Christmas Day. She rode with members for seven hours to the dedication and couldn't seem to stop smiling as she was assisted to the vehicle that would take her home.

Ian Stewart of Weyburn Branch, Saskatoon Manitoba Stake, mentioned that he and his family moved two years ago to Saskatchewan from Wales in the British Isles, where — before the Preston England Temple was dedicated in 1998 — they traveled to the London Temple. "It's fabulous. It's only an hour away," he said of the Regina temple. "There's a spirit about the place. It's wonderful."

The week between the open house and dedication, crews worked around the clock to finish the temple exterior and grounds landscaping. Due to delays caused by a truckers' strike, necessary materials did not arrive until a few days before deadlines. (See Church News, Nov. 6, 1999). Granite facing was being set 24-hours a day right up to the night before the dedication.

On Saturday, Nov. 13, at 8 a.m., a combined group of more than 100 missionaries, youth and adult members laid 18,000 square feet of sod, planted trees, and raised the granite sign in front of the temple, said Bishop Terry Hawkes of the Regina 2nd Ward. He added that a Canada Winnipeg Mission tri-zone conference was canceled that Saturday morning so that 60 missionaries could assist in the sod laying.

"The sod is down. The sign is up," said Bishop Hawkes on Saturday evening as he and his wife, Karen, glanced across the Regina Saskatchewan Temple lot before leaving for home just hours before dedication time.

Despite the late finish, the results were impressive.

"It's so majestic," said Dan Morse of Regina 2nd Ward, one of Regina's first converts, as he stood outside the beautiful granite walls. No one, he said, suspected a temple would be built in their city. "Never, never, never," he said. "The whole province has only a million people. At the groundbreaking, I saw some ground turned over, and still couldn't believe it; not until I was in the celestial room when there was plasterboard up when the temple was being constructed could I believe it." Brother Morse served on the local temple committee.

He was in attendance when President Hinckley and President Packer visited Regina in August of 1998. Later, President Packer commented on that visit, saying, "We were greatly impressed with the reverence and dedication of the people."

After the temple dedication President Packer said, "The Spirit of the Lord was present in great abundance."

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