Rise of sacred edifice reflects rebuilt lives
All involved relate rekindled faith, renewed testimony

CENTRAL POINT, ORE. -- The new Medford Oregon Temple, the Church's 79th operating temple and the second in Oregon, reflects the rebuilding of the lives and testimonies of those involved with its construction and operation -- from the contractor laying concrete to the usher placing white shoe coverings on a visitor's shoes.

And with its dedication April 16, 2000, by President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, the Medford Oregon Temple will continue to change lives as it serves more than 28,600 members living in Oregon and northern California.Just after daylight broke through clouds on this crisp spring morning, President Faust, accompanied by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy, placed the first mortar on the cornerstone. He then invited Elders Maxwell and Hammond to place some mortar, along with members of the temple presidency and several children. (Accompanying their husbands were Ruth Faust, Colleen Maxwell and Bonnie Hammond.) Also present was Elder Michael Robinson, an Area Authority Seventy. Adding to the moment was a choir of 60 youth from throughout the temple district, directed by Gaylene Adamson and accompanied by Marcia Miller.

Then, waving to those gathered near the cornerstone, President Faust walked back inside the temple to preside over the first of four dedicatory sessions. Overall, more than 8,000 attended the four sessions, sitting within the temple or in the adjacent Central Point Oregon Stake center.

Having two temples in Oregon is significant in a state where early Mormons once worked as loggers and, later, as sugar beet farmers. The first stake, the Union Stake, was organized 99 years ago, with the five original wards increasing to 12 within two years. Industrial work during World War I and World War II brought a further Mormon migration to the northwest, and, finally, a temple was dedicated in Portland, Ore., in 1989. Today, tens of thousands of members appear in all walks of life and in communities spread across the state.

This was never more apparent than during the construction phase and subsequent open house and dedication of the Medford temple. Nearly 46,000 attended the open house March 24-31, 16,000 more than expected. This was preceded March 22 with a special tour for the contractors who worked on the temple and for neighbors; nearly 500 attended. The next day, almost 400 special guests attended the tour. Just two weeks before, local Church leaders published more than 250,000 copies of a 16-page newspaper insert that was distributed throughout southern Oregon and northern California. The insert announced the open house and explained basic Church beliefs.

Then, on Sunday, April 16, members began arriving at dawn for the dedication. "The whole experience has just been a tremendous faith builder for all those who have been involved," Central Point Stake President Edward E. Hanson, who also served as temple committee coordinator, told the Church News. "There were so many spiritual experiences that were shared with me by different individuals. We had many faiths, and some who may not have a faith, who definitely felt the Spirit at the open house.

"One of the special things about this temple," President Hanson continued, "is that the general contractor and the job superintendent were both active members of the Church. They, along with the construction missionaries, would start each day with prayer. That truly added a great deal to this experience -- that calling on the Spirit to be present during the whole construction phase. It was mentioned by various individuals, 'We are not only building a temple, but we're also building people.' "

President Hanson also expressed gratitude for the faithfulness of the temple committee members. "They understand their assignments and were devoted to making sure everything came off right. It was beyond anything I expected."

Continuing, he said the temple was a "miracle for the people in this area. There was a member's sister who went through the open house with her [non-LDS] husband, and while returning home from the open house, he agreed to baptism. He's been attending and investigating the Church for a few months, and that seemed to affect him to the point where he is now ready for baptism."

U.S. Sen. Gordon H. Smith, a member of the Church, was asked to speak impromptu during the first session. "It was one of the few times in my life that I've been speechless. I am deeply humbled. We are doubly blessed now in Oregon with two temples to God."

George Wiebe, 90, of the Lakeview Ward, Klamath Falls Oregon Stake, was also feeling the blessings. "The temple is just wonderful!" he exclaimed.

Nine-year-old Brittany Weston, one of the children to place some mortar on the cornerstone, was excited to be a part of the cornerstone ceremony, but added: "The mortar was kind of slippery. The only warm time was when President Faust put his arm around me."

Such tender moments have occurred throughout the construction of this latest of smaller temples. For example, during the construction of the celestial room, Suzy Park of the Gold Hill Ward, Central Point stake, happened to be at the temple. Feeling prompted, she began to sing "Families Are Forever" to the construction workers in that room. "Some of the construction workers had tears in their eyes," she recalled. "The Spirit was very strong."

Another member became known as the "Cinnamon Roll Lady" to workers. Willie DeKorte of the Central Point Ward lives two blocks from the temple site. Three different times she made and delivered fresh cinnamon rolls to the landscapers.

"Out of the 225 people who worked on the temple," said Corey Vitas, the general contractor, "all of them felt the Spirit here at one time or another. The concrete contractor ripped up the curb after the first time and redid it because it 'wasn't perfect.' And he wasn't even a member. That's the spirit all the workers had about the temple. They would say, this is 'our temple.' "

That is most likely the way many -- LDS and non-LDS alike -- feel about the new Medford Oregon Temple.

You can reach Julie Dockstader by e-mail at [email protected]

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