As darkened clouds and sprinkles of rain filled the landscape, the groundbreaking for the Columbia River Washington Temple was held Oct. 28th.
The temple will be similar to the Spokane Washington Temple, but with slight modifications. It will be approximately 16,000 square feet and have a granite exterior.
Elder Stephen A. West of the Seventy presided over the ground breaking, with Elder Lowell Barber, Area Authority Seventy, directing the preliminary service held in the stake center.
Though ominous clouds continued in the east, the clouds around the temple excavation area parted as Church leaders and dignitaries dug shovels into sacred soil.
Elder West, who works with the North America Northwest Area Presidency, said "Our homes are where we become prepared to go to the temple. Carved over the temple door is the phrase, 'The House of the Lord.' Our houses should be homes where the Lord could be comfortable to visit. In the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple it was said . . . 'establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.' May that be said of our homes as well."
In presiding over this temple project, Elder West is returning to the days of his youth, when he served as a traveling missionary for all the Northwestern States Mission, an area much larger than it is today, and did missionary work in this area.
The groundbreaking services were described as a "miracle" by Elder Barber who said that "normally preparations for the groundbreaking take several weeks. We had only seven or eight days to prepare after the official announcement of the temple's location was given."
The temple will have tremendous significance especially to those of the second and third generations of Latter-day Saints who "immigrated" to Richland from Utah during the build-up of the Hanford site to a population of 51,000 during World War II. Many of these former Utah residents are still here, and will now finally be blessed with a temple in this area.
A repeated theme during the groundbreaking proceedings was the importance of preparing to attend the Columbia River Washington Temple upon its completion.
Elder Barber quoted from a letter written by the First Presidency to Church members in 1893, counseling them how to prepare for temple worship:
"Before entering into the temple to present ourselves before the Lord in solemn assembly, we shall divest ourselves of every harsh and unkind feeling against each other, . . . that we shall confess our sins one to another, and ask for forgiveness one of another; that we shall plead with the Lord for the spirit of repentance, and having obtained it, follow its promptings. . ."
Immediately following the groundbreaking ceremony, Fred Mahaffey, a subcontractor, began digging the first hole with a backhoe at the site of the future baptismal font. A new era in the Columbia Basin had begun.