RICHLAND, WASH. Disbelief and outbursts of joy filled stake centers throughout the Columbia Basin in Washington when President Gordon B. Hinckley announced on April 2, 2000, that the third temple in the state would be built "somewhere in the Tri-Cities."
Now, just 18 months later, the doors of the Columbia River Washington Temple here, the 107th temple, are open for public tours from Saturday, Oct. 27, through Saturday, Nov. 10. No tours will be offered Sunday, Oct. 28, and Sunday, Nov. 4.
On the first day of the open house, a gentle rain fell in the late afternoon and evening, serving as a reminder of God's blessings to a drought-affected area which will now have a temple.
During the temple construction, thousands of people came to the temple site from all areas of the more than 34,000-Church-member temple district including Wenatchee, Selah, Ephrata, Walla Walla, Yakima, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Moses Lake and Othello, Wash., and a stake in Hermiston, Ore.
One construction worker on the temple said, "I've worked in this profession for many years, but I have never worked on a site where so many people come and take pictures of a building before it's completed."
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Seventy and president of the North America Northwest Area and Elder Lowell Barber, an Area Authority Seventy, led hundreds of temple contractors, construction workers and their families, nearby neighbors, members of clergy and education, civic and government leaders, media representatives, and family history enthusiasts on special tours before the public open house began.
More than 300 construction workers received a personal copy of the Book of Mormon, signed by the temple's general contractor, and the project manager.
In leading one of the two media tours, Elder Cook paused an extra long time in the celestial room, feeling that there were those in that group who "wanted to linger longer and experience the feeling of peace that was there."
Elder Barber said about his tours that "those who have visited here have felt great peace, which they have been able to identify as being centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not one person left the temple with a negative impression."
A highlight of the media executives tour occurred when Kennewick Washington Stake President David Stapleton, coordinator for the open house and dedication, presented the publisher of the local newspaper, Cheryl Dell, with pedigree charts of 14 generations of her ancestors. She promised that she would show this record to other family members who were very interested in family history.
Comments from the community have been extremely favorable. One visitor to the temple said, "We received an invitation to come to the temple, which was amazing, because we wanted to come here anyway. When the car pulled up in our driveway, we weren't expecting anyone, and no one knew we wanted to have a tour. It felt like someone had shown a light at our house to lead the way."
A woman from the state legislature said, "I'm going back to Olympia and tell those that I work with, and everyone in my church congregation that they must come and see this temple for themselves. It is stunning."
Another visitor said, "We enjoyed the tour and the hospitality. It was breathtaking to see the architecture and landscaping. It is enjoyable to experience the spiritual culture that binds the congregation and family together."
An administrative assistant at one of the local high schools received two dozen personal invitations from Church members to attend the open house. Even though he had been invited to a special temple tour for educators, he chose to go to the open house at a later time "to be with his Latter-day Saint friends."
With the assistance of a Church member knowledgeable about the publishing business, a 16-page color glossy newspaper insert was developed to help announce the open house. Copies were distributed through six newspapers in eastern Washington and northeast Oregon to approximately 50,000 homes and businesses throughout the temple district. The insert explained many of the teachings of the Church and its historical development in Washington State. One of the full-time missionaries attending the open house said that the insert "will serve as a significant missionary tool for years to come."
The perfected building construction, shimmering granite exterior and fountain, and the unique temple interior with its abundance of cherry wood, soaring art-glass windows from Germany, hand-painted murals, crystals for the chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, and hand-tufted rug from Thailand, are all appropriate reminders that this is the House of the Lord.
The new temple president, Allan D. Alder, summarized the feelings of so many members when he said, "I still can't believe we have a temple here. I always knew it would happen, but I never expected to see it occur in my lifetime."