LUBBOCK, Texas Rising over the south plains in west Texas, the Lubbock Texas Temple is central to a vast circle of cities and towns in this state and eastern New Mexico, and the members in that circle will now flow here for temple service. Many of those faithful members attended as President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated their new temple in four sessions on Sunday, April 21.
Joining President Hinckley here were his wife, Marjorie, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Elisa, and North America Southwest Area president Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy and his wife, Caroline.
Lubbock, a city of 200,000 notable for cotton farming and education, has become "The Hub" of the area. It began to take root around 1890, with the first Church members migrating here about 35 years later. Other cities have grown around various industries such as livestock in Amarillo to the north and oil around Midland and Odessa to the south. Stakes in those cities, as well as in Abilene and Roswell, N.M., form the rim of the circle.
Previously, those stakes were enclosed in a circle formed by temples in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Albuquerque, N.M.; Dallas, Texas; and Oklahoma City, Okla.
While the centrally located temple in a Lubbock residential area has reduced the travel time for most in the district (for example, the Dave and Linn Walker family now has a walk less than a block), many are still subject to the broad, flat expanse of the western part of the nation's second-largest state.
But the sentiment regularly expressed on the day of dedication was of gratitude and enthusiasm to continue flowing to it for temple blessings. Mary Lynn Pack of the Hobbs Ward, Roswell New Mexico Stake, noted that the two-hour trip to Lubbock from their community just over the border is much more pleasant than the five-hour-plus excursion to the Albuquerque temple.
"We will be happy to keep this temple busy," she said.
For Joe Whitehorn and his family in the Abilene 1st Ward, Abilene Texas Stake, Lubbock isn't a lot closer than Dallas in miles, but is far better than "fighting the traffic in Dallas," he said.
Lubbock has many big-city benefits in a small-community atmosphere. Traffic isn't heavy and, as Lubbock Texas Stake President Lorum H. Stratton said, "I can get anywhere in the city in 15 minutes." The city is tucked inside a loop highway and is insulated from the outside world by hundreds of square miles of wide-open farmland. Yet it is home to an outstanding university, Texas Tech; has an international airport and is culturally astute enough to be North America's only host of the "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" exhibition beginning in June.
One of Lubbock's greatest assets, according to President Stratton, a professor of Spanish at Texas Tech, is its people. While the Church is in the minority, the majority of the city's citizens share similar moral values and are openly friendly. He said the community was very receptive of the temple and responded positively to the open house. One woman who was on a tour he conducted is a teacher of a comparative religions class in her church. President Stratton said that at the end of her tour, she told him she had been teaching false things about the Church and would never do it again.
More than 21,500 people toured the temple the Church's 109th and the third in Texas as "it became the 'in thing' to do," he said noting that many called the temple "a blessing to our community."
Jimmy Alldredge of the Sweetwater Branch, Abilene Texas Stake, said that while he was working at the open house he saw a woman come out of a tour, drive away, then return a short time later with a car full of friends.
Lubbock, a city where religion is of great importance, has been a fertile ground for the growth of the Church.
Helen Green, 90, is the oldest living member of the first branch Sunday School started in Lubbock. She made the journey with other family members from her home in Orem, Utah, to attend the dedication. Musing outside the temple before her dedicatory session, she recalled the days when the branch Sunday School was held in a courtroom with west Texas Church pioneer and Texas Tech professor J.O. Ellsworth presiding from the judge's bench, the speakers giving their talks on the witness stand and the rest of the congregation often fitting comfortably in the jury box.
Thinking back to the beginnings, she said, "When I heard there was going to be a temple here, I knew I had to go to the dedication. It's just beyond me."
Attending with her was her brother, Harry Oleen Jones, who, when called to serve in the Southern States Mission, became the first full-time missionary called from Lubbock, according to a history written by Lubbock temple matron Alice Jensen. Now 84, Brother Jones lives in Lemesa, Texas.
Erin Williams, a Laurel in the College Station Texas Stake, said her dad, a member of the stake presidency, brought the family back because when he lived here he had to drive long distances to go to the temple, "so he wanted to see the temple dedicated in his home town."
The dedication led to a surprise and joyous reunion for two couples who are some of west Texas' many transplants. A few years ago, Glenn and Heather Ellis and Jared and Deeann Schultz were acquainted through school and other activities in Greeley, Colo. Brother Schultz is now on the faculty at Texas Tech and he and his wife live a short distance from the temple. Brother Ellis works in pharmaceuticals and he and his wife live in Abilene on the far edge of the temple district. As the two couples approached the line outside the stake center adjacent to the temple, holding tickets to the same session, they came face to face and were able to spend the long wait catching up on each other's lives.
John Bell, an oil man from Kermit, Texas, and his wife, Sylvia, said they were grateful their family could attend the dedication, no matter how far they had to drive.
And the spirit and emotion of the day were summed up by Holley Bustos after she sang in the last session's choir. She said participating in the dedication was as close as she has ever felt to angels.
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