LOS ANGELES President Gordon B. Hinckley surprised hundreds of Church members by attending the rededication of one of the most unique meetinghouses in the Church, the newly restored Los Angeles California Stake Center, on Sunday, June 8.
He was accompanied by his wife, Sister Marjorie Hinckley, and Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Jan Robbins.
"Ground was broken for this building when I was 17 years of age," President Hinckley said. "It was a tremendous case of consecration, a tremendous effort. When President [Heber J.] Grant came down to see it he could hardly believe what he saw."
The building was originally dedicated in 1929 by President Grant. At the time it was the most expensive building the Church had undertaken, aside from its temples.
The rededication was the final event in a weekend of celebration that included a concert of organ pieces and selections from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons"; a period dance; a performance by the Southern California Korean Latter-day Saint Choir and tours for dignitaries and visitors.
Guests included former stake presidents Howard Anderson, Rodney H. Brady and Elder John K. Carmack, emeritus General Authority.
President Hinckley noted that the building was originally paid for largely by local members and was intended to make an impression on the growing city.
"It was built well because of a desire of those who constructed it to be something appropriate to the area," he said. "How grateful we are that it has been preserved all these years."
President Hinckley said six months after the dedication, the Great Depression gripped the country. "People flocked to California from Utah, Idaho, Arizona," he said. The local leaders sent messages telling people not to come, that they would not find employment. But they came, nevertheless, to this land of sunshine and warm winters. The Church grew in a magnificent way until it has reached its present stature in this great state of California."
He noted that large numbers of Hispanics, Asians and other ethnic strains are part of the growth. "But all in the Church are Latter-day Saints. The gospel reaches out to them and blesses their lives as it does the lives of all who embrace it."
Church members generally are good people, he said, "but we are not good enough. With all that we have we ought to be much better."
He admonished: "Let this day of rededication be a time of rededication for each of us. Just as this building has been brought up to a higher standard and has been made clean and more beautiful in every respect, so let a cleansing and beautification take place in our lives. . . . This structure has been brought up to seismic standards. It should stand against the trembling of the earth. So let us stand when the world pushes against us with its tawdry beckoning siren call. Let us be Latter-day Saints in the full meaning of the term."
The stake center, listed as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, is as unique among Los Angeles churches today as it was when it was built more than 70 years ago. Its unusual style art deco with distinctive Spanish themes was purposely designed by Church architect Harold W. Burton to no specific architectural design so as to avoid dating the building. Brother Burton had also designed the Alberta, Hawaii and Oakland temples.
The interior is unusually ornate for a Latter-day Saint chapel. The stained-glass windows along its north side include Christian emblems such as a dove and chalice as well as images important to Latter-day Saints, such as the beehive, representing industry.
Above the choir seats is a stained-glass representation of "Christ as the Light of the World" from the Victorian painting of the same name by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). The chapel has its original chandeliers, solid mahogany pews, hand-stenciled walls and timbers and an 18-rank Austin pipe organ.
Because the building is a cultural and historic landmark, conventional methods for the renovation were not feasible.
"The biggest challenge was the seismic upgrade," said building facilities manager Garn Wallace. "We had to preserve the exterior and not significantly alter the interior, while still making it safer and usable."
The problem was overcome by installing Los Angeles' first helical anchor system, wherein the building is secured to rods sunk deep under the foundation.
Stake President Michael J. Fairclough said he hoped that at this time of rededication members would rededicate themselves in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"This building represents the basic message of the Church: that we are all children of a loving God," he said. "By its design and its size, this building calls upon members and others to aspire to high and noble purposes."