Fifty-three newly called temple presidents and their wives gathered Oct. 19-21 in Salt Lake City for the annual new temple presidents seminar.
Such seminars are held annually to help prepare temple presidents and their wives (the temple matrons) for their new callings. Yet this year was historic. More temple presidents and matrons than ever before participated a reflection of the recent proliferation of temples throughout the world.
Much of the seminar was held in the Salt Lake Temple and included instruction and counsel from the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve. "This was a time when we could speak about sacred things, those things that matter most," said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department.
"This is a historic gathering," he continued, "the largest number of temple presidents and matrons ever called each president and matron called personally by President Hinckley."
He spoke of the unifying effect of bringing presidents from around the world together to emphasize the purity of the ordinances and to see that they are performed precisely the same in every temple, despite language or culture differences.
Additionally, the focus of this seminar has been on how to help temple patrons feel the spirit of the Lord and to awaken their responsibility to help all of Heavenly Father's children have the possibility of receiving temple blessings, Elder Rasband said.
Elder Rasband described how the presidents and their wives attended the second day of the conference, "walking above ground." The day prior, he said, began with expressions of love from President Gordon B. Hinckley, and after a day of training and hearing from members of the Quorum of the Twelve, ended with a concert by the Tabernacle Choir.
He quoted one president who said, "I don't know that I've ever spent a better day in my life."
The seminar, said Paul E. Koelliker, managing director of the Church Temple Department, "is very spiritually driven; there are a lot of feelings of heaven."
Brother Koelliker can remember just a few years ago when 14 or 15 couples would participate in the new temple presidents seminar. Remember, before 1998 there were only 51 temples in operation. Today there are 119 temples, each presided over by a temple president.
The 2004 seminar also demonstrated the diverse professional and national backgrounds of temple presidents serving in dedicated edifices throughout the globe. A few of the new temple presidents have served as General Authorities. Almost all bring to their respective temple assignments a rich background of priesthood leadership, Brother Koelliker said.
Most of the temple presidents will begin their new callings Nov. 1.
During the seminar, the temple presidents and matrons were reminded of the eternal importance of temple work.
"These are brothers and sisters who are dedicating a lot of time to the work of releasing individuals from spirit prison," Brother Koelliker said.