SAN ANTONIO, Texas Drive north on Stone Oak Parkway in northern San Antonio and you'll pass the familiar trappings of American suburbia stop lights, fast food spots, mini-marts and dental offices. Then, to the right, a building of granite and glass seems to suddenly appear on a prominent hill, hovering geographically and symbolically above life's stop-and-go noise and congestion below.
The San Antonio Texas Temple.
Thousands congregated May 22 inside the recently built edifice and in meetinghouses throughout south Texas to participate in the dedication of the Lone Star State's fourth temple. President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over each of the four dedicatory sessions. He was joined by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Charles Didier of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy.
"I would think that the heavens are smiling on Texas today," said Elder Ballard.
Encased in an exterior of granite, the 16,800-square-foot temple drew some 65,000 people during the open house period. Visitors marveled at the temple's majestic location and warm interior featuring art glass in every window, placid water features and landscape art that captures the rugged beauty of south Texas.
But for LDS San Antonians, the new temple transcends aesthetics.
When the First Presidency announced plans to build a temple in San Antonio in 2001 "we were doing flips," said 79-year-old Herbert Eyring Turley, who has lived in the San Antonio area since 1927. "We always had hopes a temple would be built here, but we never thought it would come."
"This is one of the greatest events that has ever happened to San Antonio," said Mike Majorka of the Boerne 2nd Ward, San Antonio North Stake. Opening a new temple, he added, marks "a great responsibility we're going to love doing the work. We're going to love the job of maintaining the temple."
During a news interview, Elder Ballard said the Church's 120th operating temple should fan the flames of local missionary work.
"We would hope that in San Antonio every member of the Church will be infused with the desire to tell people of the Restoration and explain the fact that there was a prophet of God here that dedicated this building."
It's no accident the San Antonio Texas Temple was built on a point visible from 30 miles away, Elder Didier said. Temples are often built in elevated locales that prompt elevated thoughts.
"This will be a landmark for San Antonio," Elder Didier said. "People will recognize we have again a temple of the Lord because of the restoration of the gospel."
San Antonio Texas Temple President Ray Otte spoke of the Church's efforts to "raise the bar" for missionary service. A bar of spirituality, he said, is also being raised for folks living inside the new temple district's boundaries. "People here have said, 'If we only had a temple.' Now we do."
Long before the temple was dedicated, San Antonio-area members began answering the call to support the new edifice. Instead of circulating a temple open house brochure in the local newspaper, members were asked to hand deliver the 16-page circular to their friends and neighbors.
"We gave members a chance to participate in the opening of this temple," said President Otte, a longtime San Antonio resident.
Members assumed myriad roles in supporting the open house and dedication efforts. Thousands would attend one of the four dedicatory sessions inside the new temple. Despite the crowds, the lines in and out of the temple before and after each session flowed smoothly thanks to a well organized transportation system. Members parked their cars at a nearby high school and then shuttled to the temple in chartered buses. When they walked out of the temple at the conclusion of a session, the buses were waiting to hustle them back to the high school.
Such efficiency was made possible by scores of members such as Ben Johnson, a relative newcomer to the area. Over the past several weeks Brother Johnson has donned a florescent vest and assisted with the parking committee, helped open house guests slip on their shoe covers and even hosted tours inside the temple.
"Every chance and opportunity I have had to serve at the temple has been a privilege," said Brother Johnson of the High Country Ward, San Antonio East stake.
On the morning of the dedication, Nefi Trevino and his young family sat outside the new temple, admiring its exterior. He and other members from his branch in the San Antonio West Stake worked together to wash bricks used in the temple construction.
"Now it's a branch goal for each person to bring 10 names to the temple," said Brother Trevino, a transplant from Piedras Negras, Mexico.
One need not live inside San Antonio's municipal boundaries to claim a measure of ownership of the new temple. Wayne Schoenleber of Hewitt, a community outside of Waco, is like hundreds of other LDS Texans living outside San Antonio who share the thrill of the new temple. Like many others from cities such as Austin, Corpus Christi or Laredo, Brother Schoenleber did his part to make the opening of the temple a success, singing with the cornerstone choir.
"I just hope I was equal to the responsibility," said Brother Schoenleber, a Church convert.
Brother Majorka remains a bit awestruck whenever he sees Texas' newest temple resting majestically atop its hill.
"I love the fact that the temple is here and it's ours. It's part of San Antonio. Always will be."
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