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Swiss Temple: Dedication a bold act of faith

Edifice became a step toward becoming international Church

ZOLLIKOFEN, Switzerland — Local Church leaders and three members of the Seventy assembled Sept. 10 near the Swiss temple in quiet services to remember how the dedication of the temple 50 years ago was a bold act of faith that proved to be among the first steps in the Church becoming international.

Today, there are more temples in Europe than existed in the whole of the Church in 1955 when the Swiss Temple was dedicated, said Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy and president of the Europe Central Area who presided over the afternoon conference.

To commemorate the 50-year anniversary of what is now the Bern Switzerland Temple, the first dedicated outside of North America and Hawaii, a statue of the Angel Moroni was placed atop the steeple earlier in the week on Sept. 7.

Three days later, Elder Hafen, accompanied by Elder Paul Koelliker and Elder Wolfgang Paul of the Seventy, joined ecclesiastical leaders in a conference in a stake center near the temple.

"Leading up to the dedication here in 1955," said Elder Hafen, "the Lord's hand directed every step in building His kingdom in Europe." He related how Elder Lorenzo Snow was sent in 1850 by "revelation of the Lord" to bring the gospel to Italy.

Elder Snow started in the Piedmont Valley near the Italian Alps, teaching the Waldensian people, who, in the 13th century — 300 years before the Reformation led by Luther and Calvin — left the Catholic Church and fled to these mountains to avoid persecution.

Elder Snow named one mountain peak "Mt. Brigham," after President Brigham Young. Here Elder Snow began missionary work in Switzerland in 1851.

After recounting how his Swiss ancestor, John G. Hafen, joined the Church and immigrated to Utah in 1861, Elder Hafen told of President Joseph F. Smith, who, as president of the Church in 1906, "stood here in Bern and prophesied that one day temples would be built all over the earth. On the day he said this, the Church had four temples, all in Utah," said Elder Hafen.

Forty-nine years later, on Sept. 11, 1955, President David O. McKay quoted this prophecy in the first dedicatory session of the Swiss temple, Europe's first temple.

Elder Hafen recounted how, in 1953, a young staff member in the Missionary Department named Gordon B. Hinckley was called into the office of President McKay and given the difficult assignment of devising a way to present the temple ordinances in eight languages.

After weeks of studying the temple ordinances, pleading with the Lord and counseling with President McKay in the Salt Lake Temple, Brother Hinckley proposed presenting the endowment ordinances in movie form. When the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve approved the idea, the fifth floor of the Salt Lake Temple was organized into a sacred movie set where filming took place.

"It was an enormous undertaking that required pioneer-like faith through every step of the filmmaking," said Elder Hafen. In one year they finished the English-language film, then made films for each of the seven other European languages.

Moving the film of the sacred ordinances through Swiss customs without receiving the typical scrutiny and review by custom agents required faith and prayer.

"President Hinckley's 'hands-on' involvement with the European Saints in this temple was as spiritually fulfilling as any experience he had had by 1955," said Elder Hafen.

"In the last 50 years, the Church has become truly international," Elder Hafen said.

In his comments, Elder Koelliker noted how there are now 13 temples constructed or announced within the boundaries of the 1955 Swiss Temple District. He quoted Doctrine and Covenants 127:4 and emphasized the Lord's command to "redouble" efforts toward the temple.

"Some might view redoubling as a way of doing two times as much as previously done," he said. "Redoubling sounds to me like doing much more than just doubling."

He then urged members to increase their commitment toward the temple to more fully use the capacity of the temples.

Elder Paul recounted an experience from his youth that influenced his desire to be sealed in the temple.

"I remember very well the day when my father returned from Switzerland, after he attended the dedication of the temple in 1955," he said. "I was 15 years old at that time. Our family noticed that when he came back, he was somehow different. We could see his testimony of the restored gospel had become stronger. As he told our family about the wonderful spiritual experiences he had at the dedicatory session and described his feelings when President David O. McKay, the Prophet of God, shook his hand, we listened attentively and wished that we could have been with him. Just listening to his words brought the Spirit close to us. This experience had a long lasting impact upon me and I decided that one day I also would go to the temple."

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