Life has not been the same in the Gulf regions since Hurricane Katrina blasted through on Aug. 29, 2005, and was followed in little less than a month by Hurricane Rita on Sept. 24. The devastation wreaked by those sister storms impacted much of the coast between Beaumont, Texas, and Mobile, Ala. Located in an area between the brunt of both storms, the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple was also affected, though not physically.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, the temple closed its doors for a few weeks in September, and when it re-opened, attendance was understandably sparse at first.
"We operated on a very slim basis," said temple President V. Kenneth Dutile. "Everything was short both workers and patrons." He said those workers who were there including the temple presidency pitched in and made sure everything went all right. "We had to do whatever we had to do to keep it going."
He remembered one session at the by-appointment temple with only three people. They weren't turned away.
He said that some of the patrons who came in the weeks following had lost their temple clothing to the storm. "We have a small amount of clothing here, and we patched them together."
Over the following weeks, the patrons needed to borrow less and less until most had replaced their temple clothing.
Attendance remains impacted because of the severe reduction of members in stakes in New Orleans, La., and Gulfport, Miss., said President Dutile.
As the new year started, however, the importance of the work prevailed, members began to return to the temple and sessions began filling up again. "In the last few weeks, we have had to put some patrons on standby because we had too many," said President Dutile.
One thing they came to appreciate during it all, however, is that regardless of how many people are in a session, the spirit in the temple and the importance of the work going forward remains the same. John L. Hart