HELSINKI, Finland Looking robust and particularly joyful, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Helsinki Finland Temple in four sessions on Sunday, Oct. 22.
Encompassing 12 time zones and straddling two European areas of the Church, the Helsinki temple has the largest district of any of the Church's 124 temples that are functioning. Proceedings of the dedicatory sessions were translated into the languages of five nations in the temple district: Finnish, Russian, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian.
Participating with President Hinckley in the dedicatory events were Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Bruce C. Hafen, president of the Europe Central Area; Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy, who was released Oct. 17 as president of the Europe East Area; Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy, president of the Europe East Area; and Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the Seventy.
Nineteen former mission presidents and their wives attended the dedication, as did Keith Nyborg, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland and Church member.
Some 1,000 members viewed the dedication's proceedings in the temple and another 15,000 members scattered throughout the district participated via satellite broadcasts. In total, 62 sites around the world received the satellite transmission of dedicatory sessions, including 44 in Russia and still others in the Baltic states, and in Armenia. Other sites included five in Salt Lake City.
President Hinckley began the daylong services by sealing the symbolic cornerstone. Several days of near steady rainfall and crispy temperatures gave way to moments of sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures shortly before President Hinckley emerged from the temple to place mortar to seal the stone into place.
Ten-year-old Josefine Haikkola, along with her younger sister, Frederika, attended proceedings dressed in the colorful attire of traditional Finnish clothing. Their grandmothers originally wore the dresses as children. President Hinckley invited them, and also 7-year-old Kiri Wrangell of the Mikkeli Branch in the Helsinki Finland Stake, to participate in the ceremony. Kiri was two months shy of being old enough to attend the dedicatory session and was sad that morning because he couldn't attend with his family; being invited to stand next to President Hinckley brightened his day. His parents, Anu and Harri, watching the cornerstone ceremony from inside the temple where they had seats for the first session, were surprised to see on a television monitor President Hinckley select Kiri to apply mortar.
Members throughout the vast expanse of the Helsinki Finland Temple district sense their unique place in sacred Church history and fully expect the calming and unifying influence of the newly dedicated temple to influence the Eastern bloc countries of Russia and the Baltics with lasting positive impact, and usher in a new day of Church growth.
It was from Finland that the first missionaries crossed the Russian border in the early 1990s to begin preaching the gospel. Now a decade and a half later, a temple on the threshold to the eastern countries will make the blessings of the House of the Lord more accessible to many.
"We pray for this great nation of Finland," President Hinckley petitioned in the prayer to dedicate the temple. "May it ever be respected and honored among the nations of the earth. Bless its neighbor nations of Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, from which Saints will come to serve in this temple. May they have no difficulty in crossing the borders into this land when they come to work in this, Thy holy house."
Among those attending in the temple were several hundred from Russia. Their eagerness to enter the temple was obvious in the way they packed tightly near the stately granite entrance. They stood quietly, with little motion or conversation, not wanting to detract from the sacred experience they anticipated. Their faces exuded a feeling of joy and reverence for what they were about to witness.
Among them was 28-year-old Vladimir Zhidkov from Volgograd. He joined the Church in 2003 and is the only member in his family. He said he recently lost his job, but would not seek new employment until after the dedication, fearing that a new employer would deny him the privilege of experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime event.
President Erki Koiv felt that the 800 members of the single district in Estonia would gain an expanded vision of the purposes of the gospel and a mightier sense of their place in the worldwide Church by viewing the proceedings.
The Helsinki temple is located in a thickly wooded area about 25 miles west of Helsinki in Espoo, a modern, pristine-clean city that is appealing to the young, technologically minded families of Finland. The temple is founded on solid rock atop a gentle rise, the steeple towering above the surrounding pine and birch trees.
Finns have a reputation as a people of honesty with high personal integrity, said President Phillip Estes of the Finland Helsinki Mission. They are friendly and accommodating. He told how a zone leader and his companion unknowingly left the keys of their mission car in the ignition for four days while they were out of the city. They returned to find the car untouched, said President Estes. "That's the way they are.
"Yet, Finns are uncomfortable speaking of organized religion and are often repulsed by a religious conversation," he said. "But they are a spiritual people, and when they are able to see the gospel for what it is, they will join in great numbers. The temple is helping them understand."
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