Announced: Aug. 16, 1996
Location: 3100 Rim point Drive, Billings, MT, 59106; phone: (406) 655-0607.
Exterior finish: Wyoming white dolomite precast concrete.
Temple design: Classic modern.
Architects: CTA Architects Engineers.
Project manager: Cory Karl
Contractor: Jacobson Construction Inc.
Rooms: Baptistry, celestial room, two ordinance rooms, three sealing rooms.
Total floor area: 33, 800 square feet.
Dimensions: 183 feet by 212 feet.
District: 13 stakes in Montana and Wyoming.
Groundbreaking, site dedication: March 28, 1998, by Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy and president of the North America Central Area.
Dedication: Nov. 20, 1999, by President Gordon B. Hinckley; 8 sessions.
Done by President Gordon B. Hinckley
Eternal Father in Heaven, Thou Almighty Elohim, in love and faith we bow before Thee on this day of dedication. Our hearts are filled with gratitude. Thou hast smiled with favor upon us. Thou hast multiplied our blessings. Thou hast granted us the gift of life. Thou hast given us knowledge of Thine eternal plan for Thy children. Thou hast blessed us with the everlasting priesthood restored to earth in this dispensation of the fulness of times.
We thank Thee for the Prophet Joseph Smith, Thy servant through whom has come revelation, principles, doctrines, keys and authority.
Acting in that authority, and in the sacred name of Thine Only Begotten, we dedicate unto Thee and unto Him this the Billings Montana Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dear Father, wilt Thou accept it and consecrate and hallow it as Thy Holy House. Let Thy blessings rest upon it. Let Thy protecting care be over it. Soften the hearts of all who in the past have opposed its construction. Bless those who have worked so long and diligently in the face of opposition to obtain the necessary permits and to erect this sacred temple. May a glad acceptance now prevail concerning it, even a sense of gratitude for its presence. We pray that this area, in fact this whole city, may feel the Spirit that emanates from this hallowed structure. May it be looked upon as a house of holiness by all who view it.
We dedicate the grounds on which it stands, together with the structure and all of its furnishings. We dedicate the beautiful baptismal font wherein will be carried forward a great work in behalf of the dead. We dedicate the facilities for the initiatory ordinances, the bestowal of the holy priesthood, the sacred endowment rooms, the beautiful Celestial Room, the sealing rooms with their altars, all designed to carry forward Thy work in behalf of the living and those beyond the veil of death.
Grant that Thy Holy Spirit may abide here at all times, touching the hearts of all who serve herein. We pray for the temple presidency and the matron and her assistants. Grant them strength to carry forward Thy work and bless all who labor with them in consecrated service.
We pray for all who will use this beautiful edifice in the accomplishment of Thine eternal purposes. May they not weary in their sacred service. May they know that they are the means of opening the prison doors beyond the veil, all of which is made possible through the great atoning sacrifice of Thy Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Seal Thine eternal covenants upon Thy people who enter this house. Bind them to the promises they make in solemnity before Thee.
Those of this area who are called to teach the gospel to the world will first come here to be endowed with power from on high. Lead them in their ministry to those who will accept their testimony of the divinity of Thy restored work.
We pray that all who enter Thy House may do so worthily, with clean hands and hearts that are pure before Thee. May "this house . . . be a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of glory and of God, even thy house." (D&C 109:16)
The building of this sacred temple has been made possible by faithful tithe payers throughout the world. Bless them for their devotion to Thy work and Thy cause. Keep Thine ancient promises concerning them and open the windows of heaven in their behalf. Bless Thy people throughout the earth that wherever they be established they may become as a city set upon a hill whose light cannot be hid, even as this temple standing on this eminence may be seen from afar.
Beloved Father, we remember before Thee those called to direct the work of Thy kingdom. Lengthen their days and increase their strength that they shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint, and that the destroying angel shall pass them by.
We express our love for Thee and for Thine Only Begotten Son. May we walk acceptably before Thee at all times. May others, seeing our good works, be constrained to honor Thee and seek after Thee.
Accept of our thanks, dear Father, and grant the blessings for which we pray we humbly ask in the name of our Divine Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
Blessing for saints of Montana, Wyoming
By Greg Hill
At the dedication of the Billings Montana Temple, the magnitude of the gratitude of the members for a temple in their midst matched the splendor of the Big Sky Country that is Montana.
Expressions of thanksgiving were repeated over and over as members exited each of eight dedicatory sessions presided over by President Gordon B. Hinckley on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20-21.
For most members in the temple district, there was gratitude that several hours will be shaved from the travel time to go to the temple. Those in Billings were thankful to have such a beautiful landmark nestled at the base on the prominent, 300-foot-high Rimrock cliffs on the outskirts west of the city.
More than 12,000 members, primarily from Montana and the northern two-thirds of Wyoming, participated in the ceremonies that brought another larger temple into operation among the string of smaller temples scheduled for dedication during the latter part of 1999. It is the Church's 66th temple.
President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, were warmly received by a people who have been unified in their commitment to see the temple built since it was announced in August of 1996. Also accompanying President Hinckley to Billings were his first counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, and his wife, Frances; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Elisa; and Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America Central Area presidency and his wife, Toshiko.
Although the wind was chilling at times during the dedication days, the white temple with a single spire in the center was bathed with sunlight under the big, blue sky.
That was fortunate for the people who stood in line for up to an hour before they were admitted into the temple for their session.
Those people ranged from Samuel Speer of the Missoula (Montana) 2nd Ward who enthusiastically declared he was "almost a deacon" even though he was only 8 years old, to centenarian Rose Griffin Doty of Byron, Wyo., who felt her life was preserved so she could attend the dedication.
Sister Doty, who was born in Burlington, Wyo., about the time Mormon colonists were sent to the Bighorn Basin, had been ill earlier this fall. Her family worried about whether or not she would be healthy enough to attend the dedication, so they arranged a special trip for her to see the nearly-completed temple several weeks ago. "I was so happy to think we finally got a temple," she said after attending the first dedicatory session.
She said she was strengthened to be able to attend the dedication, in part because she wanted to see President Hinckley with whom she had a special experience. After her husband, Joseph Doty, passed away, she went on a mission to the Southern States in the early 1960s and was set apart by President Hinckley. "I have always admired him for his support for me when I was on my mission. I wanted to thank him for a temple and for the prayer he said when he set me apart, which I have always remembered," she said.
The posterity of this Wyoming pioneer now numbers more than 100. One of them, her grandson Randall, gave the invocation at the dedicatory session she attended.
Sister Doty is among the many who have faithfully served at the Idaho Falls Temple in the past who will now make the much shorter trip to Billings to do temple work. For many in Montana and Wyoming, the drive to Idaho Falls took from up to six hours in the summer when they could cut through Yellowstone Park, to eight or more hours in the winter when they had to take a round-about route.
For some in western Montana, the trip to Billings is even further than Idaho Falls. But as Sherri Sangster of the Stevensville (Montana) 2nd Ward said, "That doesn't matter because we live in Montana and this temple is in our state; it is our temple."
Billings, Montana's largest city, is a metropolitan hub and commercial and cultural center for a large part of western Montana and northern Wyoming. That makes it a natural spot for a temple to serve the members from those areas. As the Church was growing stronger in the city, the members there were filled with faith. "We have believed for the last 25 years that we would have a temple here," said Maurice Asay who with his wife, Maude, will be an ordinance worker in the temple. When they moved to Billings in 1953, there were only 35 members in one branch. Now there are two stakes.
Emma Hawkins, who moved to Billings in the 1940s, said she used to wonder, "Why all the temples in Utah and the rest of us have to travel so far?" But that didn't stop her and her husband, Mort, from committing themselves to temple service. They rented a place in Idaho Falls where they could live and serve as ordinance workers. They occasionally traveled back to Billings for special family occasions but dedicated their lives, for the most part, to the temple for more than five years until Brother Hawkins died.
Sister Hawkins said: "It was a wonderful opportunity to work in the Lord's house and enjoy the other people there. It was the highlight of our lives besides our family."
Now Sister Hawkins, who is 88 years old, is grateful "they're bringing the temples to us. It's going to be good for my family that lives in Billings."
The temple brought to them is unique in many ways. It is topped by a tiered tower faced with louvered vents that appear to be shuttered windows. The spire rises from the tower and is topped by a statue of Angel Moroni. The west end of the single story building features a stained-glass bay window. The grounds around the temple are landscaped with lawns, flower gardens and more than 250 trees and 4,500 shrubs. Petunias planted for the dedication were in full, colorful bloom over the two days. Retaining walls and fence foundations are built of manufactured stones painted to match the Rimrock cliffs.
Inside, the temple is a model of economy of space. It contains all of the features of larger temples — including a cafeteria, laundry, brides' room, chapel and clothing rental desk — in less total square footage than other recently built larger temples such as the St. Louis Missouri Temple and Madrid Spain Temple. The Billings temple has two ordinance rooms for a two-stage ceremony. A clear skylight over the main foyer offers patrons a view of the Angel Moroni statue atop the spire.
Ben Smith of the Lovell Wyoming Stake demonstrated a commitment that was typical of members during the dedication. He was a member of the choir for the opening session and then volunteered his time after that to help direct parking. He said: "It was absolutely overwhelming to be in the temple, now that we have a temple close by that it is our temple, knowing that our forefathers and others have worked so hard to have a temple in our area. To sing those songs in the temple, it was pretty hard to keep the emotions in check."
Temple ground made `white and pure'
By David G. Hein, Billings Montana Multi-stake Director of Public Affairs
As wind-driven snow pelted a sea of faithful members of the Church who gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Billings Montana Temple, a young man remarked, "The Lord blessed this groundbreaking today with snow to make this temple ground white and pure."
More than 4,800 people from 12 states and two Canadian provinces attended the groundbreaking ceremony March 28, held beneath sandstone rimrocks in the midst of a spring snowstorm.An architect's rendering of the Billings Montana Temple was featured on the cover of the March 28 Church News.
Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy presided and conducted the hourlong ceremony. President of the North America Central Area, he was joined by his counselors, Elders Kenneth Johnson and Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, in speaking at the service and breaking ground.
A choir of 700 youth, directed by Teddi Smothermon of the Billings 4th Ward, sang "Now Let Us Rejoice." The young singers came from throughout the temple district, which includes some 60,000 Latter-day Saints in Montana, North Dakota, western South Dakota and northern Wyoming.
The invocation was offered by Kenneth Shields Jr., a Native American who is president of the Poplar Branch, Glendive Montana Stake. There are 17 federally recognized Indian reservations within the temple district.
"We bring you personal greetings from President Gordon B. Hinckley, our prophet-president, who personally selected this beautiful site for a temple," Elder Pinnock reported. "He has a deep interest in this land and future temple."
Elder Pinnock thanked community leaders, including Billings Mayor Charles F. Tooley, (who was pleased to receive a shovel used in the groundbreaking ceremony), city council members, city administrators and staff, many of whom attended the groundbreaking. Local clergy who had supported the temple project throughout the process of obtaining governmental approval, braved the blizzard to attend the historic event.
A spirit of love and sacrifice was seen everywhere as people shared blankets, umbrellas, hats and gloves. A young man, noticing a young woman who sat shivering with open-toed sandals, took off his clean, white socks and gave them to her to warm her feet. A Protestant minister, in an act of kindness and respect, removed his own overcoat and placed it over the shoulders of Elder Pinnock, who had previously given his coat to an individual without one.
Elder Pinnock told the gathering that the day, March 28, was the birthday of President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball. He also mentioned it was the birthday of his father, who had died 16 years previously, and a grandson, David, who is 7 years old.
"I still miss my father," Elder Pinnock said. "I hope that he is witnessing this groundbreaking today. It is because of temples that he and Mother and those of their family will be together again, because we have been sealed."
Regarding the new temple and its grounds, Elder Pinnock said it will be "one of the most beautiful places in this area of the world. And that beauty will strengthen the lives of those who come to see what is here."
Elder Pinnock invited the members of the temple district to accomplish three tasks before the temple is dedicated: "Live the commandments and be the best neighbors and missionaries you know how to be; second, prepare a TempleReady file so you may come here in just 18 months to accomplish the vital ordinances and covenants for your relatives; third, continue to teach our youth to be worthy so they will be able to be baptized for those that have died and to prepare for their own eternal marriages."
Elder Johnson, first counselor in the area presidency, spoke about the efficacy of temple blessings beyond the grave. He said: "Death is a part of the plan of God. It is not the end, it is the beginning of the rest of our lives. Death is necessary for us to attain a fulness of joy."
He told the congregation that the work performed in temples will bless the lives of those who have passed through the veil of death without a knowledge of the truth.
"May we rejoice in this day and in this building and in the truth that there is a God in heaven, that the gospel has been restored, that the keys are on the earth and that what is sealed on earth is sealed in heaven."
Second counselor in the area presidency, Elder Robbins asked the members to "think about the temple as being the ultimate destination while you are here upon the earth."
He added, "The temple here on earth is a symbol of our celestial home." He invited members to hold a current temple recommend, saying, "If you are worthy to enter His home here, that is, perhaps, not a guarantee, but the clearest indication that you will one day be able to enter back into His presence."
Dora A. Jackson, a member of the Belfry Branch, Billings Montana Stake, pronounced the benediction. Sister Jackson was baptized 64 years ago in one of the first branches of the Church in the area. Following the groundbreaking, she said, "I just can't comprehend this; it is so overpowering."
After dignitaries turned over shovelsful of dirt, Elder Pinnock presented Mayor Tooley with a copy of The Mission, a book of photos pertaining to the LDS culture.
Maggie Koernig a 17-year-old Laurel from the Billings 8th Ward, Billings Montana East Stake, and a member of the youth choir, said: "It has been one of the most beautiful days of my life. Just sitting here and feeling the energy of all of us being together and strong in the faith and knowing that it is true was really awesome. Even though it was really bad weather, I wouldn't trade it for anything, being able to see the groundbreaking and know that some day I can go in that temple and be married."
A long-time member, Edward Jones of the Billings 4th Ward, Billings Montana Stake, said: "This is our dream fulfilled. I came here in 1939. Our conferences were lucky to have 35 people. The mission president, who at that time lived in Minnesota, said to keep being faithful and soon we would be a ward and then a stake and then we would have a temple. It's a dream come true. Now we will have our own temple."
Nestled beneath the rock rims that surround Billings on the north, the temple site is located at 3100 Rim Point Dr.
Construction commenced about 40 hours after the groundbreaking in clear weather that contrasted with the blizzard that prevailed during the ceremony. Snow was removed from the ground to prepare for more than 100 caissons to be driven down to bedrock to support the structure.
Completion is expected in the fall of 1999.