Announced: Sept. 11, 1998
Location: 1927 Mount Olive Blvd., Gardendale, AL 35071; phone: (205) 631-3444; no clothing rental.
Site: 5.6 acres, including adjoining meetinghouse.
Exterior finish: Imperial Danby White Marble.
Temple design: Classic modern.
Architects: Robert Waldrip of Joyce, Prout and Associates, and Church A&E Services.
Project manager: Leon Rowley
Contractor: Layton Construction Co., Construction Management Co., Gary C. Wyatt, Inc., general contractor.
Rooms: Celestial room, baptistry, two ordinance rooms, two sealing rooms.
Total floor area: 10,700 square feet.
Dimensions: 149 feet by 77 feet.
District: Seven stakes in Alabama, Florida.
Groundbreaking, site dedication: Oct. 9, 1999, by Elder Stephen A. West of the Seventy and second counselor in the North America Southeast Area presidency.
Dedication: Sept. 3, 2000, by President Gordon B. Hinckley; 4 sessions.
Done by President Gordon B. Hinckley
O Lord God of Israel, Thou Great Judge of the nations and Father of Thy people, with thankful hearts, and with reverence and love, we approach Thee on this day of dedication.
We are met to present unto Thee this sacred house, a temple of the Lord dedicated for purposes according to Thy will and pattern.
Quoting from Thy revealed words, we pray: "That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house;
"And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord's house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness" (D&C 109:12-13).
Acting in the authority of the eternal priesthood which Thou hast bestowed upon us, and in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we dedicate and consecrate this the Birmingham Alabama Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Thee and to Thy Beloved Son. We do so with love and gratitude. It represents our gift to Thee, given with thanksgiving, and with appreciation for this sanctuary which has been constructed in our midst.
We dedicate the grounds on which it stands, the footings, the foundation, the walls and windows, and the steeple crowned with the figure of Moroni. We dedicate the Baptistry, the endowment rooms, the beautiful celestial room, the sealing rooms with their sacred altars, and every other space and facility found in this Thy house.
We pray that this edifice may be beautiful to all who receive the sacred ordinances which will be administered here.
Wilt Thou stay the hand of the destroyer that it shall not be damaged by the elements, nor by hands that run to mischief. May it be looked upon with reverence and respect as a place that is sacred and holy unto Thee.
May only those who are worthy before Thee enter its portals to serve Thee in righteousness. Imbue all who participate within these walls with a great overpowering sense of the importance of that which they do. May that which they do for themselves, in accepting the ordinances of this house, strengthen their lives, give purpose to their existence, make of them better husbands and wives, parents and children. May the solemnities of eternity rest upon them and bring to them an understanding of the efficacy of the work they do in behalf of the dead.
Dear Father, here within these walls will be presented aspects of Thy great and eternal plan for the blessing and exaltation of Thy sons and daughters. May they be faithful in their attendance. May they be anxious in their concern for the accomplishment of a glorious work in behalf of those beyond the veil. May this temple represent the highest order of heaven which Thou hast revealed to men on earth.
May this house ever remain holy and sacred unto all who enter herein. May Thy Spirit dwell here and touch the hearts of those who serve.
May the influence of this Thy house be felt throughout this great temple district. May the Church grow and prosper here. May those in government be friendly to Thy people. Let Thy Holy Spirit lead those called to preach the gospel that they may seek out and find those who will accept the everlasting truth revealed in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. May all who come into the Church remain faithful and true and advance in maturity and worthiness to participate in the sacred activities of Thy house.
We pray that Thou wilt bless the temple presidency and the matron and assistant matrons. Grant them strength and vitality of body and mind to carry forward the great work here to be accomplished. Bless all who labor with them that they may experience great joy and satisfaction in their service. May Thy Spirit rest upon those who come as patrons that a growing knowledge of things divine may bring firm and unshakable testimony of the truth of Thy gospel plan.
Father, this house has been constructed largely with the tithes of Thy people throughout the world. Please keep Thine ancient promises, open the windows of heaven, and shower down blessings upon them. Prosper them in righteousness in their labors. May the generations who come after them be blessed because of the faithfulness of their forebears who live today.
Bless Thy work in all the earth. May it grow in strength and numbers. May the spirit of revelation rest upon those called to lead this work. Wilt Thou guide them to those decisions which will advance Thy work wherever it may be established, and may the leaders of those nations whose doors are now closed, be touched by Thy Spirit to welcome Thy messengers.
Our Father in heaven, we look to Thee with wonder and affection. How richly Thou hast blessed us. Thou hast smiled with favor upon us. We love Thee. We love Thy Son, our Redeemer, who gave His life for us. May we ever draw nearer to Thee and to Him. May we walk the paths which Thou hast outlined. May our understanding of the things of life and eternity grow and add to our faith and strength.
On this historic day in this Thy house we pledge our loyalty and service. We rededicate ourselves to Thy great cause. We bow before Thee in faith and reverence. We express our love and plead for Thy blessings in the name of Thine only Begotten Son, the Savior of the world, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
'God is smiling down on us'
By Julie A. Dockstader
Birmingham, ALA.— Joe Faulkner looks forward to being sealed to his parents and two deceased brothers. Steve Chambers is grateful a temple is now within 30 minutes so he can regularly attend with his wife, who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Lillian Tingle has 96 names ready and waiting. Rick Merrill looks at his 8-year-old son, Jared, who is unable to speak because of disability, and pulls him to his cheek. The boy smiles at the touch and sound of his father.
"He feels the Spirit," said Brother Merrill. "When we came to the open house, he was not silent. He feels the Spirit and expresses it with his cooing."
With the dedication of the Church's 98th operating temple here in Birmingham, Sept. 3, 2000, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, the blessings of temple worship are becoming available to more and more Latter-day Saints throughout the world. While all express gratitude for their closer proximity to these new edifices, each individual has close to the heart even more personal feelings. People such as Brother Faulkner of the Gadsden Ward, Birmingham Alabama Stake; Brother Chambers of the Birmingham 1st Ward; Sister Tingle of the Gardendale Branch, Birmingham stake; and Brother Merrill of the Athens Ward, Huntsville Alabama Stake.
"In the last year, I've done more first-time temple recommend interviews than the previous five years," Birmingham Alabama Stake President Richard D. May related after the first of four dedicatory sessions on this humid southern September day. "Our members have been so excited. They've been working more diligently on their family history. During our open house, I saw a lot of less-active members come out. They said, 'We're ready to get back to living the gospel.'
"When we broke ground a year ago, we had about 23,000 members show up," President May said, adding that in his remarks during the groundbreaking on that rainy day in October 1999, he said, "The heavens are weeping for joy."
"Today," President May continued on the day of dedication, "God is smiling down on us. We've got a beautiful sunny day, but inside the temple, the members are weeping for joy."
Accompanying President Hinckley to Birmingham were Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Gordon T. Watts of the Seventy and first counselor in the North America Southeast Area.
Elder Haight celebrated his 94th birthday on Sept. 2 while in Birmingham as he was presented a cake. In addition, Elder and Sister Haight celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Sept. 4, the day after the temple dedication. During the cornerstone ceremony the morning of Sept. 3, President Hinckley told those gathered outside the temple about Elder and Sister Haight's anniversary. An excited "Ah," went through the gathering.
It was difficult for most of the 4,809 attending the dedication to contain their excitement. The day before the dedication, women of the dedicatory choir from the Montgomery Alabama Stake sat on a bench on the temple grounds for pictures — each clutching a white rose given them by the brethren of the choir following a rehearsal. The choir director, Ann Louise Pattillo, had crutches by her feet. At the end of July, she had hip replacement surgery. She did not miss a single choir rehearsal.
"I think having this assignment," she told the Church News, "I was blessed to go beyond what I normally could do. I felt like if I said yes, I would be helped to be able to do this."
"This" included giving individual voice lessons to each member of the choir during the weeks before the dedication.
With her eyes misting, temple matron Sandra L. Rich, who is serving with her husband, temple President E. Allen Rich, wondered what different road their lives would have taken had she not let the missionaries in her door 40 years ago in Houston, Texas. "They introduced themselves as visiting ministers," she recalled. "The Lord knew that if they had said they were Mormon missionaries, I would not have let them in. It started from there."
President and Sister Rich well recall the names of these young men — Elder David Bingham from Utah and Elder Grant C. Mortensen from Idaho. Later, Elder Bingham returned home, and Elder Donald G. Laws from California joined Elder Mortensen. "[Elder Bingham] told us of a temple in Salt Lake where families can be sealed for time and all eternity," Sister Rich explained. "I asked, 'Can we go there?' "
"There came this enormous smile," she added, chuckling. They joined the Church that year, and on June 14, 1962, their 10th wedding anniversary, they were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. Today, they have two children and three grandchildren, and President and Sister Rich say that 40 years ago they never dreamed a day like today in Birmingham, Ala., would come.
Neither has Brother Chambers, whose wife, Caryn, has the primary progressive form of multiple sclerosis, meaning her illness is very aggressive. His love for his wife is evident; on the day of the dedication his thoughts were on how she introduced him to the Church. In fact, in the early days of their relationship and marriage during the 1980s, he thought he would "save" her from Mormonism. "I was a rock against joining, but I was like a redwood tree. When I fell, I fell," meaning when he gained a testimony, he never looked back. They were sealed in the Atlanta Temple on April 23, 1993.
Today, he is stake mission president and newly elected city councilman in Homewood, a suburb of Birmingham. Their two children, ages 10 and 11, have pieces of leftover marble from the temple in their rooms and they even made small personal donations to the building of the temple. "They have a vested interest," Brother Chambers explained. "As a family, we're more rooted now. We've always been temple-oriented, but to have it right here to touch it, to experience it firsthand," he said, makes a big difference.
The experiences of all those attending the dedication of the new Birmingham Alabama Temple were as varied as their ages. But 12-year-old Rebecca Laxson — whose long red hair stood out against a white dress — probably most appropriately tied them all back together. The young member of the Gardendale Branch, said, "This is the house of the Lord and we should respect it and be really reverent in it."
100 temples: Wake-up call
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Although I was baptized April 22, 1945, I never had a strong desire to go to the temple, because I thought I had plenty of time to do that later. My most intense wake-up call from Heavenly Father came on Dec. 23, 1996, in the form of a massive cerebral hemorrhage and two heart attacks. While I was at death's door, my fiancee, Brenda Popham, called my diligent home teacher, Steve Chambers, to give me a blessing. He and his companion came immediately to the hospital. Much to the surprise of everyone, except Heavenly Father, I survived! Through the dark days of recovery I prayed fervently for forgiveness and His guidance in my life.
At one particularly dark time, I was asking for guidance in receiving forgiveness, in following His commandments, in being worthy to receive my temple recommend and receive my temple blessings. While I was on my knees a prompting came to me that a way would be provided.
Throughout the following three years of my recovery, I was aided by a brain injury specialist, who had recently joined the Church, Patsy Cannon. I was legally blind, could not put thoughts together for conversation, or remember many things from the past or current day. However, through the power of the priesthood, I can now drive short distances in the daylight hours, attend Church, and function at home and in the community. Little did I know how quickly my prayers concerning my temple blessings would be answered. I knew my prayer was being fulfilled when the construction of the Birmingham Alabama Temple was announced. (The temple was dedicated Sept. 3, 2000.) The red letter day of my life was when I received my own endowments on Sept. 20, 2000. — Clois L. Herring, Birmingham (Ala.) 1st Ward