The rededication of the Church's visitors center adjacent to the Los Angeles California Temple was an evening filled with the anticipation of an apostle's blessing and attended by an audience of richly diverse backgrounds. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve rededicated the newly renovated facility Friday, Oct. 15.
Stake presidents from the surrounding temple district shared a packed multi-purpose theater with leaders of local government, foreign service representatives and a tapestry of religious leadership from faiths such as Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Catholicism and Baptist congregations. An abundance of visiting non-LDS guests were also invited, hosted by full-time missionaries from the California Los Angeles Mission.
Already fulfilling part of the promises that were to be heard in Elder Nelson's dedicatory prayer, the new facility garnered praise and nods of admiration from virtually every visitor in attendance. Peaceful prelude music welcomed guests. Quiet reverence and anxious smiles of the gathering assembly reflected the peaceful tone permeating the new center.
Joining Elder Nelson on the dais were Church representatives and their spouses who share physical space on and within the visitors center building site on Temple Hill. They included the temple president, visitors center director and the director of the Los Angeles Family History Library. The purpose of their respective departments in the building would also be included in Elder Nelson's dedication.
Also on the stand, The Rev. Leonard Jackson, senior adviser to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, began the program with a story of gratitude for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He expressed his appreciation for the Church's ability to unite many faiths and cross cultural boundaries with extraordinary humanitarian service throughout the community, particularly during times of civil unrest. Rev. Jackson said it was like, "the church tied the ropes together of the many who wanted to help, but whose individual ropes were too short to help all by themselves." He continued, "Their message is for all of us, regardless of race, background or belief, to tie our ropes together and make a difference."
After Rev. Jackson delivered his message, Elder Nelson acknowledged those who came from far distances and braved the Los Angeles traffic on a Friday night. Aware of the many cultures in the congregation, he spoke of his own recent travels, 12 countries in 19 days, and how he was particularly touched by his visit to an Islamic Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Recounting how his own grandchildren sometimes grew tired during his lengthy prayers, he asked for the audience's indulgence in what would be a very special prayer for all in attendance. Heartfelt love for a prophet was expressed in thankful smiles as heads bowed and prepared for this sacred occasion.
Reverence prevailed as Elder Nelson dedicated the edifice, blessing it to be "a site of spiritual strength to all who enter these sacred precincts." He implored the Lord, asking that "Thy holy purposes may be accomplished here."
Elder Nelson made a particular effort in his prayer to reach out to the less active members of the Church by dedicating the center as a place "where members and leaders may come to help rescue beloved friends and relatives who have wandered from Thy straight and narrow way."
Just as the newly renovated building is centered around a 16-foot-tall reproduction of Bertel Thorvaldsen's magnificent marble sculpture, "The Christus," Elder Nelson's prayer was centered on the Redeemer. He pointed to the Savior's Atonement, the Plan of Salvation and His invitation for visitors from many nations to learn of His mission in mortality, and to have the ordinances of exaltation clearly explained there at the new Visitors' Center.
"We dedicate this as a warm and welcome refuge for Thy children of all ages who will view the outstretched arms of the Savior," Elder Nelson said; that they may "be drawn to His timeless invitation to come unto Him."
Returning the respectful deference proffered by such a diverse audience, Elder Nelson concluded the evening by stepping down off the dais and personally greeting all who came forward to meet him. When asked if it was hard for him to travel and be away from his family so much, he was excited to introduce one of his 57 grandchildren who attended the event. He said that no matter where he goes in the world it seems that one of his family members usually manages to meet him and welcome him "home."
People lingered throughout the visitors center long after regular closing time, enjoying the exhibits and absorbing the atmosphere. Some referred to the unique presentations and interactive nature of the visitors center as a "spiritual Disneyland."
A light refreshment buffet and warm outdoor heaters sustained the crowds as many confessed that they wanted to linger and hold onto the spirit of the evening just a little while longer.