Across the Delaware River from historic Philadelphia, Pa., is the City of Camden, the 12th largest municipality in New Jersey, and it's neighbor, Pennsauken Township. On Sept. 17 members of the Camden Ward and Pennsauken Branch gathered to enjoy a groundbreaking service for their new Camden Ward meetinghouse. They were surprised and delighted when a native son of New Jersey, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Kathleen Eyring, joined them.
President Eyring, who has deep roots in New Jersey, was in neighboring Philadelphia to break ground for the new Philadelphia temple scheduled for completion in 2014. President Eyring was joined at both the temple and meetinghouse groundbreaking services by Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder William R. Walker, executive director of the LDS Church Temple Department, and his wife Sister Vicki Walker, and Elder Robert B. Smith, an Area Seventy, and Sister Tanya Smith. President William A. Schaefermeyer and Sister Sharon Lynn Schaefermeyer of the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission also attended.
Cherry Hill New Jersey Stake President Ahmad S. Corbitt conducted the groundbreaking service and introduced President Eyring, who then shared fond memories of his time growing up in Princeton, N.J. He noted that his father, Henry Eyring, was a professor at Princeton University and president of their little branch, remarking that, his father was the only Melchizedek priesthood holder. Young Henry B. Eyring was the deacons quorum president "because I was the only deacon!"
He spoke of how richly the Lord blessed the members, the branch and his family despite having very little in the way of Church programs and few experienced members. When he was 8, young Henry was baptized in Philadelphia. He likely passed through Camden, south of Princeton and across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, on his way to his baptism.
President Eyring promised that as members live the gospel, goodness will emanate from the building and bless the neighbors, the community and the city. He concluded by pronouncing a profound and much appreciated blessing upon the ground on which the building would be constructed.
At the conclusion of the service, President Eyring was joined by Church and civic leaders to break the ground and then he invited all in attendance to come forward and share in the activity and view the architect's rendering of the chapel.
Among local and state government officials who were on hand to help turn the soil to commemorate the beginning of construction of the meetinghouse were U.S. Congressman Robert E. Andrews of the 1st District of New Jersey, Pennsauken Mayor Jack Killion, State Assemblyman Angel Fuentes and State Senator Donald Norcross.
Missionaries have been coming to New Jersey since the earliest days of the Church. Benjamin Winchester and Jedediah M. Grant were among the first missionaries to labor in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Branches of the Church were established in Woodstown, Mays Landing and Toms River. For a time, Mormonism had a significant impact on life in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Large numbers joined the Church including well-respected, influential citizens such as Israel and Anna Ivins. Israel presided over the Toms River Branch and he and his wife were blessed with two children, Caroline "Caddie" and Anthony "Tony" W. Ivins. The Ivins family immigrated to Utah in 1853. Later Anthony W. Ivins was called to the Quorum of the Twelve and served in the First Presidency with his cousin Heber J. Grant. President Grant's mother, Rachel, was a native of New Jersey.