LE CHESNAY, France
Looking at the recently unveiled Paris France Temple, one sees breathtaking stained-glass and art-glass windows, a stunning Grand Hall and staircase, beautiful warm-toned limestone reminiscent of the neighboring Palace of Versailles and inviting courtyards and plazas lined with flowers, trees and shrubs — all in classic French style and décor.
“For all the physical beauty that can be seen from every direction in this House of God, the real beauty is not seen with our physical eyes,” said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as he joined other Church leaders in initiating five weeks of open house tours of the Paris France Temple, the first in that country and the 12th overall in Europe.
Citing both French literature and the New Testament, Elder Andersen explained the temple’s unseen beauty.
“Remember these words in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book, The Little Prince. ‘One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential in life is invisible to the eye.’ ”
He then quoted the Apostle Paul: “We look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
“In this house of God, we treasure the unseen. In this holy house, we continue to commune with God, make promises to God, and prepare ourselves to be better each time we leave,” said Elder Andersen.
“Everything in this temple confirms our most deeply held belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” he added. “We also believe that as we are worthy, the sacraments (the covenants and ordinances) made here will continue with us beyond the veil of death.”
Joining Elder Andersen during the temple’s first open house days were Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, a native of France who years earlier as a newlywed with his wife, Sister Valérie Caussé, had lived on Rue des Missionnaires (Street of the Missionaries), just a few blocks from what would become the temple site; Elder Paul V. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy from the Europe Area presidency; Elder Larry Y. Wilson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; and Elder Matthieu Bennesar, an Area Seventy from France who chairs the temple’s open house and dedication committee.
The first session, held Wednesday, April 6, involved dignitaries invited by Mayor Philippe Brillault, including community leaders from his own Le Chesnay, the temple’s host city, as well as from Versailles. The mayor had previously inquired if Mitt Romney, the former U.S. presidential candidate who had served in Paris as a young missionary decades earlier, would attend. The Church obliged and had Brother Romney and his wife, Sister Ann Romney, join the contingent of Church leaders and their wives in the early sessions.
As one of the attending Brethren said, the participation of Brother Romney — given his past political and Olympics leadership — lent “a sense of normalcy” to the early events in the eyes of attending French media, which sometimes look at the Church specifically and religion in general through a more critical and sometimes misunderstanding lens.
In Wednesday’s opening session with Mayor Brillault and his invited guests, Elder Andersen acknowledged the mayor “for his most invaluable help in guiding us and in helping us to create something very important for our members here in France and, as well, a place of peace and serenity for the good people of Le Chesnay and for all of France.”
Elder Andersen noted that 47 years previous, he had served a two-year mission as a young man in France, including a year in Paris. Later, he was joined by his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, and family when presiding over the France Bordeaux Mission, with his four children attending French schools and all learning to speak French.
With six total years of residence in France, Elder Andersen cited Thomas Jefferson — “Every civilized man claims two countries: France and his own.”
Acknowledging the high quality of materials and craftsmanship comes at a price for building a sacred edifice worthy of God’s presence, Elder Andersen said it wasn’t at the expense of helping the poor, the sick and those in need, adding that the Church spends “millions of euros each year for humanitarian and welfare needs.”
Elder Andersen closed the meeting with the dignitaries with his blessing — on those attending, the community “and upon the very good people of France” — as well as his testimony.
“As a humble servant of Jesus Christ, I give you my personal confirmation that He lives, that He is not just a person of history, but He is indeed the Son of God, the Savior of the World, and that His life and His sacrifice allows all men to live again.”
Following the April 6 meeting with local dignitaries, the by-invitation open house sessions continued at the Paris France Temple. Thursday, April 7, was media day, with the temple the focus of nearly 150 reports total by French-speaking print, online and electronic media.
Neighbors of the temple complex and families of construction workers comprised the majority of visitors on Saturday, April 8, with the special-guest invitees — civic, business, media and other national and community leaders — touring the temple the following week. Because of Paris’ global prominence and the presence of international leaders, invitations were extended to — and interest generated by — ambassadors and foreign officials from other nations, particularly French-speaking countries but also other European, African and even Asian areas.
Public sessions of the temple open house begin Saturday, April 22, and continue through Saturday, May 13, excluding Sundays. The temple will be dedicated during three sessions on Sunday, May 21, becoming the Church’s 156th operating temple worldwide.
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