More than 800 youth living in the Meridian Idaho Temple district gathered on the grounds of the newly completed temple on Sept. 23 in anticipation of the temple’s dedication planned for Nov. 19.
Initially planned as an opportunity to involve the youth in events leading up to the dedication, the experience — planned and organized by the youth council — turned into a personal and rewarding experience for youth in the boundaries of the new temple.
“It was a way to get the youth excited about the temple dedication,” said Arlin Jones, one of the adult leaders called to work with a special youth committee for the temple dedication. “In May we called two youth from each of the 16 stakes in the temple district — a priest and a laurel — and created a youth advisory council. In preparation for the celebration they put this together.”
The youth council decided they wanted to put together a video depicting the theme of the cultural celebration, “Be strong, steadfast and immovable,” as well as testimonies from the youth in the stake. The 25-minute compilation will play preceeding the cultural celebration on Nov. 18.
Although not all of the youth who will be participating in the cultural celebration held in conjunction with the temple’s dedication were able to attend, 50 young men and women selected from each of the 16 stakes in the district met at the temple in their Sunday best dress for pictures at the temple.
“It gave youth the opportunity to come and experience the temple,” Jones said. “Then they could come back and bring their friends for the open house.”
For many youth, gathering to the temple was the perfect beginning to all of the festivities surrounding the temple dedication.
“The event was totally cool to see that many youth together at the temple,” said Royal Madison, a 16-year-old from the River Heights Ward in the Meridian Idaho North Stake.
Recognizing that their previous temple, the Boise Idaho Temple, is located less than 10 miles away from the newly constructed Meridian temple, Royal acknowledged the blessing of having a temple just minutes from his home.
“I was talking with my family the other day about how there are people around the world who will never go to a temple, or who have to spend their life savings to get to one,” said Royal Madison. “I will now have one three minutes away. It is not just a building, it is a special, special place and even though the temple is not yet dedicated, it still has a spirit that glows off of it. I could feel the power of the temple.”
When Ashlie Chastain, a 17-year-old from the Baker City 1st Ward, Le Grand Oregon Stake, toured the temple for the first time, she was “in awe.”
“I am a very logical person, so at first I was thinking about how much [money] was spent on this temple, and it must’ve been a lot,” she said. “And then I started thinking about how it is priceless in the amount of salvation that it will bring to families.”
For Ashlie, all of the tour was wonderful, but the sealing rooms stand out in her mind. “Whenever I walk in [a sealing room] I notice the mirrors on either side of the room. As you look in the mirrors you feel that sense of forever and eternal life with families.”
In addition to attending the gathering of youth, Ashlie, like many of the local youth and Church members, has been able to volunteer during the open house.
“I’ve gone [to the temple] three times now,” she said. “One Saturday I put on shoe coverings. As I was doing that I had a thought that this temple is for everyone on earth and that Heavenly Father loves all of us. Makes me grateful that I know the truth and I have the opportunity to share with others.”
The temple, Ashlie said, brings her a sense of peace as she thinks about the future. She plans to attend a year of college before serving a mission.
“Although I am a little afraid about my future, this temple gives me a sense of peace that everything will be OK and happen in the Lord’s time.”
For Camille Herrera, a 17-year-old from the Caldwell 3rd Ward, Caldwell Idaho Stake, visiting the temple brought her an “overwhelming feeling of peace.”
“You know that that is the place you should be,” she said.
Attending the temple is something Camille has incorporated into her busy schedule. Whether it is attending with a group of friends each week during the summer months or with her Sunday School group every third Tuesday before school at 4:30 a.m., the temple has become an important part of her life.
Although her commute will only be a few minutes shorter than the time it takes to get to the Boise temple, she is looking forward to spending time in the temple that she said “has become a huge part of my life.”
For Ben Shively, a 17-year-old from the Butte Ward, Emmett Idaho Stake, the temple “is a place where I can go and feel peace and be surrounded by the Spirit.”
“We were able to tour it and go through the celestial room,” said Ben. “As I was in there I thought that this is the closest place I could be to the celestial kingdom and to my Heavenly Father.”
When the temple was announced on April 2, 2011, Ben said his first thought was “I hope it goes fast.”
“I was hoping it would be finished before I leave on my mission,” he said. “And now it is only about 30 minutes away, which makes an easy drive over there before work.”
For Ben, the open house for the temple has been a great opportunity to share some of his beliefs with his co-workers and friends. As neat as it has been to point out the marble from Egypt and the fancy architecture and decorations, he said it has been a good experience for him to share what is done inside of the temple.
“I am just a regular kid that knows about it,” he said. “It is a sacred place for us.”
After touring through the temple he had the opportunity to share with others his testimony of what he felt.
“Everyone says that when you share your testimony that your testimony grows,” he said. “That is true.”
As he walked through the temple he couldn’t help but think of how he “needs to be ready” for the future. He plans to attend the temple prior to serving a mission in the next year and after that he will kneel across the altar with his future wife.
“It truly did just get me excited to stay worthy to go through it,” he said. Most important, Ben said the temple represents “a goal to keep on track and keep going.”