Standing on a windswept east bench overlooking the Great Salt Lake and steadied by associates, 92-year-old President Ezra Taft Benson, along with his counselors, broke ground for the Bountiful Utah Temple.
President Benson selected the east Bountiful site several years ago while accompanied by his first and second counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson.On May 2, President Benson returned to perform the ceremonial beginning for what will become the Church's 46th temple, the eighth in Utah.
After he was assisted in turning over a shovelful of earth, the prophet was applauded by the congregation; he waved in response. Three boys and three girls were then beckoned from the congregation by President Hinckley and President Monson to take part in breaking the ground. Then members of the Council of the Twelve, other General Authorities, stake leaders and finally families took part in the ceremonial shoveling.
Some 7,500 people attended the morning rites, on a sunny but cool day, in the foothills about 10 miles north of Salt Lake City. Most were seated on folding chairs or standing, but some sat on the near mountain that formed a dramatic backdrop to the setting. Another 2,500 watched the proceedings via remote video in the Bountiful Woods Cross Regional Center.
Among those who attended the groundbreaking were many General Authorities and leaders of 28 stakes in the new temple district, which is made up of the Church membership in southern Davis County. Most of the congregation at the site were transported there by a fleet of rented buses. People began arriving at 7:30 a.m., two-and-a-half hours before the start of the ceremony.
The dedicatory prayer was offered by President Hinckley. He and President Monson and President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve gave addresses. The invocation was offered by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve and the benediction by Elder Dean A. Larsen of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department. Music was provided by a choir, under the direction of Barbara Belnap, composed of singers from all the stakes in the temple district. Chairman of the temple committee is Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy and Utah North Area president; vice chairman is Blaine P. Jensen.
President Hinckley, as he stood at the podium viewing the large congregation that extended back to, and up the mountain, commented, "We don't anticipate those on the mountain can hear us." When he saw them waving, he quipped, "I guess they can – it is as it was in the days of King Benjamin."
He paid tribute to President Benson. "I wish with all my heart that President Benson could stand and speak to us. He had a very significant part, in fact the leadership part, in the designation of this site.
"The Lord made it clear in the beginnings of this work that the site of the construction of a temple was the prerogative of the prophet of the Lord. President Benson stood here and indicated this is where the temple should be constructed.
"I express to you in his behalf his love for you and his blessings upon you for your prayers in his behalf . . . as well as your sustaining him with your hands and hearts as he fills his responsibilities as president of the Church, and as prophet, seer and revelator."
President Hinckley called the present era "the greatest era of temple building in the history of the world."
"Temples were built anciently, but I am satisfied that they were never built in such numbers as we now build them. We now have 44 working temples. . . . We've dedicated as many temples in the last dozen years as have been dedicated in all the previous history of the Church."
President Hinckley testified that, "Every temple which this Church builds stands as a monument to the conviction of this people that life is eternal, that the human soul is immortal. That when we pass through the veil of death we continue activity and may go on to that eternal life which the God of heaven in love for His children has made possible through the work which is carried forward in these sacred and dedicated houses. And for that reason they are absolutely essential – more than important – but essential to the complete work of the Church as it has been revealed in this the dispensation of fullness of time.
"I thank the Lord for this beautiful site, on which will stand another beautiful edifice," he said. The contract has been awarded to Okland Construction Co., and work will begin soon on the temple and it is expected to be complete before 1995.
In offering the dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley petitioned that the temple would become "another jewel in thy divine hand for the purpose of bringing to pass thy work in behalf of thy sons and daughters of all generations of time, both the living and the dead."
In his remarks, President Monson also paid tribute to President Benson and recalled the visit to the site by the First Presidency when President Benson approved the site for a temple.
"You were in a spirit of contemplation, President [BensonT, and we didn't engage you in conversation," related President Monson. "We let you look to the mountains to the east, and then out over that shimmering water of the Great Salt Lake. And we shall never forget your statement:
" `This site will be so suitable for a beautiful temple of the Lord.' Now President Benson, you are here to help turn the sod for a site that you in prophetic vision saw for the House of the Lord.
"I am so grateful that you have been permitted by our Heavenly Father to be here today, that you may hear the saints sing with their hearts and their souls, `We thank thee, O God, for a Prophet.' "
Bountiful, originally called Sessions Settlement, North Millcreek Canyon Ward, and Stoker, was named finally in honor of a Book of Mormon land, President Monson said. "It is so fitting that President Benson, who loves the Book of Mormon as much as any Latter-day Saint who ever lived, is here today in Bountiful. I am sure he is contemplating the meaning of the name and the loveliness of the land."
President Monson encouraged members to prepare for the temple. One way is to build a photo collection of the progress of construction of the temple.
"As we build our albums of memories and as we have a picture of the beautiful Bountiful temple on the walls of our children's bedrooms, we will come closer to the temple," he assured. "Nothing is more beautiful than to see a mother kneeling by the side of her child as the child offers his prayer, or her prayer, and then looks up at a picture of the temple. The mother is able to say, `There is the House of the Lord. There you will be endowed – there you will be married for time and for all eternity.'
"We must not sacrifice these precious moments of teaching or these times where heaven can be very close to you and to me."
He suggested that members can develop a greater appreciation of the temple endowment and sealing ordinances that bind families together by compiling their family histories.
The new temple, President Monson concluded, "will be a temple of truth, a sanctuary of service; it will be a place of peace.
"Oh, may all in this temple district frequently gaze eastward toward the mountain of the Lord's house, and remember His comforting assurance: `I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.' " (John 8:12.)
President Hunter described temples built anciently and underscored the significance of temples. Though temples were prized by ancient Israel, no temples have been built in modern times except those built by the Church.
"Nearly all Christian religions have houses of worship but only one builds temples," said President Hunter. "Those that exist in the world today are those constructed by the Church as commanded by the Lord since the restoration of the gospel.
"What a glorious thing it is to realize that soon on this site will be such a temple. It will be beautiful in every detail, inside and out, and built in accordance with revelation from the Lord. . . .
"We might say the temples of today echo the temples of the past as houses of the Lord," continued President Hunter. "They are of greater significance than cathedrals or synagogues or any other edifices of worship. They are sacred to the closest communion between the Lord and the holy priesthood, and devoted to highest and most sacred ordinances.
"In the years to come as we pass this hallowed place, our thoughts will turn to this ground which will be broken today for a building of the House of the Lord to bless those who shall come after us," he said. "May the Lord bless our efforts."
More temples are planned
At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bountiful Utah Temple, President Gordon B. Hinckley said that three new temples are planned for in the eastern United States, Europe and Asia. The locations for each will be announced when sites are purchased and approved for temples, he said.
The congregation laughed as he commented: "And I am not going to tell you specifically where [the temples will be builtT until everything is in place."