The first of a new generation of temples – smaller temples built close to the members of the Church – was dedicated July 26 by President Gordon B. Hinckley in this remote southeastern Utah town of some 2,500 population.
The first smaller temple to be completed since President Hinckley announced the concept at general conference last October is located in an area with a rich history of toil and sacrifice, exemplified best by the heroic colonization efforts of the Hole-in-the-Rock pioneers of more than a century ago. Many of the residents in the temple district today are descendants of those early settlers."This is a very happy day for me," said President Hinckley, as he spoke of the completion and dedication of the 7,000 square-foot edifice, which dedication ushers in a new period of temple building. (See related article on this page.)
Eight dedicatory sessions were held July 26-27 to accommodate the 13,000 members of the temple district from five stakes in the red-rock Four Corners area: Moab Utah, Monticello Utah, Blanding Utah, Blanding Utah West and Durango Colorado. A total of 8,108 attended the dedicatory sessions, held in the temple and in overflow facilities in the adjacent "North Chapel" and the Monticello stake center downtown, which received the proceedings by closed-circuit television.
Built on a 1.33-acre site, which was donated to the Church by Ernest and Paul Sondregger of Monticello, the temple is constructed of off-white marble that was imported from Turkey and contains art glass windows from Germany. Atop the temple's lone spire is a 6-foot white-cast acrylic statue of the Angel Moroni.
Before the first session, a cornerstone ceremony was held, symbolically signaling the completion of the temple, the 53rd operating temple in the Church and the 11th in Utah.
In addition to President Hinckley, six other General Authorities addressed sessions of the dedication. They were President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder W. Eugene Hansen of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; and Elders Ben B. Banks, Dennis B. Neuenschwander and Neil L. Andersen, all of the Seventy who serve as the presidency of the Utah South Area. Each General Authority was accompanied by his wife, Sisters Marjorie Hinckley, Ruth Faust, Elisa Wirthlin, Jeanine Hansen, Susan Banks, LeAnn Neuenschwander and Kathy Sue Andersen.
The temple was constructed faster than any other temple in the history of the Church, requiring less than eight months to complete after the ground was broken last Nov. 17.
Shortly after dawn had cracked the eastern sky, members started arriving to secure a good vantage spot to watch the cornerstone ceremony. By the time the ceremony began following the 8 a.m. cornerstone session in the temple, nearly 1,300 persons had gathered to witness the proceedings.
President Hinckley arrived at the temple about 7:45 a.m. The cornerstone choir, composed of 60 singers from the five stakes, was already in place near the entrance of the temple, and as President Hinckley approached he stopped and waved. The singers began singing "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet." After he listened to the hymn, President Hinckley said to the choir members, "Thank you."
At the cornerstone ceremony, President Hinckley was the first to apply mortar to the cover stone. He then passed the trowel to Elder Wirthlin and the other General Authorities and many of their spouses. At one point, President Hinckley took out his handkerchief and wiped away some of the mortar that had dripped onto the cover stone.
Also taking a turn with the trowel were some in the audience, both children and adults, including spry and alert 96-year-old Agnes Hurst of Blanding. "I wanted to ask President Hinckley how I did," she later said.
"I think the temple is one of the most marvelous things to ever happen in our area," she remarked. "It was something we had hoped for, but never expected in our lifetime."
Previously, members from the area traveled to the Manti Temple to participate in temple ordinances, a four-hour trip one way that Sister Hurst, whose husband died 31/2 years ago, found difficult to do. But with the Monticello temple so close now, she said, "I think I can make it to the temple now."
Serving as president of the new temple is Lisle G. Adams of Monticello, a great-grandson of Jens Nielsen, one of the Hole-in-the Rock pioneers who settled in the area in 1880.
"I feel like the Hole-in-the Rock trip really sanctified him," said Pres. Adams. "It put his descendants on the road to being faithful Latter-day Saints." Pres. Adams said the area is composed of faithful members "because of the heritage of those early pioneers who had to sacrifice so much.
"I never dreamed [the temple] would be something that would happen in my lifetime," he continued. "The blessings are indescribable. The feeling in this whole area is one of deep, deep gratitude." He said he thought the temple "in our midst will raise the level of righteousness and desire to serve the Lord."
Even before the temple was opened for ordinance work, Pres. Adams said seven couples had made appointments to have their weddings performed here.
Another descendant of a Hole-in-the-Rock pioneer is Pres. Jed Ervin Lyman of the Blanding Utah Stake, located 22 miles south of Monticello.
"I had heard all my life that a temple some day would be built in the area, but I didn't know it would happen in my lifetime," said Pres. Lyman, a great-grandson of Platt DeAlton Lyman. Having the temple in the area, is "pretty overwhelming," he remarked.
He said he was listening to last October's general conference while in Provo, Utah. When he heard President Hinckley announce that a temple would be built in Monticello, "I almost jumped up and shouted.
"We are just absolutely thrilled," he said.
Pres. J. Terry Eardley of the Monticello Utah Stake also commented about the feelings of members in Monticello. "Our people are very excited and elated to have a temple in the area. It has been received very well in the community, which is composed of 60-70 percent LDS."
Pres. Eardley's daughter, Susanne, 18, sang in the cornerstone choir. She had knee surgery just six days before. "Regardless of the surgery, she said she was going to be singing in the choir," related the stake president.
Among those attending a dedicatory session were Sandra Capitan of Aneth, Utah, and Luci Begay of Red Mesa, Utah, and their children.
"It is overwhelming to be here," said Sister Capitan, Relief Society president in the Montezuma Creek Ward. "I cannot believe the temple is actually here. How do you express it in words?"
Sister Capitan and Sister Begay, who is first counselor in the Relief Society presidency, were asked about their feelings after attending a dedicatory session.
"We cried through the whole session," they said.