ST. PAUL, Minn. — In a misting rain and in unusually high temperatures for this season, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the St. Paul Minnesota Temple Jan. 9, the first temple to be dedicated in 2000.
More than 8,000 happy Latter-day Saints of many ethnic and cultural heritages packed into four dedicatory sessions at the Church's 69th temple. The temple district includes nearly 25,000 members in six stakes in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin, the Minneapolis Minnesota Mission and the Ft. Francis Ontario District of the Canada Winnipeg Mission.
Some 280 members were waiting outside the temple to see and hear their beloved prophet at the cornerstone ceremony in the near-freezing temperatures of the morning hour. President Hinckley arrived with his wife, Marjorie, to officially apply mortar along the top edge of the cornerstone. He was accompanied by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy and president of the North America Central Area and his wife, Anne, and Elder Thomas A. Holt, Area Authority Seventy, and his wife, Bonnie.
President Hinckley explained to the gathering that he was not an expert mason. After applying mortar, he said, "Now, top that if you can, Brother Maxwell." He added, "Now, we're getting better with age," a comment that brought a ripple of laughter from those gathered.
The 50-voice choir at the outdoor ceremony was directed by Anna Mooy, gospel doctrine teacher of the St. Paul 2nd Ward.
"We are so blessed," said Bonnie Bemis, who waited in line with her husband, Jim, of the Plymouth Ward, Minneapolis Minnesota Stake. The Bemis family has lived in the area 10 years. Brother Bemis serves as ward clerk and Sister Bemis as stake seminary supervisor.
"We thought it was just a spectacular experience. We are just thrilled to have a temple in our midst," said Richard P. Halverson, temple committee coordinator and counselor in the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission presidency. He added that if there had not been a flu epidemic in the area, another 1,000 would have attended. "We estimate 10 percent are out with the flu."
Local motels were booked with occupants driving long distances to attend the early morning sessions of the dedication. Josh and Amy Petersen, newlyweds of the Austin Branch, Rochester Minnesota Stake, expressed their feelings about the temple while at breakfast in the motel dining area.
Brother Petersen said he served in the Utah Provo Mission, while his wife, then Amy Hopkins, served here under Minneapolis Minnesota Mission Pres. A. Keith Martin.
"I grew up here in Austin," said Brother Petersen. "We always talked about the dream of a local temple, but we never thought it would actually happen." Sister Petersen said, "This is what we've been working for. At zone conference, that was all our mission president would talk about." (Brother Martin died the evening before the temple was dedicated; please see report on page 13.)
Carolyn Selden of St. Paul 1st Ward, St. Paul Minnesota Stake, expressed her gratitude for being able to play the organ for the cornerstone ceremony choir and for another choir that sang during a dedicatory session. "It was a thrilling experience to be able to do that. She explained that "sometime ago, I felt I should go back to school to get my master's in music. I graduated two weeks ago with an emphasis in church organ music. I just feel blessed that I've been able to play 'We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet' with the prophet standing right there."
She added, "I have a 9-year-old daughter who was so excited to see President Hinckley. Then she learned she would be only seeing him on the monitor. She was so disappointed. So I told her that our family organ, donated for the occasion, will be in the celestial room, about eight feet from the prophet. She said, 'Oh, I wish I was the organ.' "
"This will help us to keep an eternal perspective in our lives," said Alan Neefe, executive secretary in the Winona Branch, Rochester Minnesota Stake, two hours from St. Paul. Brother Neefe recently moved his family to Winona from Grand Forks, N.D., where they had a 14-hour drive to reach the Chicago Illinois Temple. He added, "I think the Spirit will be increased in our homes because of our temple attendance. This is a great blessing, obviously, a spiritual blessing, to be involved the way we're going to need to be. The local members have to be the workers."
Tati and Alfred Sackor of the Anoka Ward, Anoka Minnesota Stake, moved from Africa to the United States a few months ago, and "missionaries came to visit," said Sister Sackor with a smile. Soon, the couple was baptized
The work of the Lord was initiated in Minnesota when members first came 150 years ago. Then, according to historical accounts, missionaries arrived in 1854, but most converts emigrated west. By 1875, the first formal congregation was established. Growth was slow because of emigration until 1900. In 1914, the Church purchased an existing meetinghouse in St. Paul, then built another in Minneapolis in 1924. In the 1950s accelerated growth resulted from the efforts of a sizeable missionary force and members moving to the twin cities to attend university or accept employment.
From the 1850 start, and a single branch in 1875, there are now more than 60 branches and wards in Minnesota with more than 175 Minnesotans serving as full-time missionaries around the world.
On the first day that the temple opened for ordinance work, two weddings were performed and two other sessions were held. Said one patron of this first day of temple operation, "I went to the first session and it was wonderful. Everything went so smoothly. For years, I've been saying to my husband that I want to move to Salt Lake City where I could be close to a temple. Now, I have no excuse to move. I'm 10 minutes away. We'll stay here."