Montreal temple highlight of 40 years of progress

MONTREAL, Quebec — He said he felt like Joshua, entering the promised land after a 40-year journey. But for him, the land of milk and honey is the new Montreal Quebec Temple, dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley June 4, 2000.

"Forty-one years later, I entered the house of the Lord here," said an emotional Roland LeMieux, referring to his baptism on Aug. 30, 1959. He is like other Montreal saints — grateful for years of serving in the Toronto Ontario and Washington D.C. temples, but overjoyed at finally having a temple in their midst.

And ecstatic to welcome home someone whom they consider family. Accompanying President Hinckley to Montreal was President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, who presided over the Canadian Mission from 1959 to 1962 and under whose direction the first six French-speaking missionaries were sent to Montreal to open the work among the French-Canadians. This beginning led to the first French-speaking stake in North America, the Montreal Quebec Stake, created in 1978. In the four decades since their mission, President Monson and his wife, Sister Frances Monson, have maintained a bond with members here.

Indeed, many attending the dedication of the Church's 86th temple renewed tender ties. "There are no words for the feelings in my heart today," said Orise LeMieux, standing beside her husband, Roland LeMieux. Both are members of the Hawkesbury Ward, Montreal Quebec Mount Royal Stake, and both warmly greeted a returned missionary, Richard Bybee, now of the Newbury Park (Calif.) 2nd Ward. Thirty-eight years ago, as one of those first six French-speaking missionaries, Brother Bybee baptized Sister LeMieux.

"Unbelievable," Brother Bybee declared as he glanced around the temple grounds. "We tracted this whole area."

Brother LeMieux stood by with tears in his eyes. His gratitude is not only that Brother Bybee baptized Brother LeMieux's then-wife-to-be, whom he met and married a few months later. Brother Bybee also baptized the woman who took into her heart the lives of six young children who had just lost their mother to cancer.

On March 24, 1962, on the day Sister LeMieux was baptized, Brother LeMieux's first wife, Dorothy, lay dying in the hospital. "She knew the Lord had someone to take care of her children. The Lord told her that," Brother LeMieux recalled.

At the same time, the new convert felt prompted that the Lord had a special plan for her. Soon afterward, she met Brother LeMieux. They married and in 1976, they were sealed in the Washington D.C. Temple. "Now with 24 grandchildren, I know I'll never be alone," she told the Church News.

Also wandering the grounds with tears in her eyes on this cool spring day was another returned missionary, who served here from 1976 to 1978. Elizabeth Zuniga Vigil, now of the Denver 2nd Ward, Denver Colorado Golden Stake, is from El Paso, Texas, and grew up with Spanish as her second language. However, as the years passed, she lost much of her Spanish. She was thrilled to be called as a French-speaking missionary in Montreal and worked to become fluent in the language.

"I'd been here five months when we encountered people from South America," she recalled. Because of her Spanish background, she was soon assigned to work with Spanish-speaking immigrants. She softly admits she was less than thrilled. She had enjoyed learning French and wanted to continue.

"I had to have a change of heart," she recalled. "When I repented, my Spanish started coming back."

As well as her love for the Spanish language. She grew close to the people she taught and helped with the establishment of a Spanish Sunday School and later the beginnings of the Zarahemla Spanish Branch. Today, there are two Spanish-speaking wards in Montreal.

Whatever the language spoken here on this dedication day — be it French, English or Spanish — the sentiments were the same. Whether written in French or English, the words on the temple, "The House of the Lord; Holiness to the Lord," carry the same meaning to the hearts of the people.

Montreal stake President Sterling H. Dietze related how during an interview with a local radio station, the interviewer commented: "It's really amazing how attached your Church seems to be to a building — almost like the ancient Jews [to the temple at Jerusalem]."

With a knowing smile, President Dietze explained the heritage of temple worship. To the Church News, he added that this attachment "is to a building, but it's more than the building."

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