CEBU CITY, PHILIPPINES
One of the great historic events in the Church and also the world — the dedication of a new temple — took place on Sunday, June 13, when President Thomas S. Monson turned over to the Lord the Cebu City Philippines Temple.
President Monson presided over, delivered inspiring messages and offered the prayer of dedication in three sessions held to mark the completion of the temple.
His first view of the temple’s interior was Saturday, June 12, when he walked through the new building. After the tour, he said that he has been to the Philippines several times and that Cebu — 7,270 miles from his residence in Salt Lake City — “feels like home.”
Before leaving the temple after the concluding dedicatory session he elaborated, saying, “This truly feels like home. Here in Cebu City is this House of the Lord, our Father’s house. It is a beautiful temple.”
When asked how he would describe Filipino Latter-day Saints, President Monson gave a one-word reply: teachable.
He added that they are a blessed people who have a spirit of humility and kindness.
As he was leaving the temple Sunday afternoon, President Monson told the Church News, “It was a wonderful day. The sessions were all very spiritual.”
The historic occasion began with the sealing of a symbolic cornerstone. President Monson placed the first mortar and then invited others to take turns placing mortar along the top ridge of the cornerstone to signal the completion of the new temple. Those participating included President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; Presiding Bishop H. David Burton and some children.
Sisters Kathleen Eyring, Kristen Oaks and Barbara Burton accompanied their husbands to Cebu City.
The cornerstone box contains papers, books, photos and documents pertaining to the Church in the Philippines, along with English and Cebuano editions of the scriptures, and two books by President Monson.
At the conclusion of the cornerstone ceremony, President Monson expressed gratitude for the Filipino people and sacrifices they made during World War II.
The dedicatory proceedings were broadcast to 164 stake and district chapels throughout the Philippines on what President Eyring called “a day of celebration and gratitude.”
Elder and Sister Oaks lived in the Philippines from 2002-2004. He said he was thrilled to realize that Filipino Latter-day Saints “are stronger and more faithful than when we left the Philippines six years ago.”
Bishop Burton said, “It has been a marvelous day. This is a godsend to people who live in this part of the world. It’s a joy to have the opportunity to be here and feel the spirit that was here today.”
Elder Walker said, “I am sure the Filipino Saints will remember this forever, the way President Monson came and was so sweet, kind and gracious. They will remember the way he paid attention to the children.”
Gerald E. Mortimer of Ammon, Idaho, will serve as temple president, with his wife, Linda Mortimer, serving as temple matron. President Mortimer’s counselors are Reynaldo L. Cuyong of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, and Jesse Lee Byram of Rigby, Idaho. Their wives, Virginia Cuyong and Debra Byram, will serve as assistants to Sister Mortimer.
From the cornerstone ceremony through the last session, President Monson greeted many children. He shook their hands and talked to them much as would a loving grandfather.
On his way to the final session of dedication, he stopped to speak to Kyle Ayessa Pacana, 9, from the Carmen Branch, Liloan Philippines Stake. At first, she seemed a bit shy and was hesitant to talk to President Monson. But, suddenly, she rushed to him and threw her arms around his waist. He enveloped her tiny frame in a reciprocal hug.
Those who witnessed the tender scene responded as one, issuing a verbal “aah.”