CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA
According to the calendar, it was still fall when President Thomas S. Monson arrived Oct. 28 to dedicate the Calgary Alberta Temple. However, as he arrived at the temple in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, he found a scene that looked more like winter, one fit for a Christmas card showing snow blanketing trees and temple grounds.
Latter-day Saints, many with young children, stood in the cold waiting for his arrival and for the sealing in place of the symbolic cornerstone. In addition to wearing winter coats, many huddled under blankets they had brought along as reinforcements against the cold. As he walked from his car to the temple, President Monson shook hands with a number of members.
A tent enclosed the cornerstone area with heaters adding warmth not only for the comfort of the participants but also to keep the mortar from freezing.
The sealing of the cornerstone was part of the first dedicatory session, which began in the celestial room with a hymn by a choir and an opening prayer. Then President Monson and others went outside to the cornerstone. He applied a bit of mortar and then invited others to take their turn with the trowel.
After the cornerstone was sealed, President Monson listened to a choir comprised of young single adults. Before re-entering the temple, he told those assembled to “remember not just what you see but what you feel” during the day of the dedication.
In comments to the Church News, President Monson said that returning to Canada is like going home. Ever since he was called to preside over the Canadian Mission from 1959-1962, with headquarters in Toronto, he has had a great love for the country. “Canada is like a second home. Whether east or west, north or south, I love Canada and all our members here. I have a special place in my heart for this land and its people.”
He said, “Many of our missionaries came from Alberta.”
General Authorities accompanying President Monson and addressing various sessions of the dedication were Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department. Elder Richard K. Melchin, Area Seventy, who was the temple open house and dedication committee chairman, also participated, along with the temple’s presidency: Blair S. Bennett, president, and counselors, Ellis G. Stonehocker and Richard B. Carter, and matron, Jane Bennett, and assistants to the matron, Glenda L. Stonehocker and Carolyn J. Carter.
Sister Ann M. Dibb, President Monson’s daughter and second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, also attended the dedicatory events, as did Sister Barbara Ballard, Sister Vicki Walker and Sister Debora Christensen.
Elder Ballard, like President Monson, has ties to Canada, having presided over the Canadian Mission from 1974-77. His maternal grandfather, Apostle Hyrum M. Smith, the eldest son of President Joseph F. Smith, addressed Latter-day Saints in a stake conference in 1915. Elder Ballard’s paternal grandfather, Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, was the Northwestern States Mission President for 10 years and held stake conferences in Alberta 23 times. He was affectionately called “the Western Canadian Apostle.”
The Calgary Alberta Temple is the Church’s 140th temple worldwide, the eighth in Canada and the third in Alberta. The site for the first temple in Canada was dedicated nearly 100 years ago, on July 27, 1913, by President Joseph F. Smith.
“For many years, the Cardston Alberta Temple was the temple for Canada,” said Elder Walker, who grew up in Raymond, Alberta. “Then came the Toronto temple, which served the Saints in Eastern Canada. As the Church grew and spread from coast to coast, temples were built in Halifax, Montreal, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver.”
Elder Walker told the Church News that when the decision was made to build a temple in Calgary, President Monson said, “President [N. Eldon] Tanner will be very pleased.”
President Tanner, who was called in 1953 as president of the first stake in Calgary, later served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, member of the Twelve and counselor to four Church presidents.
It was dark and below freezing when President Monson and others left the temple. Despite the discomfort of the cold, he paused to shake hands with members. Certainly, he warmed hearts and added to many memories of the day the Calgary Alberta Temple was dedicated.