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A sacred spirit: Remembering what temple announcements are really about

One of my brothers and his wife sat in the Conference Center for the Saturday morning session of April 2011 general conference, listening as President Thomas S. Monson announced three locations for new temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — Fort Collins, Colorado; Meridian, Idaho; and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Overwhelmed by the flood of memories and emotions of our family’s three-plus decades in Fort Collins, Alan quietly wept — and continued for much of the two-hour meeting. He was three months old as we arrived in Fort Collins in the summer of 1968, when the sole Latter-day Saint ward was part of the Cheyenne Wyoming Stake.

We five siblings grew up in Fort Collins just as the Church grew there. My father served as a singles-student branch president, home ward bishop and stake president, and my mother was a secretary for several years at the institute near the Colorado State University campus.

Fort Collins was not just our “family” home but “Church” home for us, too — Sunday School classes and Primary activities, talks and testimonies, Young Men and Young Women, early morning seminary and stake dances, departing for and returning from missions and then moving on to college, marriages, our own families and professions.

Aware of my brother’s emotional reaction, a nearby conference-goer turned to Alan after the morning session and said: “One of those temple locations must be very special to you.”

Our family gathered later that day — in person and by phone — to talk of the announcement, to reminisce of our hometown and to envision a future temple there.

Some reactions to temple announcements at general conference have become more audible — such as gasp-like responses to President Monson identifying Rome as a future location or declaring the rebuilding of the burned-out Provo Tabernacle as that city’s second temple.

As President Russell M. Nelson announced 12 new temple locations at the most recent conference, some responses started sounding like would-be cheers, a little louder and a little more emboldened with each stated location.

President Nelson announced the 12 locations not in any progression of priority or notoriety but rather in alphabetical order by state or country — a pattern he followed in both the April and October conferences.

I understand the excitement and enthusiasm in rejoicing. I’ve personally listened to Italian Latter-day Saints recount the cheering and celebrating that ensued during the streaming of the April 2008 conference there and the news of a Rome temple. I see why a member in Argentina would tell the Church News the announcement of a temple there was “like we had just scored a goal in the World Cup.”

And one of my favorite scriptures follows Alma’s baptismal invitation at the waters of Mormon: “And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts” (Mosiah 18:11 — although I will add that “clapped their hands for joy” may not be the equivalent of our modern-day applause).

After compiling a historical look at temple announcements at general conference, I’ve been reminded that while the pairing provides wonderful moments and emotions, such announcements and conferences can and do happen independently of each other.

General conference is certainly more than temple locations, releasings, sustainings and major Church announcements. It’s an opportunity for messages to be prepared, delivered and received by the Spirit, with the teachings, invitations and promised blessings enduring much longer than an April or October weekend.

Perhaps announcements of new temple locations in the future might move to another time, another setting or another medium. And that may be the case if the responses to such announcements in general conference start to become more like high school commencement exercises, where the acknowledgment of an admirable accomplishment has, for some, evolved into an effort to out-cheer others.

Or perhaps conference attendees will be reminded to receive temple announcements in the same sacred spirit they are presented by a prophet of God.

Consider what happened after the October 2009 announcement of a temple in Concepcion, Chile. After viewing the conference session in a Talcahuano, Chile, stake center, members there stayed to kneel in a prayer of gratitude.

A postscript: We Taylor siblings had moved from Fort Collins well before my father passed away in 1998 at age 64, following his four-year battle with cancer. My mother remarried several years later; after serving a mission with my stepfather, she sold the family home and moved to Utah.

In late August 2016, our family returned to Fort Collins — joined by spouses and some children and grandchildren — to walk through the Fort Collins Colorado Temple during its public open house.

It was wonderful to be back in our hometown, to drive by our old home and to visit the new House of the Lord there in Fort Collins before its dedication several weeks later — a temple dedication that, like all others, included a sacred and appropriate “Hosanna Shout.”

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