Trent Toone: How the Feather River California Temple was built on the faith and service of members

Members in northern California reflect on the growth and impact of the new temple

YUBA CITY, California —  Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was quick to note the “faith and devotion” of Latter-day Saints in his dedicatory prayer of the Feather River California Temple on Sunday, Oct. 8.

“We also express our gratitude for the faith and devotion of those who were pioneers in this area and whose posterity have lived exemplary lives before Thee and influenced others to come unto Christ to enjoy the blessings of Thy gospel,” Elder Soares said.

Meeting some of these members and feeling of their faith and devotion was for me one of the best parts of covering the Feather River temple dedication.

Donna Rae Hawkley attended both dedicatory sessions of the Feather River temple — the first via broadcast at the Chico Stake Center, and the second at the temple.

Donna Rae Hawkley, 95, stands on the temple grounds.
Donna Rae Hawkley, 95, stands on the temple grounds after the dedication of the Feather River California Temple in Yuba City, California, on Oct. 8, 2023. | Caleb Brown, for the Deseret New

Prior to the second session, the 95-year-old Hawkley and her granddaughter Melissa Hawkley flipped through the pages of a scrapbook Donna had filled with photos, programs and mementos from various area Church history events dating back to the early 1950s, such as the dedication of the first Chico meetinghouse in 1954.

Over the years, Donna Hawkley and her late husband found joy in serving in various leadership callings. When he was serving as elders quorum president, they organized potluck dinners and various activities to bring the members together.

Hawkley recalled fond memories of teaching seminary and serving in the ward and stake Relief Society. For the last 20 years, she has ministered and nurtured friendships with single sisters in her ward by hosting monthly activities in her home.

Years of faith and service have made attending the temple dedication a sweet experience for Hawkley.

“It is just a highlight for me to be here at the dedication,” she said with a smile. “I thank Him every day for every new day. It’s such a gift of time.”

Left, Sandra Newton and her mother Charlotte Cunningham pose for a photo.
Left, Sandra Newton and her mother, Charlotte Cunningham, pose for a photo after the first session of the dedication of the Feather River Temple in Yuba City, California, on Oct. 8, 2023. | Caleb Brown, for the Deseret New

Charlotte Cunningham attended the temple dedication with her daughter, Sandra Newton.

For the 90-year-old Cunningham, who her family members affectionately call the “queen of family history work,” the temple dedication could not come fast enough.

“I do a lot of family history work,” said Cunningham, who serves as a ward temple and family history consultant. “I have a lot of family names ready to go.”

The dedication was a “spiritual feast” for Bishop Jimmy Nore and his wife, Amy Nore, of the Hillcrest Ward in the Yuba City Stake. Not only will the temple be a great blessing for area Latter-day Saints, he said, but they feel it will continue to have a positive impact on the people of other faiths and cultures in the community who have been accepting and respectful of the temple.

Bishop Jimmy Nore and his wife, Amy Nore, pose for a photograph.
Bishop Jimmy Nore, of the Hillcrest Ward in the Yuba City Stake, and his wife, Amy Nore, pose for a photograph after the first dedicatory session of the Feather River California Temple in Yuba City, California, on Oct. 8, 2023. | Caleb Brown, for the Deseret New

“This temple will not just be a place for Latter-day Saints to come, but it will be a place that the community will look to as a source of light,” the bishop said.

The couple also expressed gratitude to know the Feather River temple will stand for years to come.

“That gives us peace of mind as parents and grandparents to know this really will be their temple long after we leave this earth,” Jimmy Nore said.

On a personal note, my father, Gregory W. Toone, served in the California North Mission, under President William M. Walsh, from 1973 to 1975. In those days, the mission covered all of California north of Oakland, a small part of Oregon and most of Nevada.

Gregory Toone as a young missionary.
Gregory Toone as a young missionary. Toone served in the California North Mission from 1973 to 1974. | Provided by Gregory Toone

During those years, President Walsh created a choir of missionaries that performed in cities throughout the mission. This choir, of which my father was a member, was invited to sing at Latter-day Saint worship services and events, as well as in sanctuaries and churches of other faiths. Many times faith leaders sent kind letters and notes of gratitude to the mission office.

The mission choir performed in Yuba City in May and November 1974, according to my father’s mission records.

“We were always welcomed, always appreciated. They loved the music and the Spirit they felt. We were sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through music,” my father said. “We felt like we were planting seeds. It took some years for those seeds to grow, but the Church has grown and it is wonderful to see another temple in that area.”

My feelings are best summarized with Elder Soares’ words from the dedicatory prayer: “We delight in the privilege to live in a time when temples, like this Feather River temple, are filling the earth. ... May we always remember their [the pioneers in this area] sacrifices and devotion to Thee in this sacred place where we stand today, which sacrifices have helped to establish Thy gospel in this beautiful area.”

— Trent Toone is a reporter for the Church News.

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