From Tuesday to Friday each week, Dennis Preece faithfully rolls out of bed around 6 a.m. No alarm clock necessary. He’s done it for so long that his body just knows.
After a shower, Preece puts on a white shirt and tie. Everything was prepared the night before.
The 69-year-old takes note of a few special items resting on a desk next to his bed, including his temple recommend, a calendar on which he’s carefully marked the number of temple ordinances he’s performed, and a small spiral notebook in which he’s written their names. There are thousands of names recorded in multiple notebooks.
One wall in his bedroom is covered with plaques and framed certificates, recognizing years of temple service, along with dozens of photos of Preece standing in front of various Latter-day Saint temples.
When all is in order, Preece departs for the Utah Ogden Temple, a 10- to 15-minute drive from where he lives with his widowed sister, Karen Miner. His plan is to attend back-to-back endowment sessions. At times in the past, he rode the bus, but these days he catches a ride with his sister, a neighbor or ward member.
Since receiving a personal call from the prophet in 1979, Preece’s life has revolved around temple work. To date, according to his records, Preece has completed temple ordinances for more than 13,100 deceased people.
“I have done more temple work than anybody in the Church,” Preece says with gusto but no trace of arrogance.
“I don’t think you have, Dennis, we don’t know that,” his sister Karen says patiently. “But you have done a lot.”
Preece and his twin brother Randall were born six to seven weeks premature in 1949. Dennis was delivered in a breech position. For a short time he turned blue due to lack of oxygen. He weighed three pounds.
His brother “Randy” weighed four pounds and died within a year.
As a result, Dennis Preece has special needs. He struggles with some mental and physical deficiencies, but is able to function in many basic ways.
Despite his challenges, one fact has always been certain — Dennis loves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“He’s always loved the Church,” Miner said.
Preece received his first temple recommend in 1974 but his life changed in 1979 when he met President Spencer W. Kimball.
At that time, Preece was deeply discouraged because he couldn’t serve a mission. A kind neighbor in Pleasant View who knew President Kimball arranged for Dennis and his parents to go to Church headquarters on April 24, 1979, to meet with President Kimball. Preece said he was extremely nervous to meet the prophet but was put at ease when President Kimball gently clasped his hand, looked into his eyes and gave him an assignment.
“He told me I would be a temple missionary,” Preece said with some emotion. “Your job on earth is temple work.”
Preece answered the call. As of Oct. 31, the 5-foot-3 Latter-day Saint has performed 13,135 endowments in 46 different temples, in addition to other temple ordinances. He knows because he’s meticulously recorded each number on his calendar, along with the names in the notebook. It’s something his mother encouraged him to do to help him keep up his writing skills, Miner said.
When the Ogden temple was closed for renovation, Preece found rides to Logan, Brigham City, Bountiful, Salt Lake and other Utah temples. He also insisted on attending temples in places where his family has traveled on vacation, his sister said.
“It takes him about three years to do 1,000 endowments,” Miner said.
Thanks to Preece, temple attendance is up in the Forest Green Ward of the Ogden Utah Weber Heights Stake. In addition to his own family names (by the way, he loves family history and visiting cemeteries where ancestors are buried), he’s completed hundreds of names for at least half the members of his ward, his sister said.
Preece reports on his progress each week by handing a note with his latest numbers to Bishop Frank Browning or a counselor.
“Every week I get one,” Bishop Browning said. “Dennis is as faithful as faithful can be. I can imagine the crowd is going to be pretty large when he gets to the other side.”
When he hit No. 13,000 on June 6, Preece was presented with a certificate at a ward linger longer. He also received a special letter signed by the Ogden Temple Presidency. Preece has a tender affection for the temple presidency and matrons.
“You are remarkable, Dennis. We love you very much,” the temple presidency wrote in the letter. “We love your smile, we love your enthusiasm, and we love the way you continue to attend the temple. Thank you for always stopping by to let us know how you are doing in this great work.”
Paul Heiner, a friend and fellow ward member, used Weber State’s 11,500-seat Dee Events Center to illustrate the scope of Preece’s temple service.
“I imagine the Dee Events Center, which is near his home, overflowing its capacity of about 12,000 people,” Heiner said. “The crowd and more will be joyously celebrating him when he is welcomed to the other side of the veil because of his dedicated work in the temple. Can you imagine? This work has been his life’s mission. He is such an inspiration.”
If you are thinking he might do some names for you, “get in line,” Bishop Browning said.
“Everybody in the ward gives him names. He just keeps working on them,” the bishop said. “That’s his life. He’s just done that for years and years and years.”
Temple work makes Preece happy. If he misses a few days he starts to become morose and depressed, Miner said.
“Some days if he hasn’t had the temple we’ve got a 5-6 year-old here,” said Miner, who serves at the Ogden temple on Saturdays. “When he goes to the temple all the sudden you’ve got this charming, cordial polite man. It’s amazing. The temple has such a powerful influence on him. … Heavenly Father has had a hand in Denny’s life.”
Preece often thinks about his brother Randy and feels close to him in the temple.
“Randy is my guardian angel. I think he’s over there (on the other side of the veil) helping me out,” Preece said. “He’s doing the work there and I’m doing the work here.”
Serving in the temple has also strengthened Preece’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Preece turns 70 on Thanksgiving Day. He’s healthy and has no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“I feel so close to our Savior because this is His house and when I go there I feel the Spirit of the Savior,” Preece said. “I feel peace.”