SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Asked to preside over the Jordan River Utah Temple rededication and to pen its rededicatory prayer, President Henry B. Eyring studied closely the original dedicatory prayer offered in 1981. For the First Presidency's second counselor, the prayer provided a double family connection — it was written by President Spencer W. Kimball, his uncle, and read at the dedication by President Marion G. Romney, his father's first cousin.
President Eyring also found another connection in the original prayer — pleas and supplications made more than 36 years previous that sought for unity among Church leaders and among Latter-day Saints as well as a call for righteous governmental leadership worldwide. The prayer seemed to connect needs and opportunities from 1981 to present day.
"It's terrifically appropriate to our time," said President Eyring to the Church News several days prior to the Sunday, May 20, rededication of the Jordan River Temple.
"You get the feeling that he foresaw turbulent times and times of dissention," he said, adding,"he was very concerned with the idea of 'let's be unified, let's be close to each other, let's love each other, let's have no dissention.'"
And so, as President Eyring gave the rededicatory prayer, he quoted extensively from President Kimball's Nov. 16, 1981, prayer, underscoring the importance of unity and the need for righteous leadership throughout the world.
The unity in the Church comes as a time of organizational change and ministerial emphasis. "If you go through heavy times and lots of change, it's not going to be easy to keep everybody feeling united, and I think we're in such a time. We're moving at a great rate."
He added: "We're living in a time of an incredible prophet of God, and we all need to pray so we can be united, so we can move along wherever the Lord is going to take us."
Joining President Eyring at the rededication were Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Mary G. Cook; Elder Timothy J. Dyches, a General Authority Seventy and assistant executive director of the Temple Department, and Sister Jill D. Dyches; Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, a General Authority Seventy, and Sister Devonna K. Arnold; Bishop Dean M. Davies, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and Sister Darla J. Davies; and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Brother Robert B. Jones.
Each of the three 90-minute sessions inside the Jordan River Temple accommodated 2,750 members ages 8 and older who reside in the 66-stake temple district and who received special event recommends from their bishops.
Nine-year-old twins Elsie and Daxton Baker of Sandy, Utah, left impressed with their experience inside the temple.
"It felt safe and happy," Daxton said. "I'm just glad I attended."
Added his sister: "I felt like I was being baptized again. And when President Eyring said the prayer, it felt like the Holy Ghost was there — I thought the room was getting brighter."
Besides the sessions inside the temple, regular Sunday meetings were cancelled in three temple districts in the southern half of the Salt Lake Valley — the Jordan River, Draper and Oquirrh Mountain temples — and rededications sessions were broadcast in meetinghouses throughout for members to attend.
The rededication capped a two-year renovation of the Jordan River Temple, a six-week public open house and numerous cultural events and celebrations for the youth of the temple district. More than 452,000 people toured through the temple during its open house.
Because it was a rededication of an existing temple, there was no public cornerstone ceremony.
When opened in 1981, the temple was the Church 20th operating temple overall and the seventh in the state of Utah. At 149,476 square feet, it is the fourth-largest temple worldwide.
Although the temple district is one of the Church's smallest geographically, the Jordan River Temple has been one of its busiest and is anticipated to return to being that.
Craig P. Burton, coordinator of the temple's open house and rededication committee, said experiences during the open house underscored the anxiousness for the temple to reopen for ordinance work.
Because of the size of the temple, those hosting private groups of special guests "could go off-path" to one of the 17 sealing rooms and spend a little extra time talking about temple worship, covenants and ordinances, he said.
"We would sit for a bit and talk about the power and sacredness and the reality of these ordinances," Burton said. "There was no one who left those rooms that didn't feel changed."
He cited several examples from those open-house experiences — the less-active couple with children who said "I think it's time we return;" the woman who previously had her name removed from Church records to attend another faith but talked about returning for rebaptism; and the excommunicated member who told his wife, "We've got to come back and be sealed here as soon as this repentance process is completed."