YUKON, Oklahoma — Over 150 years ago, a newly baptized convert named Heinrich Eyring dutifully reported for six years of labor in the Indian Territory Mission, in what is now the state of Oklahoma.
Elder Eyring’s pioneer-era, Spirit-sustaining devotion remains emblematic of the thousands of Latter-day Saints who call the Sooner State home.
On Sunday, another Eyring etched his own name here in local Church history.
President Henry B. Eyring — second counselor in the First Presidency and Elder Eyring’s great-grandson — rededicated the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple.
“As I walked through the temple and I looked at all motifs that had to do with Oklahoma and the American Indians, I felt my great-grandfather’s spirit,” said President Eyring, pausing with emotion.
Blessings that the 19th-century missionary once promised the people of this region have again been bestowed. Once again, a temple in Oklahoma is welcoming and teaching all who visit.
The Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple, President Eyring added, reflects the Latter-day Saints who have made this edifice their spiritual shelter for almost two decades.
“This temple has a perfect balance,” he told the Church News. “It is a house for the Lord — and for the people. It has a wonderful feeling.”
The Mountain of the Lord
Almost 19 years have passed since President Eyring’s friend and fellow apostle, President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, dedicated the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple on July 30, 2000.
Having a temple in Oklahoma “was a beautiful gift,” said Oklahoma City Oklahoma Stake President Thomas R. Gray.
Once dedicated, the state’s one and only temple forever changed Oklahoma, he added. Testimonies germinated and strengthened. Mothers and fathers and their children were sealed for eternity. People who encountered this small yet stately temple asked to learn more about the restored gospel — and many became Latter-day Saints.
Meanwhile, “a greater community understanding of the Church since the dedication has led to more respect and acceptance of our faith,” said President Gray. “And for the members, our temple has been a refuge — a place to get away from the chaos of the world and find peace and power.”
The Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple closed in 2017 for extensive renovations. Members in the temple district made the long drive to temples in neighboring states, even while preparing for the day when their own temple would reopen.
Scores of local Latter-day Saints invited their friends, neighbors and co-workers to the recent open house, which many here said performed miracles in strengthening friendships and inviting discussion.
The temple is found in the suburb community of Yukon, a significant drive from downtown Oklahoma City. Still, over 21,000 people toured the temple during its recent, abbreviated open house — including Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, U.S. Sen. James Lankford and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin.
“It was also beautiful to have guests from so many different faiths — Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Baptists — who came to the temple,” said local Church public affairs specialist Becky Wilkinson. “We focused on the things that we have in common. … And we found we had much more in common than we had differences.”
Celebrating Jesus Christ and His anchoring role in the temple highlighted each open house tour, she added.
Following Sunday’s rededication, the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple is again “the mountain of the Lord.”
“People who have moved here from the western United States claim we don’t have mountains in Oklahoma,” said President Gray. “But I point out to them that we have a ‘mountain’ in our own stake: our temple — the mountain of the Lord.”
Rededicating a haven
“People come to the temple to find peace,” he said. “They come here to worship God and feel close to Him. … Our invitation is for all to come and feel His peace and love.”
Many of Elder Robbins’ past ecclesiastical duties have involved the youth of the Church. The temple, he said, is a young person’s portal to happiness and growth. Entering the Lord’s house on earth opens the door to His house in heaven.
“The temple is the most important destination in life,” he said. “It represents entering into the presence of God.”
Elder Duncan and Elder Robbins agree that the rededication of the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple is yet another entry in a historic chapter of Church history that is happening in real time. Even as President Eyring was rededicating this beloved edifice, President Russell M. Nelson was traveling across the Pacific and inviting Latter-day Saints there to live their best lives.
“The Lord is hastening His work, and time compresses,” said Elder Duncan, noting that more temple dedications and rededications are scheduled in the coming weeks and months in nations across the globe.
Change and growth are synonymous, observed Elder Robbins. “With more and more members — and 250 Area Seventies worldwide — the work is growing exponentially.”
The gathering continues
Sitting beneath a painting of the Savior that greets visitors to the Oklahoma City temple, President Eyring marveled at the many who will be rededicating their lives and families to the Lord — even as the Oklahoma City temple is being rededicated.
“They will do that by coming here often — and by bringing their young people,” he said.
He pointed to the nearby baptismal font.
“I feel overwhelmed by the experiences of the young people who will come to this temple. They will have a dramatic effect on the people here; increasing their love of the Lord and their love of temples.”
Temples continue to be built — and, in some cases, rededicated — because President Nelson sees them as vital to gathering Israel, he added.
More than 160 temples are in operation — with dozens more announced or under construction. But participating in events such as the one that happened Sunday in central Oklahoma never becomes commonplace for priesthood leaders such as President Eyring, Elder Duncan and Elder Robbins.
“It never gets old,” said President Eyring. “In fact, every time you enter a (new) temple you feel the Spirit of the Lord even more. What a blessing it will be for the people.”