Church dedicates a temple — the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple — for the first time in 20 months

WINNIPEG, Canada — Likenesses of the tenacious prairie crocus are found abundantly in the newly dedicated Winnipeg Manitoba Temple. 

The arching entry portal that welcomed visitors to Sunday’s temple dedication rests below a stone prairie crocus. And the flower can also be spotted in the temple’s art glass, rugs, woodwork carvings and door handles.

The prairie crocus motif is, at once, distinctly Manitoban while also serving as a symbol of hope for Latter-day Saints worldwide seeking the promise of renewal following a difficult season of seemingly indeterminate end.

The prairie crocus is the provincial flower of Manitoba. Residents here will tell you it is the first plant to bloom on the Manitoban prairie each year, signaling winter’s end. The plant’s mauve petals are often spotted even before the season’s final snows have melted.

A prairie crocus decorates the red brink of the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. Both the crocus and red brick are unique features of this temple.
A prairie crocus decorates the red brink of the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. Both the crocus and red brick are unique features of this temple. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

That is a hopeful symbol resonating with people far beyond central Canada. And despite the snow flurries and gray skies on Sunday, Oct. 31, the Church’s newest dedicated temple holds the promise of bright new beginnings.

“I have often used the prairie crocus as a reference in gospel lessons because it is a symbol of faith,” said Winnipeg native Susan Paunins. “It comes forth in the snow and in the coldest weather and blooms. And even though it is surrounded by snow, it knows the warmth of the sun will keep it alive. 

“That is symbolic of the gospel and so many other aspects of our lives.”

After emerging from a Sunday afternoon dedicatory session, Winnipeg resident Lu-Ann Dopwell was met by snow flurries and frigid winds. But the late-October elements could not chill the moment’s spiritual warmth.

“I feel wonderful,” she said. “It’s great to have a temple in this area. We’ve waited a long time for a temple. Traveling to other temples was difficult for a lot of people, especially some of the seniors. This temple is a positive thing for us all.”

People mingle as they come and go from sessions during dedication proceedings at the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
People mingle as they come and go from sessions during dedication proceedings at the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

Dopwell added it is her prayer that the Church’s newest temple “will stand as a beacon of hope and light for a difficult and challenging world.”

Her fellow Winnipegger and ward member, Gabriel Thomas, was humbled to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime event: dedicating a temple in his own community.

The new temple, he said, simply adds to the hope the gospel already provides.

Read Elder Gong’s blessing for Latter-day Saints in Manitoba during Winnipeg temple dedicatory prayer

The temple connects to the Savior

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided at Sunday’s four dedicatory sessions of the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple. He was joined by Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong and Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, both General Authority Seventies, and their wives: Sister Susan Gong, Sister Carol Wong and Sister Silvia Valenzuela.

The traditional temple cornerstone ceremony was held a day earlier on Saturday, Oct. 30.

Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, Sister Carol Wong, Sister Susan Gong, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela and Sister Silvia Valenzuela stand for a portrait at the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada.,Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.
Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, Sister Carol Wong, Sister Susan Gong, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela and Sister Silvia Valenzuela stand for a portrait at the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada.,Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

The vast majority of Latter-day Saints around the world will never step foot inside the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple. But few temples have been dedicated and opened with such far-reaching interest and significance. It is the first temple the Church has dedicated since Feb. 16, 2020, when Elder Gong’s fellow Apostle, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, presided over the dedication of the Durban South Africa Temple. After this, the COVID-19 outbreak placed temple dedications on hold. 

But attendees at Sunday’s Winnipeg dedication stood as evidence any interruption to temple building is temporary. Temple work, in prairie crocus fashion, can emerge even amid the harshness of any season.

“Every temple is a blessing to people in their respective areas — and all their generations on both sides of the veil,” Elder Gong told the Church News. “The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is the ninth temple in Canada and the 169th temple in the Church. For the people of this area, it is a blessing that they have long hoped for.

A prairie crocus blooms in Alberta, Canada.
A prairie crocus blooms in Alberta, Canada. Credit: Wirestock – stock.adobe.com

“Now this blessing has come.”

President Russell M. Nelson, he added, has taught “everything we believe and every promise God has made to His covenant people comes together in the temple.”

If time allowed, Elder Gong would enjoy sitting down with every Latter-day Saint living in the new Winnipeg temple district. His counsel for each one would be the same:

“We hope each member has a valid temple recommend and that he or she uses it often to bless others. Find joy on the covenant path. You will find the Savior at the center of everything connected to the temple. Become part of the wonderful excitement and blessing of the work of salvation for family members and friends on both sides of the veil.”

Sister Gong was uplifted by the strength and devotion of the young people who now call the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple “our temple.”

“The youth already have an understanding of the importance of the temple and an appreciation for what the temple is,” she said. “They all have plans to participate in ordinances here.

“We hope that they can always keep that vision — and then pass that on to their children and their children’s children, so that the sacred nature of the temple can be real in their lives through generations.”

The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is seen on the left with part of the church also visible on the right in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is seen on the left with part of the church also visible on the right in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

A native of Mexico, Elder Valenzuela has witnessed in his own country the many ways that temples can bless lives when they are accessible. The Winnipeg area members, he said, have had to travel several hours to worship in the closest temple in Regina. 

“Now they have their own temple,” he said. “The rising generation will have the opportunity to come often to the temple and be strengthened in their testimonies. It is beautiful to have the house of the Lord in your own town.”

The world is rife with difficulties, observed Sister Valenzuela. But young Latter-day Saints in the Winnipeg temple district now have a new refuge. “Here they can feel peace and the love of the Lord. That can change their hearts to be better.”

As fellow converts, Elder and Sister Wong understand the integral role a temple can have on a community’s missionary efforts.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quourm of the Twelve Apostles speaks to young Church members in front of the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple after the dedication proceedings in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quourm of the Twelve Apostles speaks to young Church members in front of the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple after the dedication proceedings in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

“This is such a beautiful temple — you can see it right from the highway,” said Sister Wong. “It is a tangible thing to all who pass through the city. It is the house of the Lord and it will be a very effective missionary tool.”

All who attend the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple “will become stronger and have a greater desire to share the gospel with others,” said Elder Wong. “That is why President Nelson said we are gathering Israel from both sides of the veil.”

Like every other dedicated temple around the world, the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple has the words “Holiness To The Lord” embossed over the entrance.

“That is an invitation to become more like our Father in Heaven, through the Atonement of His Son,” said Elder Gong. “It is also an invitation to communities. … And in a time when we need light to chase out darkness, temples everywhere are a blessing to people and their communities.”

Elder John N. Craig is an Area Seventy and a proud son of Canada. He knows his fellow countrymen and countrywomen in the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple district are eager to fulfill their temple duties.

“Events like this dedication remind us of how important this work is,” he said. “The work will not be done until the Lord comes again. We will continue to be anxiously engaged in this cause, knowing it is continual and that it happens, joyfully, day after day.”

His wife, Sister Carol Craig, spoke of the humility and devotion of the Manitoban Latter-day Saints. Long before Sunday’s dedication, they were known for their commitment to the temple.

“I love the thought of them coming and going into this holy temple,” she said. “What a blessing it will be for their families. They have always been so faithful and we’ve grown to love them.”

The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is illuminated in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is illuminated in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

A sacred edifice to bless Central Canada

For many visitors, the most striking visual element of the newly dedicated Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is its red brick exterior. The temple’s original exterior design called for native Tyndall Stone, a dolomite limestone. But that material was deemed too soft for the building.

So instead Park Rose red brick was used — making the Winnipeg temple the first such edifice done in red brick that is not a remodel or renovation. While reaching a height of over 31 meters (about 101 feet) at the top of the Angel Moroni statue, the temple’s design style was based on the concept of a small English country church. It was also influenced by the Copenhagen Denmark Temple and small country churches found in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The interior rooms of the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple are elegantly understated and done in soft purples, aqua and green. Visual highlights include art glass throughout the building featuring the familiar prairie crocus designs and stone tile flooring quarried in Turkey. The handmade area rugs in the main entry corridor and the carpet in the bride’s room were designed in Guangdong, China, specifically for the temple.

People mingle as they come and go from sessions during dedication proceedings at the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
People mingle as they come and go from sessions during dedication proceedings at the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

Two original pieces of artwork are found in the Winnipeg temple. One titled “The Work of the Sabbath, John 5:12” hangs in the main corridor just past the entry. The second painting — “Why Weepest Thou” — is located just outside the Bride’s Room.

The artist of both pieces is Albin Veselka of Rexburg, Idaho.

Latter-day Saint pioneers come from many places and many eras. 

Doreen Abbott can be aptly counted among Winnipeg’s pioneers. She moved from Calgary, Canada, to Manitoba in 1939. She knew Winnipeg when the Church was young. She raised her children when there were just a couple of Latter-day Saint branches in the city. 

The sign at the front of the approach to the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple with the temple in the background on the left and the church on the right in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
The sign at the front of the approach to the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple with the temple in the background on the left and the church on the right in Winnipeg, Canada, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Daniel Crump, for the Deseret News

And, no, she could not have imagined back then ever participating in a temple dedication in the city she has called home for decades.

“This has been just marvelous,” she said from the warmth of her car following Sunday’s dedication. “I spent 12 years going back and forth to Regina every month to work in the temple there. I can no longer drive to Regina — but I can do it here. … Hopefully the Church in Winnipeg will grow even quicker now.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article had Susan Paunins’ name incorrectly spelled.