BENTONVILLE, Arkansas — On Sunday, Sept. 17 — a historic day for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the Bentonville Arkansas Temple, the first in Northwest Arkansas and with a temple district reaching into southwest Missouri and northeast Oklahoma.
The Bentonville temple is one of three houses of the Lord dedicated on the same day; elsewhere on Sunday, Elder Neil L. Andersen dedicated the Brasília Brazil Temple, and Elder Quentin L. Cook did the same for the Moses Lake Washington Temple.
It marked the first time three Latter-day Saint temples were dedicated on the same day — the Brasília, Bentonville and Moses Lake temples becoming the Church’s 180th, 181st and 182nd dedicated houses of the Lord.
A primary focus on the covenants and ordinances
“Understandably, the dedication of each new house of the Lord is a source of great joy and a reason to give thanks to God,” Elder Bednar said. “But our primary focus should be on the covenants and ordinances that can change our hearts and deepen our devotion to the Savior and not simply on the location or beauty of the building.”
Elder Bednar underscored the teachings of President Russell M. Nelson — who announced a temple for Bentonville during the October 2019 general conference — about the fundamental responsibility of Latter-day Saints. “We are to assist in the gathering of Israel by inviting all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings available in His holy house, have enduring joy and qualify for eternal life,” Elder Bednar said.
“Gathering Israel is the most important work in which any of us can be engaged. And the covenants received and the ordinances performed in the house of the Lord are central to the work of gathering.”
Presiding, speaking and offering the dedicatory prayer during Sunday’s two sessions marked the third time Elder Bednar has been involved in milestone events of the Bentonville temple. The events have been homecomings of sorts for Elder Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, who with their three sons lived in Northwest Arkansas in the 1980s and 1990s prior to his call as Ricks College, now BYU-Idaho, president in 1997 and subsequent call to the apostleship in 2004.
At the dedicatory services, Elder Bednar was accompanied by Sister Bednar; Elder Vern P. Stanfill, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s North America Southeast Area, and his wife, Sister Alicia Stanfill; and Elder Adeyinka A. Ojediran, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Olufunmilayo Ojediran.
The Church’s growth in Northwest Arkansas
When the Bednars first arrived in Fayetteville as he joined the University of Arkansas faculty, only about 2,000 Latter-day Saints resided in what is now the Bentonville temple district. In four decades, Church membership in the temple district now sits between 35,000 and 40,000. This growth has come through convert baptisms and individuals moving into the area for Northwest Arkansas’ blossoming corporate, educational and recreational draws.
On Nov. 7, 2020, the Bednars participated remotely in the Bentonville temple’s groundbreaking services, as travel and large meetings were limited during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with their extended family, the Bednars returned in June of this year, as Elder Bednar presided over the Bentonville temple’s media day and start of special-guest tours prior to the public open house. While there, the family reconnected with longtime friends and former neighbors and colleagues, inviting them to join the Bednars in walking through the building and explaining the work and worship done there.
But going into this weekend’s dedication, Elder Bednar was thinking back even beyond their time in Northwest Arkansas when considering the global expansion of temple blessings in his lifetime.
“As a 12-year-old boy in 1964, I attended with my mother the dedication of the Oakland California Temple — the 13th operating house of the Lord,” Elder Bednar said. “Today, just 59 years later, 315 temples are functioning, announced, in design, under construction or being renovated.
“How grateful we should be to live in this remarkable season of the latter-day dispensation of the fullness of times. We are blessed to witness and participate in the ongoing fulfillment of prophecies that holy houses of the Lord will dot the earth. Surely the Lord is hastening His work in marvelous ways all around the world.”
How to remember the day of dedication?
What will Latter-day Saints remember from the dedication of the Bentonville Arkansas Temple on Sunday’s special day?
“The building will stand as a physical reminder of the spiritual realities that were confirmed today. So, the next time we enter the house of the Lord or even drive by and see it, we will remember that,” said Simon Keough, the former president of the Bentonville Arkansas Stake who with his wife co-chaired the temple open house and dedication committee.
“And then, personally, each time I’ll read the word ‘remember’ in the scriptures, it will bring new meaning and purpose, because it will bring a recollection of not just today, but all of the goodness of God in the things that He has done in our life,” he added. “It will bring a greater power and a greater potency because of the experiences we have had today.”
Added Rochelle Keogh: “I think preparing myself to continue to come to serve in the temple and to renew my covenants and help others make covenants is what will help keep this day important in my mind and keep me focused on receiving the power that is promised to come to the Saints through temple work and the connection that we have with Christ.”
Spencer and Amanda Millerberg of South Jordan, Utah, who spent several years raising their young children in Northwest Arkansas, returned for the temple dedication. Amanda Millerberg spoke of hearing the Apostle “remind us that temples are dotting the earth and that Latter-day Saints are dotting the earth. It’s our connection we have with the Restoration of the Church,” she said, adding that the blessings of the Restoration are available in the temple.
“We can choose to access it. … It’s how we meet and how we come to the temple, because the blessings are available to us.”
What attendees learned from the Spirit
Stephen Millerberg said: “The Spirit taught me today about the great gifts of the temple and how our family can be together forever. Even though we’ve left Northwest Arkansas, it’s still with us — and the temple helps us in a way that we can make sure our family is with us forever as well.”
Sisters Loryn Hutchings, age 11, and Cali Hutchings, 14, from the Cornerstone Ward in the Bentonville Stake came with their parents to Sunday’s dedication.
“Today I learned to follow Jesus, to serve others and to be a disciple of Christ,” said Loryn Hutchings of her learnings, mindful that next year she can do proxy baptisms at the temple.
Said Cali Hutchings: “I learned to always keep the temple a priority in my life and at the center of my life, to never take it for granted and now that it’s here to always keep going there often.”
Valerie Chandler — who for several years has handled the social media accounts related to the temple’s construction, open house and dedication — recalled learning about the first missionaries in the early 1900s traveling through the Ozark forests and looking for people with whom to share the gospel. “The Church here was built on the first little foundation and has continued in miraculous ways, especially since the 1980s and 1990s.”
Chandler continued: “The emphasis today on the covenants and ordinances was just so meaningful to me. … They bring the Holy Ghost into our lives in a way that sanctifies us, cleanses us and prepares us to return to God.”
Jim Nelson, of the Elm Tree Ward in the Bentonville Arkansas Stake, underscored that the temple “is called the house of the Lord, and it really is a house, a place where people can come and worship and feel the presence of the Lord.”
Bentonville Arkansas Temple
Address: 1105 McCollum Drive, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712
Announced: Oct. 5, 2019, by President Russell M. Nelson
Groundbreaking: Nov. 7, 2020, with Elder David A. Bednar presiding remotely
Public open house: June 17 through July 1, 2023, excluding Sundays
Dedication: Sept. 17, 2023, by Elder David A. Bednar in two sessions
Property size: 18.62 acres
Building size: 28,472 square feet
Building height: 111 feet, 8 inches, including spire