|Program of the Meridian Temple site dedication|
The program of the Meridian Idaho Temple Groundbreaking Service listed Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as presiding. However when the broadcast began, Elder David A. Bednar was the apostle present. Conducting was Elder Kent F. Richards, the Executive Director of the Temple Department. The opening hymn was "High on the Mountain Top," and the prayer was provided by President H. David Christensen of the Caldwell Idaho Stake.
Elder J. Craig Rowe was the opening speaker. He is Chairman of the Groundbreaking Committee.
Being a history person I greatly enjoyed his comments. He spoke about the history of the Meridian region, and the history of the Church in that area. He told of how the earliest settlers in Meridian came in the early 1860s, and settled in the Five Mile Creek area. Eventually they established a dairy, and this became the area's major contribution for many years.
Meridian was incorporated in 1903, and expanded its agriculture to include various fruit orchards and aviaries. The first members of the Church in Meridian came in the 1920s and 1930s from eastern Idaho. Many of them were descendants of settlers sent to Idaho by Brigham Young.
April 29th, 1932 was the first organized meeting of the Latter-day Saints in Meridian. The 40 members were not well received by the community, and as such held their first meeting in the town undertaker's parlor.
As the meeting expanded, they moved to Parker's Dance Hall at the corner of Parker and Broadway Streets. Elder Rowe told of how the Saints would often prepare for Sunday services by sweeping up the cigarette butts and cleaning up beer bottles from the dances held on Saturday nights.
In June of 1934, the Meridian Branch was organized. The Meridian Ward was dedicated in 1941.
Elder Blake R. Alder, the Area Seventy to the Idaho Area, spoke second. He began his talk by quoting Doctrine and Covenants 65: 1-3, emphasizing the phrase "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." He then makes mention of the finishing of the Kirtland Temple and Elijah's appearance to bestow the keys of sealing. He makes repeated mention of the Spirit of Elijah throughout his talk.
He mentions how the Saints first learned of the commandment to build temples in 1832, and how this inspired them to build the Kirtland Temple. He also tells in some detail the story of John Tanner, who in my opinion was one of the most important converts of the early Church. The Church produced a film called "Treasures in Heaven: The John Tanner Story" which is available to view on their website here.
Elder Alder told the story of how John Tanner came to the Church's rescue by paying the $2000 mortgage on the Kirtland Temple lot the day before it was to be foreclosed. He then transitioned into the fact that two of John Tanner's descendants are recent converts, and were in attendance at the dedication. Elder Alder told of how after one of these converts discovered the amazing story of his ancestor, he didn't hesitate in being baptized.
John Tanner's story, together with his descendants who have joined the Church, are wonderful examples of how the Spirit of Elijah works on the earth today. Because of John Tanner's sacrifices, his testimony reaches beyond the grave to continue building the kingdom of God.
Elder Alder closes by praying for the Spirit of Elijah to increase among the Saints in Idaho.
Elder Kent F. Richards spoke next, followed by his wife Marsha, who was invited by Elder Bednar to share her testimony.
Elder Richards focused his remarks on some very worthy goals for those who wish to prepare themselves to enter the Meridian Temple. He told the story of Joshua of how he erected stones as witnesses to the covenant his people made to obey the Lord. He compared temple recommends to these stones, and encouraged everyone to prepare and qualify to receive one.
He taught that temple work is for all ages, especially for the younger generation. He challenged families to work together to find and redeem their own dead. He said this was one of the greatest preparations we could undertake to show our gratitude for the new temple.
Elder Richards presented a very worthy challenge, that the Meridian Temple become the first in the Church to become fully self sufficient on family names, as opposed to those that are submitted from Saints around the world for others to do. He commented that the Boise temple is nearly self sufficient in terms of patrons bringing their own names to the temple. He also invited families to counsel together in how they can achieve these goals together.
Marsha Richards bore her testimony, and spoke of how conversion was like a personal groundbreaking in our lives. She compared it to the transformation outlined in Alma 36, specifically how Alma's mind "caught hold" of Jesus Christ. She mentioned how frequently the word "Joy" occurs after that in the chapter.
The Choir sang "Arise, O Glorious Zion."
Elder David A. Bednar concluded the meeting by explaining that Elder Perry was called away for personal matters and could not be there. He mentioned that he knew Elder Perry, who is from Boise area, was looking forward to being there. Elder Bednar lamented that Elder Perry couldn't be there, and it was very sweet.
Elder Bednar's remarks were more brief than I expected, but spoke to the most significant challenge this new temple will present to the Saints in Idaho. He spoke about preserving the enthusiasm and gratitude we feel for the Meridian Temple long after the novelty has faded.
He mentioned how many of us will document this temple's construction as the experience of a lifetime. He spoke of the jubilation that occurred in the hearts of many when the temple was announced. He humored that some would likely make scrapbooks to document the temple's construction all throughout the process. He even foresaw that many Saints would eagerly look forward to worshiping in the newly completed temple, and would do so with great enthusiasm.
But what he foresaw for many, and I'm sure the experience with temple attendance in other newly built temples would attest, is that novelty eventually wears off. Because the temple is so close, so convenient to access, many will forget the joy and eagerness they once felt. The gratitude for the Lord's blessing will fade, and the temple becomes just another thing to do.
Elder Bednar challenged us all to maintain our gratitude, and said the way we are worshiping in this temple long after it is completed is the true measure of our gratitude for it.
"Please. Please," he repeated, "Let your gratitude continue."
He mentioned how temples are paid for by Saints all over the world, and how the tithing from Saints in Africa was being used to build this temple. He told of his visits to Kinshasa and Gabon, how the Saints there commonly only eat once a day. He challenged us to live up to their sacrifices in our own ways, specifically in how we worship in this new temple provided by their tithing funds.
Elder Bednar also taught that temples are not built according to the number of stakes, members, or any other metrics of an area. He said new temples are announced and constructed based on the hearts of the people in that region. He affirmed to us that the temple was being built because of the goodness of our hearts, and we need to preserve this goodness deep into the future.
He closed with his testimony, and I love the way he phrased it because of a conversation I recently had with an atheist who said my beliefs were not based in fact.
"The Tomb is empty. It is not a fable. It is not a story. It is a fact."
He then provided the dedicatory prayer for the temple site. Of the many things he promised, I remember most vividly that he prayed that the temple's construction would be unhindered, even accelerated--that the temple's construction might even be finished ahead of schedule.
The closing hymn was "Now Let Us Rejoice," with the congregation joining in on the last verse.
The prayer was provided by Lori Henneman of the Meridian Idaho Paramount Stake.
The Groundbreaking followed, and the broadcast concluded.