Boise Idaho Temple
During the open house for the Boise Idaho Temple in 1984, Church officials worked to obtain an occupancy permit to accommodate the many Saints who wanted to attend the fast-approaching dedicatory services. The projected number of attendees far exceeded the number deemed reasonable by Boise’s fire safety codes.
Early one morning, architect Ronald W. Thurber called the city’s fire chief and invited him to a personally guided tour of the entire temple. An appointment was made for 10 a.m. that day. Brother Thurber immediately notified Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the First Quorum of the Seventy, the General Authority assisting with the temple, who agreed to arrive at the temple half an hour early. As Brother Thurber, Elder Pinnock, and other Church officials gathered in the temple president’s office, Elder Pinnock told the others that he had called the First Presidency in Salt Lake City that morning and told them of the challenge. The First Presidency had put the item on the prayer roll that day and would be praying during their weekly meeting in the temple, which happened to coincide with Brother Thurber’s tour with the fire chief.
At 10 a.m. the fire chief arrived and was given a private tour of the temple. Afterward, he agreed to grant the temple a permit for unlimited occupancy, as long as a few safety procedures were followed. After the fire chief drove away, the group returned to the president’s office to give a prayer of thanks. Brother Thurber was asked to pray and later said, “I was in such tears I could hardly pray. The First Presidency had taken a particular issue and solved it by imploring the assistance of Heavenly Father.”
A Special Dream
Houston Texas Temple
Richard Gieseke, a Church member and owner of a small landscaping nursery in Houston, played a special role in beautifying the grounds of the Houston Texas Temple.
One night, a few months before the temple was announced, he dreamed of gardens adorning an unknown temple. “The dream was so vivid,” he recorded, “that I awoke and wrote a letter to the First Presidency of the Church and filed it for later use. The unusual dream was of a beautiful temple with lovely gardens in special arrangements. From the dream I knew the Lord wanted me to begin growing plants at my nursery for the temple.”
And he did just that, using his filed-away letter when the temple was announced three months after his dream.
Six months before his dream, Brother Gieseke had unexpectedly acquired 100 four-year-old oaks. For a reason he cannot explain, he planted the trees in containers larger than usual. After the dream, he designated the finest of the oaks and the best of his other plant material exclusively for future temple grounds. He made every effort to ensure that his temple stock were of “uncommon excellence.” As time passed, his specially designated temple plants grew in size, quality, and value. On many occasions he had opportunities to sell the trees to fill orders that were otherwise unfillable, but he remained firm in his decisions that these plants were for the temple.
In retrospect, Brother Gieseke recognizes how he and his nursery business were blessed during this several-year period. Just before he had his dream, his nursery had consisted of six acres. Within a few years he had the opportunity to acquire a prosperous forty-acre nursery and a fifty-acre tree farm.
Three years after his dream, the plant stock Brother Gieseke nurtured for the Lord’s house finally had a permanent home on the grounds of the Houston Texas Temple. The majestic trees now stand at the front of the temple’s entryway, and his flowers provide the perfect contrasting color against the exterior.
Music Stands and Snow Shovels
Billings Montana Temple
A hearty storm blew in for the March 1998 groundbreaking of the Billings Montana Temple taking Church members and guest dignitaries by surprise. The 4,800 people—from twelve states and two Canadian provinces—in attendance braved freezing temperatures, fog, and snow to be there for the occasion. Teeth chattered as a seven-hundred-member youth choir sang “Now Let Us Rejoice.” The spring snowstorm had caught the majority of the attendees off guard; and lacking a sufficient number of snow shovels, many used inverted music stands to push away the snow and ice.
The weather worsened at the passing of each hour. One loyal sister in her sixties had arrived two hours early to ensure she would have a front-row seat. Swathed in a blanket under an umbrella, she sat on a lawn chair for more than four hours. When she rose, the perfectly dry ground beneath her chair was ringed by snow five inches deep!
One young man displaying an optimistic attitude remarked that “The Lord blessed the groundbreaking today with snow to make this temple ground white and pure.” Later, Church members learned that the spring snowstorm was a blessing indeed. A large anti-Mormon organization from northern Wyoming had planned to disrupt the groundbreaking proceeding. Not one protestor was able to reach the temple site because of the hazardous weather and travel conditions.
A Newspaper From England
Logan Utah Temple
Shortly after the Logan Utah Temple was dedicated on May 17, 1884, Bishop Henry Ballard of the Logan Second Ward was busy interviewing members and writing recommends when his young daughter, Ellen, delivered a newspaper to him. The paper was the Newbury Weekly News, which was published in his birthplace of Newbury, Berkshire, England. The paper’s date—May 15, 1884—indicated that it had been printed only three days earlier. At the time, a typical trip across the ocean, and then the plains, took weeks!
Bishop Ballard’s young daughter explained that she had been playing on the sidewalk when two strangers handed her the paper and gave strict instructions that she deliver it to no one except her father. Upon inspection, Bishop Ballard found the newspaper to contain a story with the names of sixty people and their accompanying dates of birth and death.
The next day, Bishop Ballard sought an explanation from Temple President Marriner W. Merrill. After listening to the bishop’s story, President Merrill said, “Brother Ballard, someone on the other side is anxious for their work to be done and they knew that you would do it if this paper got into your hands.” Bishop Ballard made certain the temple work was complete, and later it was learned that most of the people named in the newspaper were related to the Ballard family.
More than a half-century later, a young M. Russell Ballard, the great-grandson of Henry Ballard, was serving a mission in England and made a visit to the offices of the Newbury Weekly News. “I visited the Newbury Weekly News,” he records, “and verified that the newspaper had never been postdated or mailed out early. I held the issue of 15 May 1884 in my hands and photographed it. There is no mortal way that, in 1884, it could have reached Logan from Newbury within three days.”
A Temple is Spared
Manila Philippines Temple
In December 1989, combat associated with a military coup in the Philippines came dangerously close to destroying the Manila Philippines Temple. As the coup erupted, heavy fighting took place at Camp Aguinaldo, a military base neighboring the temple grounds. On the second day of fighting, rebel soldiers breached the temple gates and occupied the grounds. Members throughout the Philippines prayed that the temple might be spared somehow.
By late the next evening, government troops had the upper hand in the battle, but the temple annex and grounds—the last remaining rebel stronghold in Manila—were still in enemy hands. A government commander gave the rebels one hour to surrender and announced plans to attack with heavy artillery at 11:00 P.M. if his ultimatum was not met. The grim circumstance was reported to Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles thirty minutes before the 11:00 P.M. deadline. It was then 7:30 A.M. in Salt Lake City. Elder Oaks described the events that immediately transpired:
“By a remarkable coincidence—one of those happenings that cannot be coincidental—the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had scheduled an unusual meeting that Sunday morning. At 8:00 A.M., 3 December, just thirty minutes after I received that alarming report from Manila, the assembled First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve bowed in prayer and pleaded with the Lord to intervene to protect His house. Elder Marvin J. Ashton led our prayer. As we prayed, it was 11:00 P.M. Sunday evening in Manila, the exact hour appointed for the assault.
“The attack never came. Twenty minutes after our prayer [Area] President [George I.] Cannon phoned Church headquarters to report that the military commander had unexpectedly decided against a night assault. Early the next morning [I received word] that the rebels had melted away during the night. I recorded in my journal, ‘I consider this a miracle of divine intervention no less impressive than many recorded in holy writ.’”
A Special Session
London England Temple
For decades, the London England and Bern Switzerland Temples were the only temples on the European continent. They served a large geographical area that includes districts on the African continent. Many members made tremendous sacrifices to attend these temples, knowing that a temple trip could be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
In the late 1980s, a couple from Ghana in western Africa saved their money and traveled to the London Temple on an uncomfortable freight vessel. They arrived in England on a Friday night and awoke the next morning eager to visit the temple. With the help of a deckhand from the freighter, they found the temple Saturday afternoon. Their anticipation turned to sorrow when they learned that the temple was closed on Saturday afternoons; the last session of the day had begun a half hour before their arrival. The temple would reopen the following Tuesday—the same time their freighter would be returning to Ghana.
After traveling a vast distance at a great cost, the couple was overwhelmed with anguish and feared their dreams of achieving temple blessings would not be realized. They broke into tears. Arthur Henry King, who served as president of the London England Temple from 1986 to 1990, soon learned of the couple’s plight. President King arranged for a few temple workers and local members to participate in a special, additional session that day. His actions allowed this humble African couple to receive their endowments and the sealing ordinance that afternoon. They left the temple late in the day filled with peace and joy found in temple blessings.
Many Hands Make Light Work
Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple
In June 2000, the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple was ready to be faced with Imperial Danby white marble. Many of the smaller temples build at this time—including the temple in Baton Rouge—used this beautiful marble, acquired from a quarry near Sharon, Vermont, birthplace of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Truckloads of the beautiful white stone were arriving daily. One evening, an eighteen-wheel truck arrived at the construction site after hours. Only the marble foreman was still on site to receive the shipment of ten crates of marble, each weighing three-quarters of a ton. The foreman unladed two crates with a forklift before a hydraulic line on it broke, rendering the machine useless.
A few phone calls were made, and within fifteen minutes twenty-five strong men were there, ready to assist with the seemingly insurmountable task. The truck driver made an attempt to help the situation by backing the truck closer to the temple. But in doing so, he managed only to get stuck in a pile of sand. The young men went to work and unloaded the remaining eight crates, totaling approximately fifteen thousand pounds of marble. They then went the extra mile by placing the marble, piece by piece, around the temple where workers could use it as it was needed. Through the entire process, only one piece of marble was broken.
After transporting all the marble, the young men focused their efforts on freeing the stranded truck. In a unified effort of strength, they managed to rock the big semitruck off the sand pile. All of the evening’s diligent labors required only one and one-half hour’s time.
Discovering the Nauvoo Temple Blueprints
Nauvoo Illinois Temple
Sister Marjorie Hopkins Bennion learned a remarkable story about the Nauvoo Temple blueprints when she met Sandra Griffin Hardy, a great-great-granddaughter of William Weeks, the Nauvoo Temple architect. Sister Bennion said:
“In 1948, a young missionary from Heber City, Utah, Elder Vern C. Thacker, was transferred to the small, remote town of Boron, California, in the Mojave Desert. While there he and his companion, Elder Frank Gifford, knocked on the door of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie M. Griffin, who graciously greeted them. Mr. Griffin was not a member of the Church but told the missionaries he was a grandson of William Weeks, the architect of the ‘old Mormon temple in Nauvoo, Illinois.’
The two Mormon missionaries developed a good relationship with the Griffin family, and before Elder Thacker was to return home to Utah following the completion of his mission, Mr. Griffin turned the temple drawings over to him with instructions for him to deliver them to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Thacker recalled the scene:
“On our last visit to Mr. Griffin he excused himself for a few minutes and went into the rear part of his house. He returned with a large roll of papers about three-feet long, ten-inches in diameter, secured with a rubber band. He explained, ‘These are the original architect’s drawings for the Nauvoo Temple. They have been in my family for one hundred years, handed down from my grandfather, William Weeks.’
They were yellowed with age but in amazingly good condition. He said he felt strongly that, after one hundred years, these should be given to the Church.’”
“One week after returning from his mission, Thacker made an appointment with [Church historian] A. William Lund and turned the drawings over to him. A short time later, Mr. Griffin received a letter of thanks from Lund reading, ‘We appreciate your action far more than words can express.’”
On Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999, during general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley made the historic announcement to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple.
The architect’s drawings recovered by Elders Thacker and Gifford were key instruments in making possible the accurate rebuilding of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
Laie Hawaii Temple
When the Laie Hawaii Temple was built in the early 1900s, the island of Oahu was quite remote. This made it difficult to receive shipments of building materials, such as lumber and other supplies. Several creative means were employed to get around the problem. For example, crushed lava and coral (both easily available on the island) were added to the concrete that was used to form the entire edifice, including the floors, celings, walls, and roof.
But even with this innovation, construction often had to wait while contractors tried to locate missing materials. At one point, construction was at a standstill due to a lack of lumber. Contractor Ralph Woolley prayed for help in obtaining the needed supplies. Two days later, during a severe storm, a freight ship was stranded on a nearby coral reef. The captain offered the Saints his cargo of lumber if they would help him unload his ship. The Saints agreed, and the work on the temple resumed.