A remote part of the Arizona landscape is now home to the 132nd temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Gila Valley Arizona Temple was dedicated Sunday, May 23, in three sessions and now serves 21,000 Church members in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico.
With a final count of 90,869 Visitors, the open house for the Gila Valley Arizona Temple, came to a close, and with it a sweet and wonderful opportunity to serve the Lord through serving those visitors in many different capacities.
The time spent in planning and preparing all the logistics to make each part of the open house run smoothly ran into the thousands of hours. The countless hours involved left those of us who served full of joy and motivation to continue to find ways to serve and to spend time in our temple.
The Gila Valley Cultural Event, held the night before the temple dedication, played to an over-capacity crowd at Eastern Arizona College Stadium. Two very large sets of bleachers had been moved into the north and south ends of the field which permitted about 1500 more people to see the production live. It was a beautiful, balmy evening, perfect for both and performers and the audience.
The cultural celebration portrayed a moment in history that happened west and south of the Gila Valley near St. David on the San Pedro River. It happened when the soldiers of the Mormon Battalion were attacked by a herd of wild bulls. The battle ended with the battalion victorious and with fresh beef for many days.
The finale was a wonderful tribute to the new temple. All the dancers were on the field doing a routine with ribbons on sticks that they waved and twirled in a beautiful way. Suddenly all the sticks with ribbons were dropped and everyone unfurled a white cape over their heads and around their shoulders.
This exercise began first in front of the stage and moved like a wave down the rows until all the performers were covered with a white cape. Then, behind the stage, a lift started up and when the spotlight hit it, there was the Angel Moroni and his trumpet. The effect was very spiritual and I heard comments from those around me that they had cold chills. In fact, I had them too. It was a spiritual, wonderful ending.
When the production ended, President Monson stood up and leaned over. Immediately the closest of the young people surged up around him. For 15 or 20 minutes after the program ended he shook hands and spoke to the young performers. Look at the expressions on their faces. Their love is shining through!
It was a special moment before the cultural event began. The young people were all seated on the grass in front of the grandstand. There was a happy chatter throughout the stadium, not real loud but noticeable. The moment the cart carrying the prophet came into the area, there was instant silence and everyone rose silently to their feet. At that moment a special spirit just seemed to come into the area and then when someone started, “We Thank Thee Oh God, For a Prophet.” It was magical! I felt like shouting the words, but instead sang it reverently with the rest of the crowd.
Sunday morning came early for us as we planned to attend the first session of the dedication. We arrived an hour and 15 minutes early and already the chapel and most of the cultural hall were filled. The peaceful reverent hour went quickly and soon on the screen we saw President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of the Twelve and Elder Claudio R.
M. Costa of the Presidency of the Seventy.
What a blessing for us to have all of them and their lovely wives. President Monson brought his daughter, Ann Dibb, of the Young Women General Presidency, since his wife is still recovering from an accident. After the opening song by the choir, the opening prayer and a few opening remarks, the group went outside toseal up the cornerstone.
President Monson was so pleased to have his daughter, Ann Dibb, and her husband Roger with him. He commented about it many times. He also gave her the opportunity to add a trowel of cement around the corner stone. His joy at her presence just radiated. Sister Dibb was given the opportunity to speak to the youth at the cultural event. A young woman told me later, “We were so thrilled to have Sister Dibb here. It was like an extra nice bonus for all of us Young Women.”
Once the cornerstone was nicely installed, the brethren returned to the inside of the temple and completed the dedication.
Each session was wonderful and just a little different from the others. The temple presidency and wives each spoke at one of the sessions. Elder Holland, President Eyring and President Monson all reminisced about experiences with President Spencer W. Kimball who had grown up in this valley.
During the day, members, gathered in the temple and in stake centers throughout Arizona, heard wonderful messages and stories about the struggles of some families to make it to the temple and how blessed families are when they do have the sealing ordinances. They reminded us of the importance of temple work and of our responsibility to keep this new temple busy every day.
President Monson told us that the Gila Vally Temple would bring the people in this temple district many blessings and then he enumerated four special blessings it would bring about. He said that as we use this temple and grow closer as a people, we would feel greater love, patience, forgiveness and spirituality in our lives.
At the end of each session, our prophet then pronounced the dedicatory prayer. Elder Eyring and Elder Holland each had turns at leading the Hosanna shout and we sang “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning.
The dream of so many for so long is a reality. The Gila Valley of Arizona has a dedicated temple!