Being with the saints in Arizona was truly a powerful experience. They are an amazing group of people. I wanted to capture some of the power of their spirits in photographs as we gathered for the dedication of the Temple. I took hundreds of pictures—here I only share a few.Some of the songs from the youth celebration stuck with me all weekend. In context one was about how the Mormon pioneers to arid Arizona had to leave such wonderful circumstances in the center of the main body of the saints in Utah and they HAD to come to Arizona. “Things just aren’t working out as I planned/I’m stuck for life here in this dusty, barren land. This just can’t be…the start of something good.”Then they sang in another song: “I look at my life and I know that I belong. I’ve had the help of loved ones, from generations gone. They came to this valley, this parched desert land. What they went through I’ll never understand…The faith of our Fathers, these noble pioneers. Their courage and their sacrifice reach beyond the years. Their banners on Mount Zion are shining like the sun. We’re built upon their dreams—WE’RE THE LUCKY ONES.”
President Monson arrived with a lot of exuberance and a smile on his face. Generally the first time the President of the Church gets to see a Temple ready for dedication is the day before the event. This was the moment President Monson stepped out of the car in front of the Gilbert Arizona Temple.
President Monson and President Eyring briefly posed for the Church News and for Meridian Magazine. It’s amazing how there is such a spirit even in these few minutes of standing near the Prophet.
Elder William R. Walker, Executive Director of the temple department, joined President Monson and President Eyring for a photograph. I am so grateful that even with all the weight of the kingdom on the shoulders of the Prophet, he is always gracious and kind in providing these photo ops.
The very first family we saw was this one—six children and a mother who had to come earlier to sing in the choir. They were well dressed and even had on matching shoes.
About 1,800 people could attend each of the three dedicatory sessions in the Temple. The dedicatory prayer reminded me not only of the edifice, the structure that is the Temple, but of each of these faithful saints: The dedicated ones.
“Our Beloved Eternal Father, we bow before Thee this blessed and historic day with reverence and love. Our gratitude for the completion of this sacred and holy house fills our hearts to overflowing.
“We ask that Thou wilt bless all who have made possible this magnificent temple, including architects and builders and the faithful members who have contributed their tithes and offerings.
“We express gratitude for all who have participated in the preparations for this glorious day of dedication, as well as for those who made possible the successful open house event.
We ask Thy blessings to attend that vast throng who walked within these sacred walls and felt stirring thoughts course through their minds and hearts. May the spirit of the temple continue with them.
“This magnificent temple has come of our love for Thee and for Thy Son, that the great work of salvation may go forward, not only for the living, but also for unnumbered generations of those who have gone before us, as well as for those who will come after us.
All that takes place in this holy house will be in recognition of the immortality of the human soul. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Thy Beloved Son, the great gift of everlasting life is made available to all of mankind.
“Help us to live worthy of the blessings Thou hast promised those who walk in obedience to Thy commandments and who hold Thy name sacred before the world.”
One sister in the line was talking about the youth celebration the night before where the rains had come so incessantly and she said, “Everyone is smiling today!”
The youth, this amazing rising generation, were there in great numbers to participate in this day of dedication. These are truly the dedicated ones.
President Monson continued: “We present this sacred and beautiful structure as our gift and pray that Thou wilt accept it and accept our love and gratitude. May Thy Holy Spirit dwell here, and may its influence be felt by all who come within these walls.
“We dedicate the ground on which this temple stands. We dedicate this beautiful structure, from the unseen footings to the majestic figure of Moroni crowning its highest point.”
In the prayer, President Monson also said, “May this, Thy house, be a sanctuary of serenity, a refuge from the storms of life and the noise of the world. May it be a house of quiet contemplation concerning the eternal nature of life and of Thy divine plan for us.
“As we dedicate this sacred edifice, we rededicate our very lives to Thee and to Thy work.”
“Shield us, we pray, from selfishness and sin and provide the power that we might rise above all that is below the dignity of Thy children. We desire righteousness for ourselves and our children and our children’s children.”
More of the words of the youth celebration came to me as I looked upon these dear faces: “Their lives and devotion have made our fortress strong. Their faithfulness and courage write a victory song. We’re in their debt, We won’t forget The trials they went through. These heroes have blessed me and you.”
A friend of the Church and journalist, John Goodie, had come to the open house and was impressed enough that he wrote a very positive piece on his experience
.He told us he wasn’t going to miss the coverstone ceremony and he wanted to see President Monson when he arrived.
Not long after I took the picture of John, President Monson did arrive and started shaking hands with many of the saints who were there at the front doors of the Temple.
President Monson not only greeted John Goodie with a warm handshake, he also talked to a number of little children, including Chloe Crum and her mother, Shawna. Little did they know that the Prophet would be talking to their family again in just a few minutes during the coverstone ceremony.
In great contrast to the day before, the sun shone upon the thousands who came to the Temple for the dedicatory sessions.
Many families gathered for pictures at the south side of the Temple where all the water features are located. Truly, everyone was smiling today.
Hundreds also gathered by the coverstone to have their picture taken—a day never to be forgotten.
There was a feeling of joy and happiness that seemed to enwrap the saints here. It was a Zion-like feeling that can scarcely be described but was so palpably felt.
Elder Walker came out between sessions and posed for a few pictures, here with his wife Vickie and a sister and friend.
Other families wanted to have their picture taken with Elder Walker. He certainly noticed and commented on the fact that there were a lot of future missionaries in this family.
This family was posing and wanted to each hold their white handkerchiefs. It was a sweet scene.
Of course I asked the most obvious question to these two, “Are you guys twins?” They nodded, smiled and waited for me to take another picture.
There was such a feeling of oneness among these “dedicated ones” and I could not help but feel an increased desire to rededicate my own life to the Lord. “The faith of our fathers, these noble pioneers, Their courage and their sacrifice reach beyond the years.
“Their banners on Mount Zion are shining like the sun. We’re built upon their dreams—We’re the lucky ones!”