The choir director had been given instructions to start the music the second the doors opened from the Temple to let the Prophet come out for the ceremony. She watched for the movement of the door. At 9:02 AM the door opened.
The second number so captured our feelings, “Now let us rejoice in the day of salvation, no longer as strangers on earth need we roam. Good tidings are sounding to us and each nation and shortly the hour of redemption will come.”
The official entourage of general authorities and temple leadership emerged from the Temple and started to take their places on the platform next to the coverstone. President Monson was so much himself—he was paying attention to the people in the crowd, especially the children. He immediately started connecting with them with a wave of his hand.
The choir continued to sing, but the children and the adults were riveted on the Prophet of God. One man began to weep and could not stop crying. Others in the audience felt that special spirit that accompanies the Prophet. Look at how happy the children are.
President Monson and President Henry B. Eyring and Elder William R. Walker continued to listen to the choir. President Monson kept connecting with individuals in the crowd of people.
President Monson was the first to put mortar on the stone, then President Eyring. Elder Walker then suggested a priesthood leader to be next with his wife.
President Monson said, “No, I want a woman to be next.” He pointed to Sister Ann M. Dibb (his daughter) to come over and be the next to place mortar on the coverstone.
I thought of how the Savior was always so deferential to women, even when in His day it was not the practice. I thought of the woman at the well in Samaria and how the Savior not only talked to her (which was out of character for a Jew), but he gave her His own witness that He was indeed the Messiah.
He encouraged the other general authorities present and their wives to come and place some mortar on the stone. He told Sister Kathryn Callister to be careful not to get any of the mortar on her pretty dress.
Elder Kent Richards and his wife, Marsha, came over and also participated in the ceremony. The coverstone part of the dedication is short and ceremonious and then the Prophet goes back inside to proceed with the talks and dedicatory prayer. It was at this moment that I began to really see the lesson from President Monson.
Look at his tender eyes and watch what happened next. This is my favorite picture I took of President Monson the entire trip to Arizona. I didn’t know what or who he was looking at, but we would all soon know.
President Monson stepped away from the coverstone and all the activities with the mortar and started talking to one person and one person only from the midst of a crowd of hundreds. On the far-east side of the platform he was talking to someone who could not communicate very well in my ears, but the two of them communicated perfectly.
He noticed this little special-needs girl, Kendell Crum. Her father, Randell brought her over a little closer (almost in disbelief and excitement) to be able to talk to President Monson. Kendell had her eyes glued on the Prophet.
He continued to talk to Kendell without any attention to the people and goings on around him. He talked to her with great love and attention. He called her sweetheart and asked her what her favorite song was and some other questions as well.
Kendell was so excited. Her mother, Shawna, told me that President Monson was so important to her and that she always couldn’t wait to see him on TV at conference. The family could hardly believe that the Prophet was talking to them—more specifically to their special-needs, precious daughter.
The coverstone ceremony continued and President Monson continued to communicate with little Kendell.
Elder Walker asked for some children to come up and help with the mortar. President Monson heard what was going on and said, “I want two boys and two girls.” These little ones came right up on the platform to participate.
They were so thrilled to be a part of the ceremony and to be close to the Prophet and the others on the platform. That is one nice tie that boy is wearing!
Elder Walker helped each child put a little mortar on the coverstone. Always encouraging to others, President Monson commented that they really did a great job.
Ever aware of others in the audience, President Monson and President Eyring came over to the south part of the platform.
He started waving and connecting with person after person in the crowd.
At one point he had the attention of many little children in the audience and said, “Do you see this. Can you wiggle your ears?”
At once he started wiggling his ears back and forth and back and forth to the delight of the children in the crowd. All eyes were on the ears of the Prophet!
President Monson said a few more kind things to the crowd, encouraged the children to serve missions, told them to come to the Temple often and told them how blessed they had been.
For many this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be this close to the President of the Church. The choir director was moved to tears. Others were just filled with happiness and wanted the moments with the Prophet to linger.
With 1,800 people waiting inside the Temple for the Prophet to return, President Monson stopped again and talked to the last group of children by the door. He encouraged them. He shook hands with as many as he could reach. He knew that this is what they would remember about this day—that personal touch. Having witnessed all of this in just seventeen minutes, the words of one of my favorite hymns came to my mind: “Savior, Redeemer of my soul, Whose mighty hand hath made me whole, Whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up And filled with sweet my bitter cup! What tongue my gratitude can tell, O gracious God of Israel. Never can I repay thee, Lord, But I can love thee. Thy pure word, Hath it not been my one delight, My joy by day, my dream by night? Then let my lips proclaim it still, And all my life reflect thy will. O’er-rule mine acts to serve thine ends. Change frowning foes to smiling friends. Chasten my soul till I shall be In perfect harmony with thee. Make me more worthy of thy love, And fit me for the life above.” Those words come as close as I can exclaim what I felt as I observed this Prophet of God through my camera lens in Arizona.