REXBURG – The Rexburg Temple drew more than 200,000 people to the area for its open house last month and now thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are preparing to visit the temple yet again for its dedication.
On Sunday, the Rexburg Temple, the 125th LDS temple in the world, will be dedicated, and for church members, another exciting aspect of the dedication is that the new president of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, will be in attendance.
"This will be his first formal event as prophet and president of the church," LDS church spokesman Clark Hirschi said.
Monson succeeded Gordon B. Hinckley, who died Jan. 27, to become the 16th president of the LDS church.
Monson will be accompanied by Henry B. Eyring, his first counselor, and David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Both Eyring and Bednar were presidents of Ricks College, now Brigham Young University-Idaho.
There will be four temple dedication sessions. The first will be at 9 a.m., then 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
For each session, about 1,800 are expected to attend inside the temple, Merv Brown, chairman of public affairs for the Rexburg Temple Committee, said.
Thousands more will watch the dedication ceremony at area stake centers.
The sessions are for those 8 years and older who are baptized in the LDS faith and are in good standing.
During the first temple dedication at 9 a.m., there will be a cornerstone ceremony where the temple dedication party – Monson, Eyring and Bednar, along with their wives – will exit the front of the building and apply grout to the cornerstone. Hirschi said it is likely that those in the audience, perhaps young children, will also participate.
Hirschi said a time capsule containing the history of the church in the area and the progress of the temple building, and more will be placed behind the cornerstone.
Because a high amount of traffic will be on the south side of town near the temple, the Rexburg Police Department has issued a statement asking those who do not need to be in that vicinity to avoid it to help with traffic flow.
Capt. Randy Lewis said some roads will be closed and officers will help direct traffic.
"We ask that people do not arrive more than 45 minutes before their session as we need time for those leaving a session to exit the building and the parking lots," he said. "Otherwise we will have a lot of congestion inside the buildings as well as on the roads."
Lewis said that most of the police department staff will be working on Sunday; some will be inside the temple to assist with the pedestrian traffic flow as well.
Since the temple's announcement in 2003, the progress of the temple has been of interest to many people.
Elder Ronald Hammond, an Area Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been watching and taking an active role in the progress of the temple.
He said when he first heard that a temple would be in Rexburg, he was grateful.
"I was thankful to live in this particular part of Idaho at this particular time. I was grateful for President Gordon B. Hinckley, a temple-building prophet, and I thankfully anticipated the powerful influence for good the temple would be in our lives and neighborhoods," he said.
Hammond took part in the groundbreaking ceremony July 30, 2005. He even spoke at the event, where it is estimated that nearly 8,000 people attended.
"This (the groundbreaking) was an historic event. The turnout said it all. Hundreds and hundreds of people came from near and far to witness the ceremony and to turn a shovel full of earth," he said. "A temple in Rexburg seemed like a dream, but the seeing, hearing, and touching of the groundbreaking experience assured us everything was real, that a temple was indeed going to be built."
Hirschi, Brown and Hammond all said that they will be watching the dedication Sunday, and it will be with a sense of elation.
"For me this has been wonderful. It is the process of seeing a prophecy fulfilled," Hirschi said, referring to what is known as the wagonbox prophecy, which was given by church apostle Wilford Woodruff in 1884 to the members of the church in the area.
That prophecy told of fertile fields, higher learning education, churches dotting the area and temples.
"He said temples plural, and this will be the third temple in Idaho and a fourth (in Twin Falls) is not far behind," Hirschi said.
Brown, who has served on the temple committee for more than a year, has been heavily involved with the open house and the dedication.
"It has really been a wonderful experience seeing the many people who came together and volunteered their time and efforts to bring about this remarkable event. It has been most gratifying to see it come to fruition," he said.
Hammond said the temple will benefit the whole community.
"The temple on the hill is a constant, visible invitation for the Latter-day Saints to receive sacred ordinances that make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally. Temple attendance is also a powerful motivator to live better and to be kinder. Thus, as people of other faiths encourage their Latter-day Saint friends and neighbors to be worthy temple-goers, community kindness and interfaith friendships will grow," he said.
The temple will be fully operational Monday.