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260,000 visit temple during open house

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Nearly 260,000 people visited the newly completed St. Louis Missouri Temple - the Church's 50th operating temple - during four weeks of open-house tours that concluded May 24.

"We (were) 113 short of the 260,000 figure," said Jean Mathews, multi-stake director of public affairs, joking that organizers are certain there were 113 that just didn't get counted.Even so, the total far surpasses the 150,000 visitors orginally expected. Demand for free tickets was significant enough to require that extra tours be scheduled on two of four Sundays, though it was originally planned not to have tours on Sunday.

"Lines went through very fast," Sister Mathews said. "Visitors commented repeatedly that the open house was surely well organized. There were a couple of days when lines were sluggish, but by and large, the tours moved extremely well, seldom with more than 20 minutes of waiting."

Reaction was overwhelmingly warm and receptive, she said, with visitors manifesting intellectual curiosity without hostility.

"There was genuine interest in learning more about the temple," she said. "The comments were absolutely beautiful; visitors were very impressed. A friend of mine stated she will never forget the feeling she had as she looked at the statue of Christ (in the temple)."

Typical of written response were these comments written to and shared by Menlo F. Smith, temple president and vice chairman of the St. Louis Missouri Temple Committee:

"This is to thank you for the unforgettable privilege of visiting your magnificent temple and being given a better understanding of your religious calling. It was an experience that Carol and I will remember and treasure for a long time. I really believe the experience deepened our faith and brought us new appreciation of the Mormon commitment." (George H. Walker III)

"Wonderful and fabulous are two descriptive words that pale to the marvelous temple you have built. How proud we are to have you in our City of Town and Country. Words cannot describe the tour I took this morning. . . . The pride in which each step of its completion shows on every face - your temple truly is a very special place.

". . . Thank you for sharing your beautiful temple and yourselves with me this morning." (Lynn Krause, alderman, Ward III, City of Town and Country)

The temple dedication takes place June 1-5 in 19 sessions. President Gordon B. Hinckley will dedicate the temple June 1 and preside at sessions June 1-2. His counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, will preside in turn at subsequent sessions.

Prior to the first dedicatory session, a cornerstone ceremony will be held at 8 a.m. Sunday, June 1. A 60-voice choir of Young Single Adults will perform. Choirs from various stakes in the temple district will sing during the dedicatory sessions.

Living in the temple district are more than 93,000 members of the Church in Missouri and parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.