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20,000 tour new temple prior to its dedication

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As the Church's newest and 53rd operating temple enters its formal dedication beginning July 26, 20,348 people have viewed its interior in a public open house July 15-18.

President Gordon B. Hinckley will dedicate the temple in the first of eight separate services that last through July 27. The smallest of the Church's temples, and the prototype for future edifices, it has only 7,000 square feet of floor space."It was just excellent," said Cooper Jones, vice chairman of the open house and dedication committee, regarding the open house. "There were no problems. Everybody was so accommodating, and the stake presidents did a fine job with all the challenges they had to work through."

The event was a spiritual experience for many, he said, notably State Rep. Jim Dyer of Colorado, whose legislative district is part of the temple district.

"He came through on a VIP tour, and as I visited with him after he got through, he mentioned that he had had two very touching experiences in the last week," Brother Jones related.

An ex-Marine and a veteran of three tours of duty in Vietnam, the legislator had viewed the traveling Vietnam War memorial and had seen the names of three of his buddies who had perished.

"Then, he said: `That last room - there was something about that last room that gave me the most peaceful feeling.' He said, `I don't know what it was, and I don't know how to explain it.' I said, `I think I understand that feeling.' "

The room to which he referred was the celestial room in the temple.

Another noteworthy experience associated with the open house had a striking parallel to an incident in Church history. Brother Cooper arrived at the temple the morning of July 18 to find thousands of moths covering the lawns, sidewalks and walls of the temple. At the same time, starlings had been causing something of a problem with the nests they were making on the Monticello 3rd Ward meetinghouse adjacent to the temple.

Brother Cooper called the custodians to remove the moths with air blowers. As they began to do so, the nearby starlings swooped in and began to devour the moths in mid-air. The insects were mostly gone within 20 minutes.

"It was just like the crickets and the seagulls in Salt Lake," he chuckled, referring to the famous incident in 1848 when the Pioneers' crops were saved from an infestation of crickets by seagulls that devoured them.

The temple will serve Latter-day Saints in these stakes: Monticello Utah, Moab Utah, Blanding Utah, Blanding Utah West and Durango Colorado. It will first be open for ordinance sessions - scheduled by appointment only - on July 28.