BOSTON, Mass. — The announcement by the First Presidency this week to dedicate the Boston Massachusetts Temple Oct. 1 — making it the 100th operating temple to be dedicated in this dispensation — comes a little more than two years after President Gordon B. Hinckley announced ambitious plans to build 49 temples before the end of the century.
"We are moving on a scale the likes of which we have never seen before," President Hinckley said in his closing remarks in the April 1998 general conference. During his address, President Hinckley announced plans to construct 30 temples, making "a total of 47 new temples in addition to the 51 now in operation. I think we had better add two more to make it an even 100 by the end of this century," he said.
"We occasionally talk about those who would be interested in this temple," said Don Mangum, who, with Kent Bowen, directs the Boston temple steering committee. "I pull out the family history on my family and find that 25 percent of my ancestors over nine generations came from New England. Three of the first four presidents of the Church were born here as well as many other leaders. Large congregations of members were organized here and moved West with the Church.
"Considering the influence of New England members on the Church, we suppose interest in the temple is great on both sides of the veil," he said.
Built on a gentle rise in the western suburbs of Boston, the temple has a clear view of downtown Boston. The property was discovered by the Church in the latter 1970s at a time when land was being acquired to build a second meetinghouse. Several attempts to purchase land in other locations had been opposed.
"One Sunday afternoon, a member of the Church became lost while looking for property," said Brother Bowen. "But noticing a sign on a tree in a field, she stopped and recorded the telephone number, even though there was no mention of selling the land.
"The owner was willing to sell, and after enormous sacrifices by the members to raise money, sacrifices that united the members," said Brother Bowen, "the Church bought the 17-acre parcel of land and began building a meetinghouse in a corner of the property.
"Shortly before completion, much of the meetinghouse was engulfed in flames. Arson was suspected. There was an outpouring of concern by other denominations in the area and arrangements were made by Bishop Mitt Romney to meet in the buildings of other religions until a new meetinghouse was built. During this time, these denominations helped with raising new funds for another meetinghouse.
"One minister gave a sermon titled: The Mormons among Us," Brother Bowen continued. "The minister interviewed Bishop Grant Bennett to learn about the Church. We attended his service where his church choir sang an LDS Church hymn. During the sermon he explained our beliefs and extended a welcome to the Mormons.
"By the time the meetinghouse was completed in 1984, a close relationship had been established with these ministers that has continued over the years. When the temple was announced in 1995 and groups opposed its construction, these ministers wrote letters to the editor in support."
Over the years, the land was largely forgotten until President Hinckley shared his desire to built a temple in New England. At one point, feeling frustrated at the inability to find a suitable site, President Hinckley asked a group of priesthood leaders for their suggestions. In his biography, Go Forward with Faith, it was explained that President Kenneth G. Hutchins of the Boston stake told of property on a hill overlooking Boston that had never been developed.
President Hinckley excused himself from the meeting, the biography explained, and inspected the site. "As I stood there I had an electric feeling that this is the place," President Hinckley recorded later that night. "The Lord inspired its acquisition and its retention. Very few seemed to know anything about it. I think I know why I have had such a very difficult time determining the [site]. I have prayed about it. I have come here three or four times. I have studied maps and tables of membership. With all of this I have not had a strong confirmation. I felt a confirmation as I stood in Belmont on this property this afternoon. This is the place for a House of the Lord in the New England area."
In his 1998 conference address, President Hinckley paused to consider the faith that would be required to build and dedicate 100 temples. "This will be a tremendous undertaking. Nothing even approaching it has ever been tried before."