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Helsinki temple dedication is today

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HELSINKI, Finland — Crisp autumn temperatures and a steady drizzle Saturday seemed only to invigorate LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley as he strode through the entryway leading to the large bronze doors of the Helsinki Finland Temple.

With his signature wave of his cane, he greeted well-wishers prior to examining the temple located 30 miles southwest of Helsinki in the suburb of Espoo, a thriving, modern community built in a forest of pine and birch trees.

After four dedicatory sessions today, the Helsinki temple will become the 95th temple dedicated or rededicated by the 96-year-old prophet.

Construction of the 16,000-square-foot building has stirred enthusiasm throughout Finland, as well as among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in other countries the temple will serve in Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The granite temple is located atop a rock hill, its steeple rising above the long pole trees surrounding it.

"I've never seen such enthusiasm for a temple as the Helsinki temple," President Hinckley said in comments made during a member meeting Saturday. He said something is going on. "There is an intense bonding between American and Finnish Saints."

Nineteen former mission presidents returned to Finland for the dedication and attended the member meeting and cultural event that followed.

President Hinckley further endeared himself to members of the temple district by highlighting the progressive and prosperous nature of this Nordic country.

He noted how Finland has drawn recognition for creating the most competitive business climate, the least corrupt government and the finest school system in the world. He also noted it is the only country to repay war debts to the United States and praised the ability by most residents to speak three languages.

"Then why do we need you?" he said jokingly as he turned toward the translator nearby.

President Hinckley lamented that after 59 years since the land was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel that there are only 5,000 members out of a population of 5 million. He expressed hope that the recent temple open house — where more than 50,000 visitors were hosted — will prepare others for the church.

The five countries of the Helsinki Finland Temple district constitute the largest geographic area of any temple, crossing at least 12 time zones and five languages with approximately 20,000 members.

In Salt Lake City, the member meeting and cultural celebration were broadcast by satellite Saturday night to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and also the Ensign Stake Center.

The temple dedication is to be broadcast by satellite at 6 p.m. today to the Conference Center Little Theater, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and the Assembly Hall, but admission is by ticket only.

E-mail: shaun@desnews.com