OGDEN — Hundreds of thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in the renovated Ogden Utah Temple and in meetinghouses across Utah and Wyoming on Sunday to watch President Thomas S. Monson rededicate the church’s 14th temple.
“How grateful I am for the rededication of the beautifully renewed and refurbished Ogden Utah Temple,” President Monson said. “As its doors open once again for the accomplishment of the purposes for which it was originally constructed and dedicated, lives will be blessed. It stands as a beacon of righteousness to all who will follow its light — the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The 112,232-square-foot temple sits on 9.96 acres in the heart of downtown Ogden and will serve some 250,000 Latter-day Saints in northern Utah and parts of Wyoming.
Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and executive director of the church’s temple department said Ogden has always been a strong area for the LDS Church.
“My great-great-grandfather was assigned by Brigham Young to preside over the Church here in Weber County and lived just a couple of blocks from where the temple is now,” Elder Richards told the Deseret News before the dedication services began. “He would be very delighted to see this beautiful edifice right here in the center of town.”
As early as the 1820s, fur traders were trapping along the rivers that flow through what is now Ogden — the oldest continuously settled community in Utah. In 1847, the Mormon Church purchased land in the area and early Latter-day Saints settled the community.
The Transcontinental Railroad soon brought settlers of diverse faiths and cultures to Ogden.
Elder Craig G. Fisher, an Area Seventy and chairman of the church’s rededication committee, said Ogden — where the church now has 33 stakes —continues to be a culturally diverse area. “There is a lot of variation,” he said. “It is a lot like the world. The people are really wonderful.”
The Ogden Utah Temple was originally dedicated on Jan. 18, 1972, by President Joseph Fielding Smith. The temple — then the church’s 14th operating temple worldwide — was the first built in Utah since 1896, the year Utah became a state, according to LDS Church Public Affairs.
LDS Church leaders announced plans to renovate the temple and the nearby tabernacle on Feb. 17, 2010. The temple’s entire exterior was reshaped with new stone and art glass, and the temple entrance was moved from the west side to the east side, where it faces one of the city’s main streets. The renovated temple also includes reconfigured rooms and new electrical, heating and plumbing systems. In addition, the site now includes underground parking, new landscaping of the temple block and a major water feature.
Because the temple’s original cornerstone is still in place and its contents remain unopened, church leaders did not hold a traditional cornerstone ceremony before the rededication.
Conrad Gerber, 9, awoke at 5:30 Sunday morning so he could be first in line for the rededication.
Elder Richards said the excitement and enthusiasm of Conrad, as well as the 16,000 youths who participated in a temple cultural celebration Saturday, was a prelude for the sacred events of the rededication.
“This is a marvelous day — one to be remembered by everyone who participates,” he said.
Elder Fisher said at the time of its closure the temple was one of the busiest in the church. “You have a lot of hard-working, temple-loving people up here,” he said. “They really missed their temple.”
He said the temple will become a center point for the community in Ogden.
Except for the years Willard Maughan attended medical school and served in the Army, he has lived his entire life in Weber County. Today he resides in the same house where he grew up.
As a child he walked the streets of downtown Ogden, shopping at five-and-dime stores. He always ran into someone he knew.
His late father-in-law, Elder Keith Wilcox, oversaw local efforts when the Ogden Utah Temple was originally dedicated and served as the third president of the temple.
As years went by, Maughan said, the temple grounds, where LDS stake conferences were held in the tabernacle, became a destination place in Ogden.
Now a doctor, he is getting ready to retire. He held off, however, until the renovated temple was completed and he could spend some of his time doing temple work. “I am excited about this,” he said of the rededication of the renovated temple. “It is something we have been waiting for.”
Elder Fisher said the temple fits beautifully into the downtown Ogden area.
“It has brought the community together — all the saints and all the members of other faiths.”
An estimated 550,000 people attended the Ogden Utah Temple open house. “There is a lot more tolerance because they have come to know how beautiful and wonderful the temple is now.”
The temple has also brought church members together, he said. “Everyone in the community is so thrilled with the temple now. It is going to be a very, very busy place.”