Saturday, December 4, 2010

More on the Oklahoma City Temple

I previously posted about the Oklahoma City temple.  I just found an article from the July 2001 New Era that talks about the reaction of local youth in Oklahoma and Michigan to having a new temple nearby.  The Oklahoma City portion of the article is pasted below.  (I hope the Church doesn’t come after me for copyright violation!)

A Temple of Our Own
Matthew Baker and Laury Livsey, "A Temple of Our Own", New Era, July 2001, 20

How exciting is it to finally have a temple near where you live? We’ll let the kids in Oklahoma and Michigan tell you.

Four years ago, the Church had just dedicated its 50th operating temple, the St. Louis Missouri Temple. Four months after that temple was dedicated, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained in the October 1997 general conference that after prayerful consideration, the Church had decided to begin a plan to construct smaller temples that would have “all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances.  They would be built to temple standards, which are much higher than meetinghouse standards. They would accommodate baptisms for the dead, the endowment service, sealings, and all other ordinances to be had in the Lord’s house for both the living and the dead” (Ensign, Nov. 1997, 49).

Since that historic announcement, members in many areas of the world have begun to experience the blessings of temples that are nearby and convenient.

Last year, the Boston Massachusetts Temple became the Church’s 100th operating temple. Since then, many other temples have been announced, dedicated, or are being built. The New Era recently traveled to two areas—Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the day the temple there was dedicated, and Detroit, Michigan, after that temple had been dedicated—to see how these temples have affected the lives of the youth in the area.

Oklahoma City

When members were invited to join a special choir that would sing at the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple dedication, Mary Brunson jumped at the chance. Singing? Absolutely. Mary enjoys doing it and is quite proficient. She’s so into performing and singing that she has a sticker that says “Drama Queen” on the bumper of her car. “I really love to sing,” she says.

So after months of practice for the special event on July 30, 2000, she compared the differences between performing on stage and singing at this occasion.

“It was worship here today,” she says after the first of four dedicatory sessions. “In a play you go out and perform. When I perform, it is pretending. Singing in the choir was not pretending. This was real. This is something that will stay with me.”

She’s speaking about both her experience at the dedication and the white marble temple that sits on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.

The choir

In the spring of 2000, the Oklahoma City Oklahoma East Stake organized the choir. Mary saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So did Ben Harrison and Jonathan Pierce. It didn’t hurt that all three are friends who love to sing—friends who were able to support and encourage each other during rehearsals.

“When we started practicing in the spring, the temple dedication didn’t seem real. It seemed so far in the future,” says Ben, 16, of the Choctaw Ward. Mary, Ben, and Jonathan stopped by the temple site at various stages of construction, watching the sacred building go up. With each passing month, the reality of the temple increased in their minds. Weekly choir practices in preparation for the dedication also helped.

“I really think it will draw us a lot closer to the Church having a temple here,” says Jonathan, 18. “We won’t have to drive all the way to Dallas.” Or Manti. Before the Dallas Texas Temple was built in 1985, the Oklahoma City members were in the faraway Manti Utah Temple district. For Jonathan’s family, temple visits have gone from a two-day journey to a four-hour trip to the 20-minute drive of today.

As Mary, Ben, and Jonathan walk around the temple grounds after the first dedicatory session, they all seem a little in awe of what has just occurred. Maybe at one time having a temple in Oklahoma didn’t seem real. But the three realize they just took part in something they know they’ll remember forever.

A lifetime of memories

“This was an experience you can look back on and remember most clearly because of how unique it was,” says Jonathan. “I really liked singing ‘God So Loved the World.’ Watching President [James E.] Faust put the mortar in the cornerstone and then singing that hymn made me realize God does so love the world that He is going to dot the world with temples.”

All three are also in agreement that they often assumed Oklahoma would never have a temple. But after President Hinckley’s 1997 announcement, it wasn’t long before the temple that will serve members in parts of Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri—as well as Oklahoma—was announced.

“This is such a great thing,” says Ben, standing near the temple entrance. “There were times when I thought Oklahoma didn’t have enough members to have a temple. But I’ve seen that we actually are strong, and the temple shows me how strong we can become.”

All three also believe the presence of the temple will help the youth in the area stay stronger in the Church. “A lot of teenagers do drift from the Church when they get to high school,” says Jonathan. “I really believe more boys will go on missions from Oklahoma if they’re able to go through the temple that they can call their own.”

They’re also sure of one thing. “We’re going to wear the temple out,” says Ben.

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