This past Saturday, ground was broken for the Hartford Temple in Farmington, Connecticut. The Lord has perfect timing – I’ve prayed and prayed that I could be home in New England for the groundbreaking, and it occurred a week and a half before I am scheduled to report to the MTC!! Such a personal and wonderful blessing for me, and I know a lot of my peers were excited that it happened before they returned to university.
Part of the excitement for the temple stems from the fact that it has been so long in coming, and many prayers have been sent heaven-ward that we might soon receive a temple closer to our homes. And it is in our sights! The other part is the rich history of the Church in Connecticut and New England. One of our dear prophets, Wilford Woodruff, was born in Farmington in the early 1800s, just four miles from where the temple site is.
I marvel at how much the Church has grown from the time that President Woodruff lived in Connecticut, and from the time that missionary work first began in the area in June of 1832. We now have over 15,000 members and 60 wards (congregations) in the temple district, comprising of seven stakes that will attend this specific temple. Currently, members in New England travel to one of four temples, which are often several hours away: Manhattan, New York; Boston, Massachusetts Albany, New York; Palmyra, New York, and Montreal, Canada. Having a temple so close to our homes will be such a wonderful blessing, and will definitely an opportunity to attend the temple more often.
The Hartford Young Single Adults were asked to help set up chairs the night before for the ceremony at the site. Emma, Sister Wilcox, and I arrived late, but there was still work to be done. I don’t think that at any time have I been so eager to set up chairs. We were all determined that they be in perfect lines and rows, even knowing that within a few moments of people arriving in the morning that they would be moved around, knocked over, etc. Matt, our Institute teacher, reminded us of President Eyring’s talk on how everything in the temple is perfect, even those things that we might not see as important, such as a crooked piece in a pane of stained glass. It might not be important to anyone else, but it is important to those who did the work, and is surely important to Heavenly Father.
Even as we were simply setting up chairs, on a parcel of land not yet dedicated, I could feel the beauty and peace of the area. If it is so peaceful and filled with the Spirit and the love of the Saints now, I can hardly imagine how wonderful it will be in a few years time when the temple is built and dedicated, the lovely New England walls erected, and the 11 acres of land beautifully planted.
The ceremony itself was wonderfully simple and filled with the spirit. Because of limited parking, most members watched via broadcast in their ward and stake buildings, but that didn’t keep us from feeling like we were truly participating in the historic event. Our stake president, President Taylor, spoke, as well as Elder and Sister Walker. They spoke of the importance of the temple, of the rich history of the area, and of President Woodruff.
President Monson spoke for a few minutes before offering the dedicatory prayer and breaking ground, asking the Saints whom the temple would serve to not only see the day as a dedication of the ground to build the temple upon, but also as an opportunity to dedicate and rededicate ourselves.
In the prayer itself, President Monson quoted Victorian writer and art critic, John Ruskin. The passage he mentioned struck me as incredibly apt for the occasion concerning the fact that this temple is not merely for ourselves, but for our posterity as well as our ancestors. I thought, as this passage has kept me thinking, I might share it with you:
Therefore, when we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think as we lay stone upon stone that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them and that men will say as they look upon the labor and the wrought substance of them, ‘See! this our fathers did for us.’
After the prayer, President Monson broke ground, and invited several others to do so with him, including town councilman and committee members, the seven stake presidents who preside in the district, Monsignor Schmidt of the Hartford Diocese, as well as his family. Having family break ground was so important, and wasn’t lost on those watching. Temples are about families, so having a family help to break ground on our temple was much more than a symbolic gesture.
My favorite moment, however, was when one of the little boys was standing in the aisle watching President Monson turn over the soil. He promptly invited this little one up to help him break ground – he couldn’t have been more than four years old.
My second favorite moment was when all the saints in the temple district who were watching, either on-site or via broadcast, sang President Monson “Happy Birthday.” How many can say that they sang a prophet of God Happy Birthday??