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Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014

LDS Church's Portland Oregon Temple turns 25

By Trent Toone, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Aug. 7 5:00 a.m. MDT

 The Portland Oregon LDS Temple was dedicated in 1989. This month marks its 25th anniversary.

The Portland Oregon LDS Temple was dedicated in 1989. This month marks its 25th anniversary.

(LDS.org)

The sun was shining brightly over the Portland Oregon Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 12, 2012, as Trever and Kara Bair, surrounded by family and friends, were married for time and all eternity.

It was an event that Kara had been looking forward to for a long time.

"It had been my dream since I can remember to marry the man of my dreams in the Portland Temple," she said. "I grew up 20 minutes away. I remember planting flowers, doing baptisms, walking the grounds and waiting for my big sister and her new husband to come out. In my eyes, the Portland Temple was my castle where my prince and I would start our forever together. Trever knew it was my dream, and he made it come true."

The Bairs are one of countless couples to be sealed in the Portland Temple over the past 25 years. This month marks the silver anniversary of its dedication, performed by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then the first counselor in the First Presidency, Aug. 19-21, 1989.

In a book titled "Saints to the Columbia," President Thomas S. Monson, then second counselor in the First Presidency, said of the Portland Temple: "You won't find a better example of beautiful craftsmanship of the Lord — the lovely trees and vegetation — than here at the Portland Temple. ... I've seen none more beautiful."

In connection with this 25-year milestone, here is a look back at the construction and dedication of the temple, along with a few memories from those who have served there.

The property

In the 1960s, the LDS Church purchased the property in Lake Oswego, Oregon, with plans for a junior college. Two decades later, church leaders decided it would become the site of the Portland Temple, according to the LDS Church News.

In Chad S. Hawkins' book "The First 100 Temples," James H. Bean, former vice chairman of the temple committee, said the Lord had his eye on the property.

"I've watched the things that have happened on this property for 20 years," Bean said in Hawkins' book. "I have felt the whisperings of the Spirit, that it was intended to be preserved for special purposes."

The temple was announced on April 7, 1984, and faced opposition early on, Hawkins wrote.

"The process of getting the property approved for the temple included at least 27 public hearings, eight lawsuits, and four petition drives intended to stop development," Hawkins wrote.

Building the temple

Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy, who has an extensive background in construction, served as the general contractor on the Portland Temple.

Elder Zwick said building the temple came with a demanding schedule, the need to coordinate perfectly with subcontractors and concern for safety and high visibility in a sensitive neighborhood. He was also well aware of the church's expectations for high quality workmanship and was grateful to take part in such a special project.

"We felt honored, knowing it was the House of the Lord," Elder Zwick wrote in an email to the Deseret News. "We were delighted that every man working on this project understood the sacred nature of this building and of the sacred site upon which it was built."

Ground was broken on Sept. 20, 1986. For the next three years, there was rain, rain and more rain, 9 inches some days, Elder Zwick said. Among several challenges, an arborist was hired to protect the trees surrounding the temple. The biggest challenge involved redesigning the foundation due to supersaturated soil, which was ultimately a blessing.

The final result was a stunning sight. The exterior view includes white marble walls with six spires pointing to heaven set against a forest of trees and rich green vegetation. The interior includes a skylit atrium in the foyer and Honduran mahogany woodwork throughout that Elder Zwick said was purchased in advance and stored due to limited availability.

Working through each challenge was worth it because nothing is too good for the Lord, said Elder Zwick, who missed the dedication because he was called to be a mission president in Chile.

"Part of the experience must include some form of sacrifice in order to enhance the experience for generations to come," Elder Zwick wrote. "Anything of value requires overcoming adversity and prevailing over any hardships."

The open house

More than 300,000 people toured the Portland Temple. An LDS Church News article reported that visitors walked through at a rate of 2,500 an hour, with many waiting up to 45 minutes in lines that stretched to a quarter mile away.

More than 9,000 members served as volunteers at the temple, the article reported, and vast amounts of church literature were distributed. The church also promoted the event with numerous radio, TV and newspaper advertisements.

One person who visited the temple was quoted by the Church News as saying, "I've been away from the church for several years now. I haven't felt the Spirit in all that time. This experience today has convinced me that I must come back."

A man that was handing out anti-Mormon literature opted to take the tour. When he came out, he had a change of heart and stopped distributing the information, Hawkins wrote in his book.

The dedication

More than 40,000 members from the temple district, which included stakes in Oregon and Washington, attended the dedication Aug. 19-21, 1989. The Portland Temple became the church's 42nd operating temple, the Church News reported.

President Ezra Taft Benson, who had recently turned 90, and his counselors took turns presiding over the 11 dedicatory sessions. In the dedicatory prayer, the Portland Temple was pronounced to be "a place of peace and holiness, a refuge from the storms of life."

President Monson turned 62 while participating in the dedication. A 1989 LDS Church News article records that while speaking, President Monson called for Veronica Gardner, a local 12-year-old girl, to stand beside him at the podium. He then removed a white rose from a flower arrangement and presented it to her with a request.

"I want you to always keep this as part of the temple, and come back here and get married for time and all eternity," President Monson said in the article.

Referral explosion

In the months immediately following the open house and dedication, full-time Mormon missionaries received hundreds of referrals. The temple had a "strong effect on investigators," James J. Eardley, former president of the Oregon Portland Mission, told the Church News in 1989.

Chris Affleck of Syracuse, Utah, was a brand-new Mormon missionary at the time and recalls spending the first six months of his mission responding to referrals.

"The temple was an awesome tool. We were constantly responding to referrals. About two of 10 referrals were taught the discussions and one of those would usually get baptized," Affleck said. "It gave missionaries a lot to do for a long time. Our mission was among the top baptizing missions in the country."

A 'wonderful feeling'

A visitors center opened adjacent to the Portland Temple in 2012.

Byron and Zelma Christensen live in the Portland Temple district and have served in the temple for many years. Byron has served in a temple presidency and is now a sealer. Zelma assists him in the sealing office, among other duties. The couple always feel a sense of relief when they arrive on the temple grounds.

"It's been a place of interest for people to come and explore the temple grounds. It’s very rewarding," Zelma Christensen said. "You can feel the Spirit once you turn into the long drive that takes you into the temple grounds. It’s a wonderful feeling to be on that property."

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

Recommended
1. Aunt Sue
SALT LAKE CITY, UT,
Aug. 7, 2014

Our family loves the Portland Temple. We spent 14 years in the Portland area while our six children were growing up. Four of our six were married there, two of them in one weekend. It is a beautiful place, set in the lush trees and gardens, with the white spires rising above.

2. hc1951
Bend, OR,
Aug. 8, 2014

I was one of the greeters; I'll never forget the beautiful smile on the face of a Buddhist monk as he came up the stairs. All those who seek Truth will find it.

3. will7370
LOGAN, UT,
Aug. 8, 2014

So grateful I was privileged to be one of the groundskeepers for the Portland Temple. Those daily devotionals with a member of the Temple Presidency will always be a fond memory.

4. bald2bfun
LEHI, UT,
Aug. 11, 2014

I was working and living in North Carolina after living in Washington State for six years. I was in Oregon doing a quality audit when I received a phone call from a young man whom I had taught as a teachers quorum advisor in Washington State. He was going through the temple prior to going on a mission and wanted to know if I could be his escort. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. We went to the Portland temple together and it was a beautiful and warm experience that I shall never forget.