The Sunshine State lived up to its name Sunday, May 4, and it wasn’t just the blue skies that caused an extra glow in southern Florida.
An added aura of brightness emanated from the faces of Latter-day Saints who rejoiced as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf dedicated the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple, the Church’s second temple in the state and the 143rd temple in operation worldwide.
During his stay in the Fort Lauderdale area for events connected with the temple dedication, President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, made several references to the blessings of having a temple in southern Florida.
He commented about the beauty of southern Florida, the area “between the vast Atlantic Ocean, the sawgrass prairies and the Gulf of Mexico beyond.”
“I am impressed not only by the natural beauty of Florida, but also by its people, and the rich, inspiring heritage in Church history,” he said.
He spoke of how temple ordinances and temple covenants brought great strength and blessings to the early Mormon pioneers when they had to leave Nauvoo, Illinois, on their exodus to the West.
“Temple blessings were almost out of reach for the early Saints in Florida,” he said. “They were pioneers in their own way. They had to travel thousands of miles to receive their endowments. Those early Florida Saints journeyed to the temples in Salt Lake City and Mesa, Arizona. Later, the Saints in Florida helped build temples in Washington, D.C., in Atlanta and finally in Orlando. Today, the long-awaited hour has come when a temple is dedicated in Fort Lauderdale.
“No one can read the stories of the early Church members here in Florida without having a feeling of gratitude and love for these early Saints.” he said. “Tears come to my eyes when I think of the many sacrifices made and the devoted service given by these early members in Florida. It was not easy and often dangerous for these Saints, whose history was mostly written long after the handcarts arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.”
President Uchtdorf spoke of the heritage bequeathed to LDS Floridians by stalwarts in the gospel such as George Paul Canova, president of the Sanderson Branch, who was killed in 1898 as he and his companion, Thaddeus Hill, were ambushed while returning from a missionary conference.
“The lives of these Florida pioneers are testimonies of the power, truth and goodness of the gospel message,” President Uchtdorf said. “As we dedicate the Fort Lauderdale Temple and honor the Lord, we also remember and honor these faithful members who prepared the way.”
President Uchtdorf offered the dedicatory prayer of the temple and conducted the first and third sessions; Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducted the second session.
Other General Authorities participating included Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and Assistant Executive Director of the Temple Department; and Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop.
Each of the Brethren was accompanied by his wife: Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, Sister Kathy Christofferson, Sister Melanie Rasband, Sister Marsha Richards and Sister Lesa Stevenson.
Also speaking during the dedication were members of the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple presidency: Jerry R. Bogges, president; Thomas Preston Smith, first counselor; Robert H. Beck, second counselor. Portia Bogess, temple matron; and Marilyn Kay Smith and Wyla Jean Beck, assistants to the temple matron, also spoke.
M. Anthony Burns, coordinator of the temple dedication committee, and Brook P. Hales, secretary to the First Presidency, were called upon to give remarks.
During the first session of the dedication, a ceremony was held to put into place a symbolic cornerstone, in which was placed a copy of the dedicatory prayer and various publications, historical and contemporary photos documenting the history of the Church in southern Florida and the construction of the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple.
At the cornerstone ceremony, President Uchtdorf made brief remarks, welcoming people standing outside the temple. He spoke of the beauty of the day — a day of sunshine and new dawning.
After President and Sister Uchtdorf, along with the other Brethren and their wives, placed mortar to seal the cornerstone, several children were invited to come forward. President Uchtdorf leaned down and spoke to each child, asking his or her name.
A choir assembled near the eastern corner of the temple performed two hymns.
During each dedicatory session in the temple, choirs composed of members in the temple district sang hymns reflecting gratitude for the temple and praises for the blessings of the Lord.
Members came to the temple’s dedication with gratitude and joy. Among them was Maria Soledad Brenes Perez of the Lagoon Ward, Miami Florida South Stake.
Baptized at age 18, she attended the Atlanta Georgia Temple for the first time as a young adult while dating her future husband, William J. Perez, who had returned from serving a mission in Peru. Married in the Atlanta temple in 1989, they continued to attend that temple during the next five years, until the Orlando Florida Temple was dedicated. “It took 13 hours,” she said of the drive to Atlanta from Miami.
When she was asked how long it takes her to get to the Fort Lauderdale temple from her home, her eyes filled with tears. She struggled with her emotions before she could answer: “30 minutes.”
She said she is grateful to have a temple so close to her home. “It means we will be able to go to the temple more often and serve the Lord more diligently and consistently,” she said. “It is now possible to come to the temple often, even weekly, rather than occasionally.”