“Johannesburg Temple Dedicated,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 102–3
With a prayer of gratitude for the faithful Saints in South Africa, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the Johannesburg South Africa Temple August 24 and petitioned our Father in Heaven to whisper peace to the hearts of Saints as they seek him out, and to bring peace to their nation.
Prepared under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball, the prayer was offered in the first of four dedicatory sessions held August 24 and 25. In the prayer, President Hinckley expressed gratitude for the growth of the Church throughout the earth and asked that obstacles might continue to be removed from the path of those “sent to bear witness and testimony of the restoration of thy kingdom.”
Then he continued: “We thank thee for the dimensions of thy Church in this nation of South Africa. We thank thee for men and women of great strength who constitute its membership, for the goodness of their lives, for the manner in which thou hast enlightened their minds and quickened their understanding of thy ways and thy purposes.”
President Hinckley pronounced a dedication upon the temple and its facilities, then petitioned: “Wilt thou whisper peace to thy people by the power of thy Spirit when they come here with burdened hearts to seek direction in their perplexities. Wilt thou comfort and sustain them when they come in times of sorrow. Wilt thou give them courage, faith, and direction when they gather, as to a refuge, from the turmoil of the world. …
“Almighty God, wilt thou overrule for the blessing and safety of thy faithful Saints. We pray for peace in this troubled land. Bless this nation which has befriended thy servants. May those who rule in the offices of government be inspired to find a basis for reconciliation among those who now are in conflict one with another. May the presence of thy house on the soil of this nation bring blessings to the entire nation.
“May guardian angels stand watch over this holy house. …”
Speaking before the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the temple, President Hinckley commended the members for their goodness and the fellowship he felt among them. “Our witness to you about the temple is that the Lord wanted it built because of the faith of the Saints of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Treasure the blessings of the temple! It houses all of the facilities to do the work required for salvation. God placed you in this land. God bless you, my beloved associates, in this great and wonderful work.”
In his remarks before the laying of the cornerstone, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve spoke also of the significance of the temple. “When the stone is put in place, we have in Africa a house of Christ. We establish a statement to the world about the justice and mercy of God here.”
He referred to the famous pyramids far northward in Egypt, and added: “Families sealed in this temple in South Africa will still be sealed when the pyramids in northern Africa have become nothing but shifting sands.”
For the cornerstone-laying, General Authorities and priesthood leaders troweled mortar into the space above the marble plaque proclaiming the year in which the temple was dedicated. Then President Hinckley called two surprised youngsters—Samantha and Jason Wrench, children of President Ian S. Wrench, first counselor in the presidency of the Sandton South Africa Stake—to add some mortar as well. “Now,” he told them, “you will be able to say you helped lay the foundation stone of the South Africa Temple.”
Afterward, as those present seated themselves in the Celestial Room for the dedication service, President Hinckley said: “We welcome you to the House of the Lord.” He pointed out that the Church now has a temple on every continent but Antarctica.
“Never forget the feeling here today, and do what is necessary to come back. This house,” he said, “is witness that the Latter-day Saints have the conviction of the immortality of the soul—that we shall live forever.”
Several other General Authorities spoke or participated during the dedicatory services. They included Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the First Quorum of the Seventy, President of the Church’s Europe Area; Elder Russell C. Taylor of the First Quorum of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Europe Area Presidency; Elder J. Richard Clarke of the First Quorum of the Seventy, President of the South Africa Cape Town Mission; and Elder Robert L. Backman of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Nearly thirty-five hundred members attended dedicatory services at the temple on Jubilee Road, a tree-lined avenue on Parktown Ridge north of Johannesburg’s city center.
The temple rises above a screen of jacaranda trees, its light brickwork aligned in perfect symmetry. Originally a select, out-of-town residential area where gold-mining magnates and financiers built mansions around the turn of the century, the locality is now composed largely of hospitals, office parks, and educational institutions, often incorporating surviving mansions. The University of the Witwatersrand’s Center for Continuing Education occupies the properties on either side of the temple. Opposite the temple are the Johannesburg College of Education’s athletics fields.
The temple attracted more than 19,000 visitors during the July 30 to August 10 open house period, including numerous civic and business leaders and government representatives. Many visitors were visibly moved. Verbal comments and those written in guest books applied a wide range of superlatives to the temple: “magnificent,” “spiritually touching,” “serenity itself,” “truly the house of God.”
But even before its completion, the spiritual influence of the temple had been felt. The Portuguese foreman on the construction crew caught the spirit of the project, referring to the temple as “God’s house,” and those under his supervision followed his lead, putting their best into the work.
The more than 12,000 Latter-day Saints in southern Africa who will be served by the temple in Johannesburg know whose house it is. And they know the opportunities it brings.
Allan P. Milne, a high councilor in the Johannesburg South Africa Stake, mirrors the feelings of many Saints in his country: “The presence of a temple in our country is exciting to our family. The chances for spiritual growth are many.”
Correspondent: Marjorie E. Woods, Sandton First Ward, Sandton South Africa Stake