“Portland Temple—A Landmark for Northwestern Saints,” Ensign, Aug. 1989, 75–76
Mount Hood rises to 11,235 feet just east of Portland, Oregon, providing a spectacular backdrop to the city and a favorite retreat for the area’s 1.4 million residents.
Mount St. Helens, remembered for its devastating volcanic eruption in 1980, is also visible from Portland across the Oregon/Washington border to the north.
Portlanders take great pride in their environment. Nourished by thirty-seven inches of rain a year, the metropolitan area boasts firs and ferns, rhododendrons and roses in amazing abundance. Timber, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing are major industries in the area.
The wide, slow-moving Willamette and Columbia rivers add to the beauty and the recreation available in this section of the Pacific Northwest.
The newest landmark in the metropolitan area is the Portland Oregon Temple, now completed in the suburban community of Lake Oswego, about ten miles southwest of Portland’s city center.
Six temple spires—the highest of which is 170 feet and is topped by a statue of the angel Moroni—can be seen for miles around, towering above the surrounding alder and fir trees. Although motorists on Interstate 5 can see the temple itself only briefly, those who drive to the site and walk the landscaped grounds are overwhelmed at its magnificence.
“People will just stand there and gaze at it,” said Elder Glen B. Lewis of Tucson, Arizona, a full-time missionary who spends evenings and weekends answering visitors’ questions at the temple grounds. “They are really overcome by the beauty of it. They comment on how well it sits in its environment and fits in with the trees.”
The land the temple stands on was purchased by the Church thirty years ago. Ground breaking on the 7.29-acre site took place on 20 September 1986, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, two years after plans for the temple were announced.
The Portland Temple, the Church’s forty-second temple, is constructed of white Vermont marble with green Vermont slate on the roof and as trim. Dark-stained mahogany borders the windows and doors inside, with gold- and silver-leaf detailing throughout. Its 82,000 square feet include four ordinance rooms, fourteen sealing rooms, a baptistry, a celestial room, offices, a cafeteria, and a nursery.
“It is a masterpiece of workmanship,” said Daniel M. Florea, an Oregon artist and hotel designer. Although he is not LDS, he feels that the structure “signifies all that is good in expressions of a love of God. It shows that people who make up the Mormon Church are really trying to be the best they can be and will not be second-best in their architecture, in the quality of the materials they use, or in their lives.”
The enthusiasm of local members is also strong, not only for the structure itself, but also for what it means in their lives.
“People have called and offered to work in the temple,” said Lorin Edward (Ted) Perry, temple president. “I ask them how often they can come, and they’ll say, ‘Every day.’”
The experiences they will have in the temple, he said, “will make them better people, more tolerant, more understanding, and better neighbors and members of the community.”
Harrison McKnight, a berry farmer and a bishop in Troutdale, a suburban community east of Portland, said he saw an increase in spirituality in his ward as the temple neared completion.
“This is motivating those who used to hold recommends to start preparing themselves so they can go to the temple,” he said. “Two young couples in my ward are preparing to go to be sealed, and people who were not committed to paying tithing have started being faithful.”
Julie Pottratz, a mother of four, remembers the times they made a fourteen-hour trip to Oakland, California, to do temple work. “We thought the three-hour drive to Seattle was great [since its 1980 opening], but to have a temple in our own backyard is like a dream.”
It may also have been a dream to missionaries who came to Oregon in the 1850s. Their early proselyting efforts spawned resistance from mobs and a local weekly newspaper.
The local legislature even considered a bill to exclude Mormons, among others, from the territory. But the bill was tabled, and members and missionaries came.
The Northwestern States Mission was established in July 1897; it included Oregon, Washington, northern Idaho, and northern Montana. At that time, fewer than eight hundred members of the Church lived in the mission.
The first Portland branch was created in 1899, the first chapel was built in 1915, and the first Portland stake was formed in June 1938—with 2,583 members from southwest Washington and western Oregon alone.
Now, fifty-one years later, more than 90,000 members live in the Portland Oregon Temple district, including twenty-nine Oregon stakes and four south Washington stakes. More than 1,580 people were baptized in a recent seventeen-month period.
“Ninety-two percent of all baptisms are member referrals,” said J. Samuel Park, who completed his assignment as president of the Oregon Portland Mission in July. Two hundred full-time missionaries are “unified and working harmoniously” with some 950 stake missionaries, he said. “That’s where the success comes—the stake missionaries know people. The Lord has prepared and will continue to prepare the way. People are accepting the Church here—our missionaries are busy and active.”
Only a few months ago, Lisa C. Carpenter was baptized into the Church. A high-school senior at the time, she had learned about the Church from her friends in Damascus, a rural community east of Portland. “It has made a tremendous difference in my life,” she said.
Sharon J. Poyfair, a convert of twenty-six years, is now serving a stake mission in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband, a former stake president. As a child, she had no religious upbringing; now she is grateful for the gospel, which has provided “guidelines to go by” for her family of eight children.
Marcia Tracy, Relief Society president in the Portland Sixteenth Ward, Portland Oregon East Stake, has been a member of the Church all her life. “The Church has taught me values and has given me strength and understanding,” she said.
A three-week open house was held at the temple from June 15 through July 8. Eleven dedicatory sessions will be held from August 19 through 21, the first of which will include a cornerstone ceremony. The temple will officially open in mid-September.