“Ground Broken for Preston England Temple,” Ensign, Sept. 1994, 77
The largest gathering of Church members in northwest England in almost twenty-five years participated in the ground breaking for the Preston England Temple on 12 June 1994. President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, presided at the event.
Cars and buses flooded into the area as more than 10,500 members of the Church from throughout Britain gathered in the green fields of the Chorley site. They were there to a take part in a milestone for the Church in the British Isles.
“This is an emotional experience for me,” observed President Hinckley. He reminded those in attendance that he had served as a missionary in Preston sixty-one years ago. Before the meeting, he had walked through the crowd, shaking hands. Tears flowed as he met and embraced Robert Pickles, now in a wheelchair, who had been a been his member-missionary companion many years earlier.
“Never, all those years ago, would I have dreamed that a temple would be built here,” President Hinckley said. “This will become our ensign upon the mountain. A temple is a unique structure: a monument to our convictions, belief, and knowledge that life is eternal, that we go on living after death.”
Several times throughout the weekend activities, which included two regional conferences, President Hinckley urged all adult Church members to be worthy of a temple recommend.
In addition to President Hinckley, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve was in attendance, as also was the Europe North Area presidency: Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy, president, and Elders Hugh W. Pinnock and Graham W. Doxey of the Seventy, counselors in the area presidency.
A regional 400-member choir helped bring a sweet spirit to the occasion, brightening a gray, overcast day. The mood of the meeting was far from gray, though, as every speaker reflected on the significance of a new temple for the British Isles.
Elder Ballard said that he, too, had served as a missionary in Britain, some forty-six years previous. “May the spirit of the temple touch your hearts as never before,” he said. He made particular reference to Doctrine and Covenants 128, a powerful revelation relating to temple work.
The area president, Elder Johnson, described the day as a new beginning. “I foresee a new era,” he said. “I see thousands of people accepting the truth and coming to this temple to take upon themselves covenants with the Lord.”
Elder Pinnock reminded all gathered that “the temple helps us to understand eternity; it is the focus of our lives, and our activity in the temple represents all that matters most.”
Elder Doxey reflected on the specter of empty churches, generally, in Britain. “As the churches are emptying, the prisons are filling,” he observed. “As the clergy decreases, the police increase.”
The Preston England Temple will be the second temple in Britain. When the London Temple opened in 1958, Church membership in Britain was 6,500. Today, that number has grown to more than 160,000.