Tuesday, March 18, 2014

once upon a time -- the finale

Part 1 of this story is HERE.
Part 2 is HERE.
Part 3 is HERE.

Once upon a time, in a suburb right in the heart of the desert, it was announced by the Mormon church presidency that a temple would be built.  

The people in that hot-as-blazes valley went crazy with excitement (read all about that in all those other "parts" above).  

They watched eagerly as each step was built.  

The bedrock was laid.  The foundation was sealed with rocks from hundreds of lucky-to-be-involved youth (part 2).  

Steel support was built to make it strong as could be.

Along with a lot of other festivities, "Temple Walks" of all sorts were planned as the valley of excited people watched it rise up from the dust.  They wanted to show their gratitude any way they could for what a blessing that thing would be in their lives.

...and in the lives of their children...and the lives of their childrens' children.

As it neared completion, the excitement was palpable.  

One particular lady (the one who's perspective is the basis for this story), was asked to be on the committee to help plan a second stake temple walk (this time with whole families and not just the youth).  

She got to spend a lot of time in meetings figuring it all out, and was in charge of the photography of the event.

Here are some of the other committee members:

Photography crew up there above.

(Her daughter was overjoyed that she was automatically on the committee by order of being her daughter and was pleased as punch for all the work that it included.  Ha!)

Luckily she had a friend to join her.

Ok, and some other pretty sweet friends too.

It was awesome that her mom was on the committee so she could be sure to tell her that everyone was supposed to wear white...

Whoops, forgot that minor detail...

Here's everyone taking off:

And a little stop for pictures...
See that huge line of white-shirted folks on their way out to walk to the temple below?

Hoards of wonderful families walked to that beautiful temple that day to be close to it.

To show respect for it.

To be grateful for it.

And to learn more about it.  These signs with various little facts were placed intermittently on the pathway leading to the temple:

Each family got a family picture at the temple.
(Which I don't have pictures on this computer for right now...I'll have to come back and add them later.)

And then walked back to the giant soccer complex to have picnics as families.

That one mother couldn't stop taking pictures, even after everything was cleared and packed up.

That same mother and her husband were honored to be tour guides for the temple open house.  

(A temple open house is when anyone can go into the temple before it is dedicated.  After the dedication only members of the church in good standing living the church standards can go in.)

That meant she got to spend a good deal of time watching the finishing preparations.  During the day:
...and into the night.

One night she got to go from one temple in the valley...
 ...to another:
For different meetings.

There was a LOT of temple hoopla going on.

The whole valley was full of anticipation and excitement.  Right before the temple open house began, this mother got a special invitation for her family to tour the building.

It was an amazing day to be together there in that beautiful place.
Filled with so much love and peace.

One daughter had to miss that family visit so luckily that mother got to bring her on a special date another day.

She and her husband got to be "ushers" for the four weeks of the temple open house.

They had no idea what they were in for.  Over 400,000 people went through that beautiful place during the Open house.

And these two felt honored to get to meet so many of them, and to get to explain so much about the temple to those who were so curious.

And they felt so grateful to be involved.

More about the temple open house HERE.

The day before the actual temple dedication there was a "Cultural Celebration" which created so many feelings of love and gratitude for that mother that it will have to be captured in another post all together.

But this one can end with the finale of the building of that great building:

The day it was dedicated to the Lord.

Because boy howdy was that ever a wonderful day for families throughout the valley.

They had looked forward to that day for so very long.

And it was finally there.

That beautiful building stood before them, ready to be used and loved.

This particular family, through some very lucky series of events, got to be in the temple for one of the dedications.  (The ceremonies were broadcast throughout the valley in church buildings so all those members old enough could take part.)

In the Celestial Room to be exact.

And that, my friends, is where the Prophet of the church was on that bright, sunny day.
(Photo courtesy of "Max Photography".)

It was a grand day for that family...even though their youngest child was too little to be there in person (you have to be at least eight-years-old to attend), and the Dad was on a pre-planned trip and couldn't be there.
But those two family members missing from visiting those walls that day still felt the spirit of it all when those who got to be there spilled out all the details to them later.

That youngest girl in the front below even got a wink from the Prophet.

Which, of course, she was destined to remember for the rest of her life :).

That temple dedication marked the culmination of a few years of preparation and excitement.

Now, most "Once Upon a Time" stories end with


But not this one.

Because the end of this building and dedication was only the beginning of what was to come:  weddings and sealings, prayers and ponderings, work for those who have passed on, and more work for those who need that beautiful spirit to fill their lives in a way that nothing else seems to touch.

And the people of that valley settled down after all that hoopla not to an "end" but to a "beginning" and relished in the fact that they got to begin the joyous occasion to put that gorgeous temple to good use forever on.

For more about Mormon temples click HERE.

The End Beginning.


  1. What a beautiful, amazing post. I followed the news of the open house and dedication from afar and I love hearing your up close and personal account of it.

  2. Questions: How is it known that someone trying to enter the temple is "in good standing" and "living in the church"? Are there guards to keep other people out or throw them out if they sneak in?

    Also, why can no one under age 8 participate. Poor Lucy! I think being left out makes a really horrible impression on kids, even little ones.


    1. You must present a "recommend" upon entrance which is a card signed by a church leader who has interviewed you with a set of questions to determine if you are living the standards of the church.

      One reason why only those over eight can participate in the actual dedication (children of all ages could attend the open house) is because of maturity and the sacred nature of the event. It's something to look forward to and to be old enough to appreciate more.

    2. Children are also baptized at age eight in our church because we believe it is the age they become accountable before God (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/29.46-47?lang=eng#45) and officially become a member of the church, so that likely plays into the significance of attending a dedication.

  3. Interesting! I am not Mormon but love the sense of community and family that your religion emphasizes. It must be lovely to belong to something like that...our society that we live in (well I guess that I live in) does not seem to promote that. How exciting for you and your family to participate in the opening of the new temple ;)

  4. Such a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and ponderings, and hopes, and beautiful photos! I am a convert and recently received my endowment. I am so excited about the opportunities to learn and serve and be enlightened in the temple. This post was so perfect and timely for me.

  5. Thank you for the beautiful post about the Gilbert Temple. My daughter and her sweetheart will BEGIN their life together in that very temple in a month. I can't wait to participate in that special occasion with her.

  6. I got excited thinking this was part 2 of your love story -- with the "once upon a time" title. Hope you post that soon :)

  7. Your pictures are breathtaking. How wonderful to have the temple so close by you! You all look like you are simply glowing with happiness. It's on my bucket list to see the Gilbert Temple in person and to do a session,. It is absolutely majestic.

  8. What a sweet story! The pic with the palm trees in the foreground & the temple in the back reminds me of the Taj Mahal.

  9. It's beautiful place to worship Shawni! What an accomplishment for the entire community.

  10. This made me cry. So sweet. It is such a BEAUTIFUL temple. What tender blessings for you to be involved in such meaningful ways.

  11. Hi Shawni -
    How are you? This is Erin (Nelson) Jensen, I grew up in your stake and am Ryan Nelson's sister - ( I think you two are the same age?) anyway, I have been reading about your beautiful daughter, Lucy - My 6 month old was just diagnosed with something called tubero sclerosis - a genetic disorder that can cause a myriad of health problems and developmental delays~ simliar things in a way that you have dealt with with Lucy~ we are still in the shock/reeling phase of his diagnosis and i wondered if there is a chance i might be able to talk with you sometime just to get some perspective! my email is jensenerin@hotmail.com - if you ever get a chance, i would love to be in touch with you` thanks! erin

  12. I've been reading your blog for a long time now but this is the first comment. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and heartwarming post! I'm not a Mormon but I am Christian and am always fascinated and interested learning about how different denominations worship. These photos and your telling of the story were both breathtaking! God Bless! :)

  13. wow what an amazing post. I feel quite over come. Makes me want to sing, I am a child of God.

    A magnificent building. A beacon of hope. Simply put, BEAUTIFUL

    Thank you for sharing this.

  14. this made me cry, what a beautiful experience your family and your community has had!

  15. The Gilbert Temple looks so beautiful. I would love to go there someday. We are so blessed to have a temple just an hour away in Anchorage. I love the peace the temple brings. So blessed!

  16. Actually attending anything inside the temple is not possible ONCE it's dedicated until you hit age 12 for limited activities. But mostly it's just for adults with a certain standing. If you are sealed in marriage after children are born you can special permission for them to attend the temple in order for them to be sealed to you. Adoption or converts who had children prior to their marriage sealing would be examples. But after that instance they wait until they are old enough. It's nice they allow 8 year olds at the dedication since that is the age of church membership. The LDS have regular church services where children and even non members can attend. They just don't take place in temples. Temples are for things like weddings and they are exclusionary to adult members.

  17. This was wonderful. I went through and read your other Temple posts. I loved them. I felt the spirit and love for the temple and I may have choked up.
    I have been reading your blog for a while now. You just inspire me so much! I am 21 years old and was just married in the Logan Utah temple last May. We currently live in Ogden, Utah attending Weber state university. I was actually baptized when I was 18 just a few years ago. Right after I was baptized the Ogden temple was shut down to be remodeled. We are lucky to live in Utah and have a temple every 30 minutes it seems like, but it's always so much more special when its in the middle of your home town, and where both my husband and I grew up. The temple is nearing completion and I wish I would have taken more interest in the rebuilding of it. I just wish from the beginning for it to be done. I love how you did temple walks. Makes me want to walk their this Saturday. Oh how I hate how I missed the temple Moroni being put on top. I really can't wait to use it as a missionary tool and invite my non member family to come inside and feel the spirit during the open house.
    Thank you so much!

  18. I loved hearing the details about the temple that you shared. We used to live in Chandler, AZ 7 years ago but now live in the Seattle area.

  19. That was such a beautiful post. How lucky your family was to be so involved along the way. Thank you for sharing.

  20. SO beautiful! What a wonderful opportunity & blessing for your family!! Thank you so much for sharing. I love what is in your head and how you share it so eloquently. Thank you so much!

  21. This may not be the best place to make this comment but I just want to say that I have been reading your blog for a few years now and I have been so inspired that I want to do my own blog and document my family's memories. Thank you for being such an inspiration and example

  22. Seems very hypocritical that God doesn't allow you in his home unless you are in "good standing".

    I believe in a higher power that does not pass judgement.

    just my opinion

    1. I heard someone describe it this way: think of your home. Would you let just anyone who wanted to come in enter your home? I assume you would want to know who they were, and that they had good intentions (among other things). Our Heavenly Father wants us all to enter into His home (the Temple). He knows each of us, but do we know Him? Are we making an effort to live in a way that would please Him?
      Being in the Temple signifies being in our Heavenly Father's presence. The scriptures teach us that no unclean thing can dwell in his presence. (1 John 3:6). We all make mistakes. That is what our Savior's sacrifice is for - to help us to change and overcome them.
      Having standards to be able to enter the Temple with a recommend prepares us to eternally to live with our Heavenly Father and Savior again. Anyone is welcome - they just need to live the standards He asks of us.
      I like to think that rather than being restrictive, it is a preparation for greater things.

  23. God is our parent. Do you not let your children in your home until they hit a certain age and do everything you ever ask them to do perfectly?

    How can someone be so very perfect for two year stretches? Doesn't it suggest dishonesty because family and friends expect you to go there for a wedding so you either have to tell them your transgression or lie to keep your card? Can't any age go to heaven?

    In any other church people get better spiritually by going to church and being in the presence of God in his house. God was more pleased when the sinner who approached him in his place of worship and admitted to being a sinner than the devout man coming to The Lord to proclaim he had done all he should in giving alms and following commandments. Luke 18:10-14. He wasn't upset that the sinner was there.

  24. WOW! What a special post!! You all will remember these experiences for a long time! And how special that you got to be in the Celestial Room with the prophet for the dedication! I hope everyone wrote in their journals afterwards to help remember the feelings they had that day!

  25. KMS, you are right on the money. It's their religion and their rules, so be it. I just don't think God ("Heavenly Father")would exclude someone from entering his house just because he is a "sinner". Jesus ate with the tax collectors and prostitutes.

    The whole point of a religion is to help people change their life and become acceptable to God. If you don't let sinners in, how can they be helped?

    1. We do let sinners in because everyone is a sinner! I remember the first time I entered the temple I felt so overcome with joy to be there. Not because I was perfect but because I knew I was a sinner and I felt so grateful to Christ for providing the way for me to feel clean and ready to be there. All you have to do is be willing to repent and be humble. I like to think of the temple as being like a university. Anyone can enter but you do have to put in the work and preparation. Otherwise it wouldn't mean very much to be there and you probably wouldn't learn much. In a similar way, young kids don't go there to learn because they need time to mentally and spiritually prepare. Those are just my thoughts. Hope it makes sense. Beautiful post, Shawni! I love your blog and get so many great ideas.

  26. And be a member. And be a member for a certain length of time. And be a certain age. Most of the time you sin you go to God in His house, confess your sins, ask for and gain forgiveness. You don't wait for multiple appointments to hand in your card, get it back.. This notion of cleansing first and staying clean enough between the cleansing and trip to the temple is quite unique.

    I do think it's a celebration when a relgious building is built. There should be more of them. They provide a public good.

    As a nonmember I am not upset at not being able to enter. I get there is stuff that is private. The sacred can become ridiculed if misunderstood. What I don't understand is why your members are discouraged from and not allowed to have a public ceremony first without having to wait a year to be sealed. You seal dead people. You allows a public wedding in a chapel for time in the case if a member sealed to a widow. A sealing can take place immediately after a civil wedding in countries that recognize the sealing. They don't recognize the sealing because it not public ceremony. I don't understand why the US recognizes a legal marriage that did not take place in public space. Public meeting meaning anyone can attend. A ring ceremony is not a substitute. And it's clearly not a substitution by church standards, And you can't have a public ceremony after, it should be before the lifelong sealing. First you promise to be exclusive to your partner until one of them dies. Then you promise to be their spouse for eternity. To nonmember families their relative eloped with the other sides family on the trip. And there was a party afterward with photos.

    1. You raise a good point. Even some members of our church struggle with that one. The fact is that our country respects the freedom of religion and you can get married however you want here as long as the officiator is licensed and there are witnesses (and you file your license). For me, I wonder if my temple marriage would have felt as important if it was our second ceremony. I don't know. It's possible that policy could change though.

  27. Jesus welcomed children and did not mind if they were present at the large gatherings of people that came to hear him preach.

    His apostles tried to shoo the children away (it was a "solemn" occasion after all).

    But Jesus chastised the apostles and encouraged the children to come closer so they could hear....

    1. I've visited other churches and I think our church does a pretty good job of encouraging children to participate (we do tend to have a lot of them after all! :). Our most important meeting is our Sunday Sacrament meeting and children come to that. Children even frequently get up to talk about their own faith at the microphone during our monthly testimony meetings. It is true they don't enter the temple unless they involved in a family sealing but I really think we do our best to follow Jesus' command in that scripture.

  28. I was always taught that God's Word never changes. In my case that meant the Bible. I assume that the Book of Mormons doesn't change either - so how can "policy" change?

  29. I think that there is a big difference between policy, or decisions made about how to run the church, and fundamental doctrine, or our core beliefs about who we are and why we're here and God's plan for his children. The church is just a support to help us fulfill God's plan for us and to help us come together and learn to love and serve our fellow brother and sisters.

  30. The BOM doesn't spell out every practice. In the beginning moving to Utah was expected. Time does change things. The bible is true but we don't sacrifice animals anymore. You likely entered a worship space within days of having children. The bible didn't change. You likely ate shellfish. The bible didn't change.

    Marriage is a legal contract. You can marry in a religious building. Requiring secular guidelines doesn't mean you can not practice your religion. Many of your grandparents were married first and sealed later. They felt joy at the sealing. Your dead ancestors, if they accepted the sealing on their behalf in the next life, likely felt joy. How can you not feel joy? As you said it's a practice that may or may not change. Especially with a church seeking converts so earnestly this is a pretty big issue to be resolved. Promising to marry so long as you both shall live hardly has anything to do the end of marriage at death but the exclusivity to couple only with each other. The public is a part of that. In my church the doors being locked would invalidate a legal marriage. The couple needs to be open to objection from another that there is some reason they should not be joined together. But if the government needed a service in a locked room that would be fine. We would just marry in the church the religious way for the church to recognize it. A sealing seems so separate from a marriage. Isn't that the point?

    1. Yes--I want to make it clear that I don't think that a sealing taking place after a marriage is in any way less joyful of an occasion. It's always joyful! I guess all I was trying to say was that combining the secular/legal aspects of the marriage contrct with the spiritual/covenant with God aspect was powerful for me. Marriage is definitely more than just a legal contract to me, because of my religious beliefs. I'll have to think more about what you've said here, though.

  31. A beautiful post. Thank you :)

    I know lots of people have questions about the temple, why we do things the way we do. The best way to understand is to talk to someone who is a member of the church.

    If you go to www.mormon.org on the left hand side there are different options. You could talk to a missionary who can explain things or there is also an option to chat with Church representatives.

    I hope this can help answer any questions :)

  32. The blog author is a member. She also worked answering questions in the open house. She also served a mission. She seemed to open the topic. No disrespect intended.

  33. Congratulations! I went to a temple open house a few years ago and loved it- especially how purposeful the architecture was. Thank you for allowing others to enjoy it!

  34. So many great questions and answers here! I have been away from my computer and have just

  35. Megan Haroldson referred me to you.
    I have all the scriptures in Braille and I want to donate them to someone who could use them rather than throw them away I'm in Texas and I imagine shipping may be quite a bit since they are large and take several boxes. I'm not sure if this is something you could use or maybe you could suggest a place to donate them. Thanks, Kell Bahr. Kbgotmoxie@gmail.com


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