Vicki Svendsen had tears in her eyes at a Saturday morning service and ceremony honoring the groundbreaking of the Fort Worth Temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She spoke about her great-great-grandparents, Thomas Hurricanus “Cain” Griffin and Sarilda Ellen Roberson, who contributed to the early establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Burleson.
Her grandparents moved to the Burleson area and married just a few miles from the site of the new temple, at Southwest Hulen Street and Greenridge Drive. It will be the second one in North Texas for the Church’s 83,000 members in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The Griffin family became a refuge for several missionaries and took them in as their own. After the passing of her great-great-grandparents, their children continued on the covenant path.
The children of the Griffins would regularly travel to Salt Lake City to attend a Latter-day Saints temple.
“For this is what they knew was the pathway to have a stronger devotion and closeness to their savior and seedling their families together for time and all eternity,” said Svendsen.
Eventually, Svendsen’s father, William R. Whitehouse, became the priesthood leader and the new backbone of the Latter-day Saints Church in Cleburne.
“My father’s life was the life of service to his family, his patients, and to his church ... and more importantly, to his savior,” said Svendsen. Now, she and her siblings are “blessed to be part of a church that has become a temple-building church.”
The new temple in Fort Worth will relieve members of an hour-long drive to the closest temple in Dallas.
“Our prophet president, Russell M. Nelson, has seen the need to bring the temple to its members,” Svendsen said.
According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, temples are considered houses of God and places of holiness and peace separate from “the preoccupations of the world.”
Temples provide a space where Church members make formal promises and commitments to God, such as marriage and the “sealing” of families for eternities, and “proxy baptisms on behalf of deceased ancestors who did not have the opportunity while living,” according to the Church.
Meetinghouses (chapels) serve weekly worship services.
“We attend the temple in part to bless and serve those who’ve gone before us,” according to a statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints North Texas.
Claire Hunter, a member of the Church, talked about its mission to “spread the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to all of the Heavenly Father’s children.
“We should never pass up an opportunity to share our testimony in Christ to others in everyday life. As we increasingly share what we know, others can come to know the truth.”
The creation of the temple in Fort Worth provides a space to hold sacred experiences.
“This sanctuary of peace and comfort felt in the baptismal room is something you can feel nowhere else,” said Hunter. “I knew the temple would forever change my life and how it could change others.”
While Saturday morning’s rain inhibited church members’ ability to gather at the temple site, Elder Jose Alonso — who serves in the North America Southwest Area Presidency of the Church — was appreciative of the many members who gathered.
“We feel that we are there without the rain and the weather conditions and we are really grateful for the wonderful community,” said Alonso.
To members of the Church, modern temples carry a historical relevance.
“It is a day of celebration, gratitude, and unity. As we break the ground symbolically, we are breaking not only the ground beneath our feet, but also the barriers that may separate us in our hearts. In this gathering, we see the beauty of unity and diversity,” said Alonso.
The general public is invited to an open house after a temple is built, where they can learn more about the different purposes that temples serve.
“The temple that will be in Burleson will stand as a living testament to Christ’s eternal invitation for all to find peace in his love. After the completion of the temple, the doors will be open,” said Alonso. “It will be an occasion where people from all walks of life and diverse faiths can experience the profound peace and love bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ himself.”
Alonso hopes that the temple will provide a place of comfort and healing to all those in need.
“We also aspire to break the fear that sometimes divides us. We seek to break the animosity, to replace it with understanding. We aim to break the sadness with the hope that comes from knowing God loves us. We desire to break discouragement and replace it with the knowledge that in Christ there is always a path forward,” said Alonso.
Later Alonso closed the ceremony with a prayer.
“This groundbreaking symbolizes a new beginning, a commitment ... to have a brighter future, and an invitation for all to come and partake of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
For more information about the temple and its significance to the congregation, visit temples.churchofjesuschrist.org.