Correspondence




CORRESPONDENCE WITH PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY


In the year 2000, I had the honor and privilege of serving on the Birmingham Alabama Temple Committee for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My contribution was minor, probably the least of any member of the committee. I was uniquely blessed in the sense that my service put me in a position to interact in writing with the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley. I was asked to obtain appropriate gifts for President Hinckley and others who were coming to Alabama to dedicate the new temple in Gardendale, Alabama.

My old friend Carl Stephens owned and operated a business which produced uniquely colored ceramic products made from Alabama clay. One of his products was a beehive, an important symbol in
Book of Mormon and Utah history. The sizeable beehive was suitable for use as a cookie jar or as a container to hold most any item one might want to store. Carl provided me gratuitously with a beautiful beehive for President Hinckley.

I found some bright white gift paper, an elaborate white ribbon, and a white box. I placed the beehive in the box, and inside of the beehive itself, I placed the following note and attachment:

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The temple was dedicated by President Hinckley on September 3, 2000.

Whenever a temple is dedicated, there are more members of the Church who desire to be in attendance than can be accommodated at one sitting. Thus, the dedication service is duplicated several times for different audiences. The same dedicatory prayer is repeated in each session. Each session is a little different based on those called upon to speak by the presiding authority and the content of their respective Christ-centered message. Occasionally, members in the audience are called upon without warning to bear a short extemporaneous personal testimony.

The session to which one is assigned to attend is based upon his home congregation or ward. The members of the Wetumpka Ward, where I attended, were assigned to attend one of the later sessions. I was strictly obedient to that assignment and did not attend the first session, although as a member of the mission presidency of the Alabama Birmingham Mission and also a member of the temple committee, I might have been able to finagle a way to get into the first session. I was proud of myself for squelching the impulse.

I learned after attending my assigned dedication session that President Hinckley had called out my name—to ask me to come forward and bear my testimony. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I was not there and thus did not embarrass myself. I took solace in the fact that I was not there until I was supposed to be there.

Just knowing that my name had been uttered by the lips of a living prophet on earth was a most significant honor for me. I have deeply treasured that incident that occurred in my absence.

There is one final twist to this story. Temple dedicatory services, as well as many other events in the Church, are recorded. The recordings are later transcribed into a written record and archived at the Church History Library. One of the many mundane tasks assigned to staff members at the library is the proofreading of transcribed documents, verifying the spelling and punctuation of the transcriptions. The assistance of senior fulltime missionaries is sometimes enlisted in order to accomplish this tedious task.

Almost a decade after the dedicatory service, I was serving as a fulltime senior missionary in the Church History Library. One day, and it was the only day I was asked to do such, I was requested by my supervisor to take a turn at serving as a proofreader. To insure accuracy, we are asked to serve in pairs, both of us confirming the correctness of the transcription.

On that particular day, the transcription on which I worked covered the first dedicatory service of the Alabama Birmingham Temple. I was able to read President Hinckley’s exact words when referring to me, thus knowing what was said the same as if I had been there. His calling of my name totally shocked the other senior missionary with whom I was proofreading.

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