If readers will indulge me for a moment, I’d like to tell a story as preface. My wife and I went to the Salt Lake temple this morning (we were originally going to Bountiful, but changed plans at the last moment) and coming out of there at about 10:40 am, I saw that people were entering the library. I thought perhaps there was a tour of some kind. My wife wasn’t able to go to the open house tours last week, so I thought it would be a great chance to get her over to see it. Well, to my surprise it was actually open for the dedication of the building and as it was a ticketed event (I’m showing my in-the-loopness here <grin>), we didn’t have much prospect for entering. However, the nice brother at the door told us to hold on a few minutes as the service would be starting shortly. He said that if there was room, we could come in. So there was and we did. I couldn’t help but feel thankful that circumstances had presented themselves so that this could happen. It was a great meeting. Here are my notes. As always, this is not an exact transcription, but my reformulation of handwritten notes:
President Thomas S. Monson presided, Elders Eyring and Uchdorf of the First Presidency along with President Packer and Elders Perry, Nelson, Scott, Holland and Christofferson were in attendance along with H. David Burton and Keith B. McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric, Brother Richard Turley, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, and Sister Beck of the Relief Society Presidency and others were in attendance.
At 11:00 a.m., Elder Jensen began to conduct the meeting and welcomed those in attendance, calling it “a humbling and thrilling event.”
Brother Turley gave the invocation and Elder Jensen gave remarks.
This is a great day in the history of Church history. It has taken 15 years to plan and almost 4 years to build this library. It will be an open, welcoming gathering place to all wishing to access the records housed here. [He thanked the First Presidency for making this choice piece of land available for the building and a special thanks to the residents living near by who had been very understanding during the inconvenience of construction. He said that we are committed to being good neighbors.] During the Church’s early years record keeping was done in a number of locations, in Joseph Smith’s home, in his smokehouse, at the Kirtland Temple. In the upper floor of the Red Brick Store, in the Nauvoo Temple, etc. Willard Richards, in preparation for the move West packed the Church’s records into two large boxes. You can see what these two boxes have become! [reverent laughter] In 1855 Brigham Young commissioned a new Historian’s Office and home for George A. Smith opposite the Lion House. Assistant Church Historian Wilford Woodruff offered the dedicatory prayer, the words of which are still relevant. [Elder Jensen quoted only a portion of the prayer as recorded in Wilford Woodruff's journal] This office was used until 1917 when a new Church Office building was built, known today as the Administration Building at 47 E. South Temple. By then the collection had expanded and it took the whole third floor. This continued until 1972 when the Historian’s Office was moved to the east wing of the new Church Office Building at 50 E. North Temple. Like the Ark of the Covenant, which was housed in its wanderings in the Tabernacle [and subsequently found a resting place in the temple], the records of Church history have found a welcome resting place here. Joseph Smith saw challenges in the future. He said, I give you a key so as never to be deceived. The true Church is with a majority of the saints and the records of the Church also. These records are now residing safely here. The purpose for which the Lord counseled a record be kept, He wants us to remember. This facility will play a vital role in helping us remember. We might call it the Mecca of Mormon Church history. To it and from it will flow information. In 1904, Joseph F. Smith said that there are those who see in every hour and in every moment of the existence of this Church from its beginning until now, the overruling, almighty hand of Him who sent His Only Begotten Son to the world to become a sacrifice for the sin of the world.
As we learned from Elder Jensen, this has been a 15 year of love. In that period, every land developer in the city coveted this site. I don’t know how many proposals for one project or another for this piece of real estate were submitted. Each time the First Presidency politely declined, waiting for the right use, the right building. Occupying this strategic place, in this international headquarters of the Church sits this facility, I call it a facility because it’s more than just an ordinary building. It’s a beautiful space, a reminder, where records are kept, restful reading rooms, labs, storage vaults, three sections of vaults kept at -4 degrees, others at 55 degrees with appropriate humidity control. There is a two level tunnel below N. Temple where an old water line and City Creek flow. The other tunnel connects the library with the Office Building. It started with those in the Department that conceived this building. Two architectural firms, Jacobson & Swinton made the plans a reality and with an excellent quality of work. Every project of this magnitude needs a saavy to keep it on course. Gary Holland & Associates, the Chief Architect David Hall, appreciation.
At the ground breaking October 7, 2006, President Monson gave the closing prayer. He said, I invoke a plea to Heavenly Father that all who build may keep in mind that they build as though a temple of God. May this characterize the builders, architects, and patrons in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Some human interest stories. Steven, not LDS, was not familiar with Salt Lake. The night before his meeting he walked around Church Headquarters to feel it out. He shared in the meeting that he felt that the building should be oriented toward the Salt Lake Temple since it was the focus of our religion. The architects worked to create vistas for offices, reading rooms, the lobby, etc that were oriented toward the temple.
Dirk had been in the business of high tech moves for 46 years, had helped Fortune 500 companies make significant moves in the past. He had never faced a challenge like this. There was a question of whether to or not to give him the assignment. His wife was seriously ill and not expected to live long. They rented an apartment in Salt Lake. His wife rallied and he was able to finish the project. He was able to spend time with her around Salt Lake as he worked. She died shortly after they moved back to Denver. This was a great labor of love for him. He was a good Catholic brother. He said he drew strength from the daily prayers that opened work and commented that there was something special here and that he wanted to find out what was.
One worker standing between the shelves had the impression that the acts contained in the boxes witnessed of the lives and faith of tens of thousands who built the Kingdom in small ways. Their doings are also recorded.
After Bishop Burton, a choir of Church employees sang “Sweet is the Work” [Elder Jensen remarked afterward that he worked every day with these individuals, but he had never known there was so much music in them.]
[He spoke of some of his ancestors whose stories he learned about from reading some records in the Church archives.] In this library many of you will find treasures of your ancestors that your own faith may be edified. There is no end to the truth and inspiration that comprise these people and their history. Each experience enriches our testimony. Here in this library we learn what our ancestors did and why. Simply stated, these ancestors were dedicated to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. In this sacred setting I bear my testimony. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
On Friday, October 7, Francis and my 57th anniversary, Pres. Hinckley, Pres. Faust, and I stood here to break ground for this building. The weather cooperated. Pres. Hinckley gave the dedicatory prayer. Much has changed since that day. Nearly 4 years ago, now we stand here a different First Presidency yet we honor them. [Perhaps the Lord] has permitted them to be here with us on this special day of dedication. We remember the sacred mandate on the day the Church was organized. From the beginning the Church has taken seriously the guardianship of its history.
This is the largest collection of its kind in the world. The Church is now as committed as it ever was to preserving its history and making it available to scholars and member of the public.
When I was called to be ward clerk, I wanted the minutes to be written appropriately, so that if anyone would read them later, they would be clear. I believe I accomplished that goal.
Many of us have collected stories from the histories of our ancestors. Each of us has our own story.
[Speaking of the pulpit they had been using throughout the program] I spoke from this pulpit as a young bishop years ago-this pulpit in part tells the story of my own faith. My first talk in Sunday School was a 2 ½ minute talk. I was to talk on any subject. I always liked birds, so I went to the Seagull monument in preparation. I went to temple square and looked at it. I was attracted to all the coins in the fountain and I wondered how to get them out without being seen. Then I looked at the Seagull and tried to imagine what it would have been like to be a pioneer, seeing the first year’s harvest being devoured by the crickets and then seeing the seagulls descending. I loved that story. I sat down and wrote out a 2 ½ page talk for Sunday School. I’ve never forgotten the seagulls, the crickets, or my knees knocking together behind this pulpit. Every bishop needs a sacred grove to go to and meditate and seek guidance. I used to kneel beside this pulpit in the ward chapel, at a late hour, there I’d been blessed, ordained, taught, called to preside. It was dimly lit by the street lamp outside. With my hand on this pulpit I would kneel and counsel with Heavenly Father my concerns. Those prayers always were answered in one way or another. It is a cherished reminder of sacred experiences. As our history is recorded properly and preserved, other generations will be benefited. Let us think as we lay stone upon stone that they will be held as sacred because our hands have touched them and it will be said, Our fathers have done this for us.
We have a privilege to provide a legacy for those that follow. I am fond of the Olive Leave scripture, Organize yourselves…a house of prayer, a house of fasting…a house of God. May we be faithful guardians of our history.
Sister Julie Beck gave the benediction.
I was impressed with how this library and history keeping were tied to temples, to remembrance, and to preserving and perpetuating faith and testimony as well as the records themselves (or should I say, through the records themselves?). There was a wonderful spirit that pervaded the proceedings. I had no idea just 20 minutes to 11 this morning that I would be witnessing in this historic ceremony. I feel grateful and humbled that I was able to do so. Ardis has also posted her impressions of the proceedings at Keepa, be sure to check them out.