A few hundred people gathered at 17th and Vine, an old parking lot that had been set up with a stage and rows of chairs. In front of the stage was a small carpeted area with two racks of shovels and in front of that was a narrow strip of dirt where the concrete had been removed and a small pile of dirt left in it's place. The groundbreaking was invitation only but was broadcast to all of the chapels in the area.
Opening song: "High on the Mountaintop"
Vai Sikahema, a counselor in the Cherry Hill, NJ stake presidency, spoke about his first journey to the temple with his parents and siblings when he was 5. It took three days to get to the New Zealand Temple and they traveled by boat, bus and plane. It was a touching account as was his testimony of the impact the temple has been on his life, the lives of his siblings and of their children.
Elder Smith spoke next about important dates in Philadelphia (and PA in general) history and in Mormon history and events that combined the two.
Elder Walker (executive director of the temple department) spoke about the steps taken to secure the building site of the temple and of the cooperation and help from the mayor and other city officials. He also told us that Elder Eyring is from Princeton, NJ and how he had grown up loving the Philadelphia area.
The choir sang "How Firm a Foundation"
President Jay E Jensen spoke about the merchant who found the most beautiful pearl and wanted to display it so others could see. He commissioned a man to build a beautiful wooden box for it. But when his friends saw it they complimented the box more than the pearl. Pres. Jensen said that the temple is like the box. It will be beautiful and it is right to admire it. However, what is inside the temple is infinitely more valuable.
Finally Elder Eyring gave a few remarks (I'll see if I can figure out how to put my recording of it on blogger) and then dedicated the ground for the building of the temple in a special prayer. When he finished the sun came out from behind a cloud and shone right down on the parking lot that was now something infinitely more special.
The choir closed with: "I Know that my Redeemer Lived"
I know our church music is not the most exciting- especially to those who are used to gospel music. But our music carries the spirit and it was interesting to see how the spirit reached those in the audience who are not members of the church. For example, Mayor Nutter looked bored at the beginning of the song but was completely engaged by the end. Behold the power of music. =)
After the closing prayer, Elder Eyring, Pres Jensen and Elder Smith picked up a few of the golden (I know, silly) shovels and officially turned over the dirt, breaking ground symbolically. for the new temple. Then they invited the mayor and other city officials and neighboring property managers to come up and grab a shovel and turn over some dirt. Next they invited the six stake presidents from the new temple district to take a turn. Once that happened they opened the invitation to all in attendance to take turns breaking ground for our new temple. It was exciting and exhilarating and so, so, so wonderful! I felt lucky to be there (singing in the choir) but it would have been even better if John could have been there too along with all of our friends who have worked and prayed daily to make this a possibility.
But look at a few friends who did make it:
Doesn't the temple look beautiful?
For more information you can go to www.lds.org/temples