Through the years, temples have had direct or close encounters with brush fires, sand storms, tsunamis, blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes/typhoons, flooding, and lightning strikes.
For the most part, the temples dotting the earth have withstood these forces with very few consequences. This is partly the result of the high level of construction integrity utilized in all of the latter-day temples. Brigham Young established this incredibly high construction standard starting with the Salt Lake Temple: “When the Temple is built I want it to stand through the millennium, in connection with many others that will yet be built.”
Today, temple builders have faithfully perpetuated this tradition of construction excellence. To protect against earthquakes, temples are often built to far exceed local seismic building codes. For example, although the Sao Paulo Brazil Temple was built in a region with minimal seismic activity, the foundation was built strong enough to sustain another 13 stories, making the structure virtually earthquake proof. The Redlands California Temple was built in an area frequented by many seismic events. According to the temple’s construction missionary Elder Jerry Quinn, “The massive reinforced concrete foundation and walls create a building with a seismic rating designed to withstand two levels above the largest earthquake ever recorded in California. There has never been a recorded earthquake in California that would even touch this structure. Redlands’ City inspectors were so impressed with our building that they used photos and data from this building to show other contractors how they should build.” And while these temples are built sturdily, it doesn’t mean that others haven’t been damaged or affected by natural disasters. Here are some incredible stories from just a few.
IN THE PATH OF HURRICANES – Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple
In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season proved to be the most active season in recorded history. Category 5 Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. President D. Gregory Brumfield and Sister Alicia Brumfield served as the temple’s first President and Matron (2000-2005). Hurricane Katrina proved to be the most dramatic experience of their five years of service and occurred only months prior to their release. Of the experience, Sister Brumfield related the following: “The President and I knew the storm was coming so we went to the temple to lock it up and make sure everything was secure. Before we left, we said a prayer… you know if there is something large in a river, the river goes around the object on both sides… that is exactly what happened at the temple. The hurricane went around the temple on both sides and we sustained very little damage.”
“After being closed for a couple of days we opened the temple. We only had a couple of temple workers but we knew we needed to be open for those who wanted to come to the temple. Our policy was, ‘The Lord will provide and He will take care of us. We just need to move forward.’ “
“As the temple matron, I watched my brothers and sisters come to the temple looking like zombies. Their home was gone, their neighbors were gone, their food storage is gone their genealogy is gone… they only had the clothes on their backs and nothing more. They had lost their facial expression. Think of someone who is disoriented but somehow knew where they needed to be. The temple was their refuge… As the matron, I would welcome them and give them a hug.”
Three years later, in 2008, category 4 Hurricane Gustav’s devastation also had an indirect impact on the temple. Immediately following the hurricane’s aftermath, thousands of member volunteers from the southern states descended upon the temple grounds to gather, pitch tents and prepare to serve the Baton Rouge community. The adjoining stake center served as a command center for the hurricane rescue and cleanup operation for the 2,000+ service requests. As volunteers pitched their tents on the temple property, they purposefully positioned their tent “door towards the temple” (See Mosiah 2:6).
The number of gathered volunteers necessitated that sacrament meeting be held outdoors on the temple grounds one Sabbath morning. Stake President Randall Bluth described the special experience, “It really was a remarkable event to look at the sea of yellow ‘Helping Hands’ t-shirts gathered on the hill around the temple. We didn’t have enough sacrament trays, so we used huge cookie sheets for the bread and water cups. Following the brief sacrament meeting, we all went out into the community and worked where needed.”
“It was powerful. It is hard to describe in words what kind of an event that was… it just felt like the heavens opened as we were there to serve people after a disaster… and then to look over at the temple and realize that there is an eternal purpose for all that we do. It was unforgettable.”
Read the full article at LDS Living.
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