An abridgment of Journal entry from Paul D. M. Christensen, Abbotsford British Colombia Stake
“The thought of a temple within the boundaries of our stake thrilled me,” Paul Christensen recorded in his journal. However, the process of selecting a temple site is directed by the Lord as President Christensen soon found out.
In the fall of 2005, Brother Christensen, serving at the time as Abbotsford Stake President, received a call from Salt Lake City notifying him of a planned visit to Vancouver to investigate potential sites for a temple. A member of the temple selection committee came and together they viewed three possible locations in the area. Three weeks later the same man returned and met with the three local stake presidents. They reviewed and discussed the proposed locations and planned a visit by the Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, with instructions to keep the matter completely confidential.
To prepare the sites for President Hinckley’s visit, President Christensen meticulously cleaned the areas, leveled the ground and spread two large trucks of bark chips so the Prophet could walk around safely. To get the best view of the properties he brought a man-lift to the lot so the Prophet could see the land from above. “At 40 feet in the air, we had a great vantage point,” President Christensen recalls. Next, I rented a large van to accommodate everyone traveling with the Prophet. “I made sure the van was impeccably clean, which led to some curiosity about who was going to be in the van,” said President Christensen. “All I could do was smile.” President Christensen tried to anticipate every need, including seven umbrellas just in case of rain. “I also got a backup vehicle to the van so that nothing could disrupt the tour. The December 28th visit would be my real Christmas.” To maintain security and privacy the Prophet and company flew into the smaller Abbotsford airport in a private jet, furnished by a Church member.
When the day finally came, it rained, but that didn’t dampen the excitement. The jet pulled up, lowered the stairs and President Christensen ran out with umbrellas and escorted the Brethren to the van. “President Hinckley sat in the front with me. President Monson sat in the second row seats, accompanied by several other Brethren including the Church architect. Once seated, President Hinckley said, ‘Let’s go,’ and we were off.” President Christensen realized that he was about to have a 5½ hour interview with the Lord’s Prophet. “President Christensen, why do we need a temple in Vancouver?” President Hinckley asked. “I told the Prophet that I felt the spiritual light of a temple would greatly help in spreading the gospel in the area,” President Christensen says. “I also detailed the problems members faced trying to cross the border to attend temples in the States. President Hinckley listened.”
The search committee considered 200th Street and the Freeway in Langley the prime site and they drove there first. The rain made the road a quagmire. Taking every precaution, they transferred to a 4x4 van to ensure they could get through the rain-soaked terrain. “We’d erected a canopy so that they wouldn’t have to stand in the rain,” President Christensen said. President Hinckley and President Monson looked around the property, but only the Church architect and one other brother used the man-lift.
Once back on the road, President Hinckley asked to visit a local chapel. “I noticed cars in the parking lot and advised the Brethren that if we entered the building there would be no stopping the spread of the news that the Prophet was in town. President Hinckley said that was fine, so in we went.” When President Hinckley and President Monson walked in the gym, the surprised people decorating for a wedding reception dropped everything and came running to meet the Prophet. After warm greetings the Prophet inspected the chapel and then continued on the tour. “As we drove up the street to go around the block, President Hinckley declared, ‘That would be a good site for a temple.’ A very tall hedge of trees on our right side obstructed the view of some property, so none of the rest of us saw anything. I asked President Hinckley if he would like me to back up.” “No, just carry on,” the Prophet said.
“While we drove around the city to view the other sites, I had a chance to talk to President Hinckley.” I told President Hinckley about the city and the church in the area. To save time they ate lunch while we drove. President Hinckley opened his box lunch and saw an enormous sandwich. “What am I supposed to do with this?” he exclaimed. “Does anyone have a knife?” No one answered. “I leaned over and advised President Hinckley that he would have to ‘break bread.’ After a while President Christensen became aware that no one else was talking. “The others respected the prophet’s need to ponder and maintain his focus.” Although he had much he wished to discuss, President Christensen felt he should keep quiet, too. “During the 5½ hour trip the Prophet stayed sharp and perfectly alert,” President Christensen testified. “President Hinckley is truly magnified and given strength while he functions as the prophet.” “We’ll be in touch,” President Hinckley said at the airport and he was off.
The next day Salt Lake called. “Get all the information you can get on that property the Prophet identified as a ‘good site’ for a temple.” they said. “This property wasn’t one of the original considerations and the Prophet only saw it from the road as they drove by,” President Christensen said. “I went to the site. As I walked past the hedge we had driven by, I saw what the Prophet had perceived. Nestled in a lovely setting with trees all around, stood a beautiful spot at the peak of the largest hill in the area. It felt like the right place. I took pictures, got information on the property from city hall and sent it to Salt Lake.”
After finalizing the negotiations for the sale of the several lots that comprised the property, President Christensen addressed many other problems including special rezoning and conditional use permits required by the city. In the meantime, huge non-refundable deposit requests pushed against the property due diligence deadlines. “At each step Salt Lake simply instructed me to keep working at the problems,” I met many times with the appropriate city officials discussing and reviewing each of the obstacles. Eventually, we received the ‘green light’ from the city. I have never before seen so many concessions granted on one application,” he remembers. “Truly, hearts had been softened by the Spirit. The perfect spot for the Vancouver British Columbia Temple stands witness to a Prophet’s vision,” President Christensen testifies. “What an education I received. I witnessed the Prophet exercise his role as seer, seeing things that we could not.”