Elder David B. Haight, a past member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said, “The moment we step into the house of the Lord, the atmosphere changes from the worldly to the heavenly” (David B. Haight, “Temples and Work Therein,” Ensign, Nov. 1990).
Something heavenly is happening in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg now has a temple-a house of the Lord.
My name is Wayne Drozdowski. I became a member of the Church 55 years ago in Winnipeg.
The story of the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple is a story that has been brought about through the efforts of several generations of Winnipeg pioneers, pressing forward together with steadfast faith in Jesus Christ for more than 116 years.
Winnipeg is anchored at the forks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. Originally inhabited mostly by Cree and Assiniboine people, the population at The Forks increased dramatically in the 1800’s as immigrants from Eastern Canada, Europe, and the United States arrived. I myself am a child of immigrant grandparents who came seeking land, opportunities, and religious freedom, just as many others did in the early days of the city of Winnipeg.
The first Latter-day Saints in Manitoba arrived in the nineteenth century. In 1896 the Church’s Canadian Mission sent seven missionaries to labour there. Church membership in Winnipeg has grown from a small branch of 37 members in 1909 to approximately 4,000 members today in two stakes.
A General Authority’s promise
As a young man I learned about the Church, gained a testimony and was baptised on January 28, 1966. The speaker at my baptism was Brother Alfred (Alf) Eburne, a man small in stature but a spiritual giant. In his baptismal talk he spoke of being present when Elder Oscar A. Kirkham, a General Authority of the Church, visited Winnipeg in 1954. In his address to the members, Elder Kirkham had testified that the Lord would assist the little branch’s growth and that the day would come when there would be a temple in Winnipeg within the lifetimes of some who were there that day. As Brother Eburne spoke, he added as his opinion, that from the group being baptised that day would come future bishops and Relief Society presidents. This came true 12 years later when I became the first Winnipeg-born bishop called to serve in Winnipeg. Now, with the temple, the words of both have been fulfilled.
On October 31, 2021 the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple was finally ready for dedication. I was blessed to be in the temple as Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave his dedicatory prayer. He acknowledged “the pioneer spirit, consecrated sacrifice, and heritage of gospel living and service of generations past and present offered in hearts, homes and communities here” (Gerrit W. Gong, “Winnipeg Manitoba Temple Dedicatory Prayer.” Church News, Nov. 3, 2021).
Examples of early Winnipeg Saints
Immediately I thought of Clive Northcott. Clive was not a Church member but his wife, Dorothy, and his children were active members. Clive donated a significant amount of his time and effort to help build the meetinghouse in which I was later baptised. He wouldn’t have known this, but for every nail he struck he was helping to build the people who would build and serve in the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple. Clive eventually joined the Church and served as the Winnipeg District President for years. Coincidentally, it was Clive’s children who introduced my wife, Nancy, to the church.
I also thought of my friend Jack deWinter. Jack was a less active member, living in Winnipeg during those early days. His wife, not a member of the Church, shared with him and visiting missionaries a recurring dream she had been having. In her dreams she was dressed in white and was with others also dressed in white. They moved together from room to room, and she intuitively knew that they moved toward Jesus Christ. She was left behind as the others moved on and this pained her terribly. The missionaries listened as she asked them what they thought her dream meant. They promised her that one day she would have the answers and she would understand. Joan believed the message of Christ’s restored gospel. Jack returned to full activity and baptised Joan.
Jack then served as the branch president in Winnipeg for years. When Joan attended the Cardston Alberta Temple for the first time she understood her dream’s true meaning.
The service of countless unnamed Church members
I smiled as Elder Gong continued his prayer. “We express gratitude for all who have labored and sacrificed to make this beautiful temple possible” (Gerrit W. Gong, “Dedicatory Prayer”). Did Elder Gong know of the service given during the long, cold Winnipeg winter days and nights, year after year, when labourers, both old and young, worked together to raise funds for the new church meetinghouse by delivering phone books and making boxed chocolates for Christmas sales? These delicious chocolates, made from scratch, became an outreach into the community. I smiled at the thought of those wonderful, bundled-up folks toiling in the freezing cultural hall, singing hymns and carols as they created chocolates made with love.
Did Elder Gong know how far we used to travel by cars and buses to the temple in Regina [over six hours], or to the Cardston Temple [14-15 hours] in earlier years? We travelled in wonderful weather, and we travelled when it sometimes became dangerous. Sun or snow, in warm weather or cold, we served when and how we could. Manitoba Saints learned that building a temple-worthy people is equally as challenging as is the physical work needed for building a temple.
I felt humbled as Elder Gong acknowledged diversity in his dedicatory prayer, recognizing that included in Christ’s Winnipeg vineyard are some of His precious children from many nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. In my own family, we are Metis and Filipino; we are Ukrainian, British, and Scots; and we are so much more. We are children of our Heavenly Father, wanting and needing His “sacred ordinances and covenants [that] make it possible for individuals to return to [His] presence and for families to be united eternally” (Gerrit W. Gong, “Dedicatory Prayer”).
The temple is a promise come true
In our day, most Church members will never be asked to make the same kinds of sacrifices that early Winnipeg pioneers have made. However, we know Church members can be pioneers wherever they stand in place and time.
The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple has been built to last, hopefully, for a thousand generations. It now stands on the Manitoba prairies as a beacon built by the countless hours of unselfish service of those many Church members and friends of the Church acting together in trust and love. This temple is a promise come true. It is the miracle preceded by faith. It stands today as an invitation inviting all to come and step into His light, to feel of His love, and to learn His truth.