About the Oakland Temple

 
 

Oakland Temple History

Did you know that the Oakland Temple was the 13th temple of the The Church when President David O. McKay dedicated it? It was dedicated on November 17, 1964. The temple was the second in California (following the Los Angeles California Temple) and currently serves Latter-day Saints in the Bay Area of northern California. The temple is one of seven temples in California with an eighth recently announced in Yuba City. There are currently 201 temples operating, announced or under construction throughout the world.

The history of the Oakland Temple traces back to the early Mormon settlers who came to California in the 1840’s.  The first group of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived by sailing ship in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in July 1846.  238 women, men and children disembarked from the Ship Brooklyn following a six month journey from New York City, around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America, to Hawaii, then landing at Yerba Buena on a typical foggy summer day.  Soon after arriving in California, the settlers established the first newspaper, the first school, the first library and the first bank in California.  The settlers laid the foundation for an economy based upon farming, industry and commerce in Northern California. Starting in 1848 they became an essential source of goods, supplies and services for gold miners who came to California following the discovery of gold at Coloma in January 1848.  The quiet village of Yerba Buena was quickly transformed into the vibrant city of San Francisco.  Many of the early settlers came across the Bay to establish residences and farms in the East Bay, including Oakland, Fremont and Union City, as well as areas in the Central Valley.

In a letter written in 1847 by Brigham Young, the prophet who had just recently led  an exodus of Church members from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah to establish the headquarters of the Church there, foresaw that: “In the process of time, the shores of the Pacific may yet be overlooked from the Temple of the Lord”.  In 1924, while conducting Church business in San Francisco, the prophet George Albert Smith looked across the Bay to the East Bay Hills and commented that he could envision a temple there.

In the 1930s, a committee of local Church leaders chaired by Eugene Hilton sought to identify a suitable plot of land upon which to construct a temple.  The committee looked at various places in the Oakland area, but focused on an initial 14.5 acre site where the Oakland Temple is now located.  The President of the Church, David O. McKay, visited the site in 1942 and confirmed that the Temple should be built there.  He authorized local leaders to purchase the land.  Over the next many years, the initial 14.5 acre plot was purchased, and additional adjacent parcels were acquired, making a total of 18.3 acres.  The first buildings on the newly acquired land were a chapel, an auditorium and a large cultural hall, called the Inter-Stake Center (ISC).  Groundbreaking for the ISC occurred in July 1957.  It was completed in 1959.  Soon after that, in December 1960, David O. McKay announced plans to construct the Oakland Temple.  It would be a large temple:  95,000 square feet. O. Leslie Stone was picked to chair a committee to oversee construction of the Temple.  Ground breaking for the Temple took place on May 26, 1962.  Local members of the Church helped supply funds and goods for the construction.  The Oakland Temple was completed on September 27, 1964. 

 In late summer 1964 David O. McKay suffered a severe stroke that impaired his ability to walk and speak.  Nevertheless, he desired to attend the dedication of the Oakland Temple.  Despite reservations from his family and physician, they brought the Prophet in a wheel chair to the first dedicatory service, which was held in the celestial room of the Oakland Temple in November 17, 1964.  As the service was about to begin, David O. McKay, to the surprise of everyone in attendance,  miraculously rose from his wheelchair, walked to the podium, and gave a forceful and inspirational dedicatory prayer.

Prior to the dedication, public open houses of the newly constructed Temple were held over a five-week period.  Almost 400,000 people toured the Temple.  The Oakland Temple opened for Church members on January 3, 1965.  Over succeeding decades there were times when the Temple was closed temporarily for short periods of time for renovation work.  In February 2018 the Oakland Temple closed for substantial renovation.  That work will be finished in May 2019 when the Oakland Temple will again be open for three weeks for public tours: the first time the public has been invited inside the Oakland Temple since 1964.

 
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