Discuss this article or ask questions at the LDS.net Forums.
Bern Switzerland Temple
The building of the Bern Switzerland Temple was announced on July 1, 1952. It was the first overseas temple as well as the first temple built in Europe.
The Bern Temple, originally known as the Swiss temple, is also known for another first; it was the first temple to use a video presentation of the endowment ceremony. This was done, because the patrons of the Bern Temple speak a variety of languages. The films made it easier to meet the needs of those attending.
Mormon history in the area is long and rich. The first mission was opened on November 24, 1850. The first Mormon missionary president was Thomas B. H. Stenhouse. It was in Switzerland in 1906 that Joseph F. Smith, who was the president of the Mormon Church at the time, prophesied that temples would be built in the various countries of the world. At the time, the prophecy was far from being fulfilled; there were only four temples in operation, and all of them were in Utah. Obtaining the site where David O. McKay wanted to build the Bern Temple was a difficult task. There were 30 heirs with claim to the desired property, and the Church entered into much negotiation, all in vain. In the end, the originally chosen site was not available, and the site where the temple now stands was found and purchased in a short amount of time.
A groundbreaking ceremony and site dedication were held on August 5, 1953. President of the Mormon Church at the time, David O. McKay, presided at the ceremony and dedication. The temple site is seven acres located in the village of Zollikofen, just at the edge of a national forest. The capital city of Switzerland, Bern, is just south of the temple.
David O. McKay originally dedicated the temple September 11th through the 15th 1955. Many in attendance at the dedication had traveled very long distances and wanted to be able to attend a temple endowment session, so sessions started the day after the dedication at 5:00 in the morning. By the end of the day, 22 sessions had been held in the temple at which 900 people had been in attendance. After a two and a half year extensive renovation President Gordon B. Hinckley rededicated the temple October 23rd through the 25th 1992. The renovation updated the interior and added more endowment and sealing rooms. In 2005 another addition was added to the Bern Temple. A statue of the angel Moroni was added to the spire to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the temple.
The Bern Switzerland Temple serves 39,000 members in 10 stakes in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. It has a total of 35,546 square feet, four ordinance rooms, and seven sealing rooms. The design of the temple is modern, with a single spire. The exterior is finished with reinforced concrete, covered in cream terra cotta facing and trimmed in white.