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ATLANTA, Georgia -- Latter-day Saints are celebrating the rededication of the Atlanta Georgia Temple. Church President Thomas S. Monson rededicated the building during two sessions on Sunday.
Thousands of Latter-day Saints participated in the event as both dedicatory sessions were broadcast to meetinghouses throughout the temple district.
"It was really great after not having the temple for two years to be able to come and be part of this. It's an amazing thing to know that President Monson was here," one church member said.
Paula Watson attended the rededication ceremony at the temple. "It's really hard to describe the feelings that you experience when you're inside the temple with a prophet," she said. "I was right there with him. It's very touching."
The Mormon Times reports the skies were clear and "hardly a breeze stirred" during the event. It was a welcome relief after more than 100 tornadoes swept through the region during the past week. Some attending the rededication were still waiting for word on the status of homes of relatives, friends and acquaintances.
Saturday night, Pres. Monson and other church leaders attended a cultural celebration called "Southern Lights" at the Atlanta Civic Center. It featured about 2,700 youth performers from 150 area congregations who danced, sang and presented a visual display of Georgia history and culture.
The Atlanta temple was the first temple built in the southern United States. It was originally dedicated June 1, 1983 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency. President Monson also attended that dedication as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Over the past 18 months, the building has undergone extensive renovations and now has new windows, chandeliers, murals and woodwork, as well as taller ceilings.
More than 56,000 people toured the building during two weeks of open houses which wrapped up April 23. The Church News reports Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal were among those that toured the temple. The governor said he was impressed with the beauty of the building.
The Columbus stake conducted the tours one day of the open house. Stake President Greg Stewart told the Ledger-Enquirer, "There's a simple elegance about (the temple), and a brightness about it. To me, it represents the glory of God."
An estimated 2.5 million Latter-day Saints have entered the Atlanta temple since its original dedication in 1983.
It officially opens for temple work on Tuesday.