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SALT LAKE CITY — Amid the celebration surrounding the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple, leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered Monday to take part in a historic photographic event.
The photo of the church's First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles marked the first time in Latter-day Saint church history that all 15 leaders have assembled somewhere outside of the United States, according to a statement on the church's Newsroom website.
“I love these brethren with whom I serve,” Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in the church statement. “We are together each week in the Salt Lake Temple, on many other occasions, but today, to be in Rome, to be here for this, and to be all together is a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will always remember.”
We are together each week in the Salt Lake Temple, on many other occasions, but today, to be in Rome, to be here for this, and to be all together is a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will always remember.
–Elder David A. Bednar
The group stood in front of statues of the Christus and Twelve Apostles who served in Jesus' time, that are housed in the Visitors' Center and face the temple. The statues are replicas of the figures sculpted by Bertel Thorvaldsen that are in the Church of Our Lady in Denmark. The one difference is a statue of the Apostle Paul stands in Rome, instead of one of Judas Iscariot.
The official photo was posted on President Russell M. Nelson’s social media pages, with a message declaring his belief that apostolic authority continues on the earth today.
When President Nelson, whom church members revere as their prophet, saw the photo for the first time, he exclaimed, "That's gorgeous! I'm thrilled. Thank you."
President Nelson said the temple dedication and photo mark a turning point for the church.
“This is a hinge point in the history of the church. Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace of which this is a part," President Nelson said in the statement. "We think the church is an old church. It’s 189 years old. But it’s only the beginning. Just project out what the next future will be and the church is going to have an unprecedented future. Unparalleled. We’re just building up to what’s ahead now."
The church leaders were in Rome participating in seven dedicatory sessions for the new temple. Five of those sessions have already taken place, and two more were planned for Tuesday.
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency took to Instagram to share their thoughts and feelings about the newly-dedicated temple.
"I have felt when I was here what a blessing this temple is going to be to the families in Rome and in all of Italy," President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, said.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of how he climbed the scaffolding while the temple was being built and admired the beauty of the site. He then remarked that the completed temple is "even more beautiful."
"The wonderful thing is, like this temple is completed, our whole life can be complete through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It will make us whole. It will make us more beautiful. It will make us a wonderful, holy house of the Lord as this temple is."
See how the photo came about with this behind-the-scenes video below:
Contributing: Sam Penrod and Carole Mikita, KSL TV