After a long two-year wait, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once again have a meetinghouse in Slave Lake, Alberta. An open house was held earlier this month to celebrate the event with the community.
Wildfires destroyed close to a third of Slave Lake, a town located 250 kilometres north of Edmonton, Alberta, on 15 May 2011. One of the hundreds of buildings destroyed in the fire was the Slave Lake meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The entire town was evacuated for two weeks while firefighters worked to salvage what they could. Members of the Church in the Slave Lake area used a number of other spaces to gather each Sunday. Groundbreaking for a new building on the original site took place in September 2012, and meetings began to be held in the new chapel this past summer.
The Slave Lake Mormon congregation opened its doors to the town and welcomed members of the community to tour the new meetinghouse. Over 100 people attended the open house, including local clergy members and town councillors. Father Joseph Jeyapaul Packiasamy of St. Peter Celestin Catholic Church spoke with full-time Mormon missionaries in the Slave Lake area and thanked them for giving their time to tell people about Jesus Christ.
A common misperception among those not of the Mormon faith is that only Latter-day Saints can enter their chapels. This is most likely based on a misunderstanding of the difference between temples and chapels. While temples, of which there are 141 operating worldwide, are open only to members of the Church who are fully engaged in their faith, anyone can enter a Mormon chapel to visit or worship with their Latter-day Saint neighbours. There are over 17,000 chapels throughout the world.
Local Church leader Steve Anderson was pleased to welcome clergy from other faiths into the building. He said they “told us they were glad we were able to rebuild here. Some of the church buildings that were destroyed in the fire lost their congregations in the years since.” Anderson said that not having a building for two years was a challenge for their congregation, but he added, “We got through it together, and we know at any time we can be humbled. God is always on our side, and He is always rooting for us to make the right choices and endure.”
The new Mormon chapel in Slave Lake was dedicated on 3 November 2013 by local Church leader Melvin Wong of the Edmonton Alberta Riverbend Stake (similar to a diocese) with many members of the congregation from past years in attendance.
For Latter-day Saints, the buildings they use for their various worship services and other gatherings are important — but not as important as the type of building that goes on within their walls. It is the building of strong individuals and families, of knowledge, of relationships and of faith in God that matters most to Mormons.
“Our chapels are not all constructed with the same design features,” said Church apostle Elder L. Tom Perry in a worldwide conference. “However, each one centres on the mission of our Saviour. They are buildings dedicated for the purpose of worshipping Him.”