The new chapel at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Washington Avenue was full to capacity Sunday morning when the expanded building that houses the congregation was formally dedicated in a brief but emotional ceremony.
Members have been meeting at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in recent months as the construction took place.
The expanded building will serve the growing Mormon community on the Hi-Line, said Stake President Eldon Pfile of Fort Benton, who oversees the stake that includes the area east of the Missouri River at Great Falls to Lewistown, Malta and Havre.
The dedication ceremony was especially meaningful to Pfile. His father, Brian Pfile, was stake president when ground was broken on the Havre church in 1983. Pictures of the groundbreaking are still shown at the church.
Because of the construction:
• The size of the church increased from 8,600 square feet to 16,950 square feet.
• There were 64 parking spaces before the construction, 96 have been added.
• New classrooms have been added, and other spaces for meetings of young people, women and elders have been added or refurbished.
• A crying room where noisy children can be taken while parents can still hear the services have been included.
• A breast-feeding room where mothers can take their babies is included. Pfile said this is just one indication of the church’s commitment to the family.
• A new baptismal font has been added.
The road to the construction was not easy, said Bishop Steve Lealos, addressing the dedication ceremony Sunday.
“The Lord has something in mind for the people of the Havre ward, ” he said, crediting community support for the succes.
“This is the greatest support I have seen from a community in my 27 years in Montana, ” he said.
“This is a great building. Great things are going to happen here. ”
Pfile said more work is ahead for the church.
“If the Savior Jesus Christ were here today, he would say let’s put our shoulder to the wheel... and continue. ”
During a press briefing on Saturday, Pfile said there is still misunderstanding about the LDS church and what it stands for.
In many ways, he said, its beliefs are similar to other Christian churches’ beliefs.
“We believe in the Savior Jesus Christ … the savior of the world, ” he said.
“So when people ask ‘are we Christians, ’ the answer is a resounding yes, ” he said.
“Belief in Jesus is the focal point of our faith, ” he said.
Unlike other churches, he said, the LDS is entirely lay-led. All church leaders have occupations beyond their church duties, he said.
The Mormons believe that the line of Christian leadership was broken when Jesus’ apostles were killed, he said. “It was restored when Joseph Smith received a revelation in upstate New York in 1820. ”