taken from http://www.ldslivingonline.com/story1.php?aid=702
The Lord Selects a Temple Site
Houston Texas Temple
Selecting a location for the house of the Lord requires patience, determination, and often a miracle or two. Site selection for the Houston Texas Temple was no different. By spring 1997, after an extensive evaluation process, six qualifying properties were being considered. Steven R. Cook, a Houston realtor and Church member, hosted Ted Simmons, head of the Church’s real estate department, on a tour of the six properties. During the tour, Brother Simmons was drawn to a lovely location across the street from one of the six selected sites. This spot was located on Champion Forest Drive and stood on a twenty-acre parcel of land with tall, mature trees.
The prime acreage was owned by Don Hand, a successful Houston developer. When Brother Cook called to express interest in purchasing the property, Mr. Hand made his position clear with the response, “There’s no amount of money that would interest me in selling that property.” The Church was just one of many who had expressed interest in the site, and he had refused them all. Mr. Hand considered that location to be the crown jewel of all his properties.
On June 6, 1997, President Gordon B. Hinckley arrived to visit all potential temple sites. The Champion Forest Drive location was not officially available, but Brother Simmons introduced it to President Hinckley nonetheless.
Just a few weeks later, President Hinckley had made his decision. He notified Brother Simmons that the temple would be built on Champion Forest Drive—the location Don Hand would not sell for “any amount of money.” Both Brother Simmons and Brother Cook wondered how they might acquire a property its owner had no intention of selling.
But the Lord knows where and how his temples will be built. Within fifteen minutes of learning about President Hinckley’s decision, Brother Cook received a phone call. It was Don Hand, requesting a meeting with Brother Cook as soon as possible.
At the meeting, Mr. Hand told Brother Cook of the terrible weekend he had had as he contemplated whether to sell his property to the Church. Don and his wife, Judy, had reviewed some of the material Brother Cook had prepared about the temple and had spent the weekend pacing the floors as he thought about the possibility of selling. After a sleepless weekend, he and his wife had decided to sell the land to the Church for what he called the “Mormon cathedral.”
Don explained that earlier life events had influenced his decision to sell to the Church. He told Brother Cook about a time in the 1980s when the struggling Houston real estate market resulted in the Hands losing almost all their assets. While in the depths of financial despair, Don had prayed and asked for the Lord’s help, promising that he would “make it right” if the Lord blessed him. Don soon recognized the divine intervention that helped his business recover and flourish. Wanting to keep his promise, Don had given a substantial anonymous donation to his own church, but he still felt that he should do more. He and his wife felt that selling the property to the Church was the right thing to do; indeed, it would be the “crown jewel” of his property if the temple were located there.
Brother Cook later said, “My meeting with Don Hand was almost like a testimony meeting as he expressed his love for the Lord and his desire to become ‘one with the Lord.’ The same spirit that inspired President Hinckley had inspired Mr. Hand, and on exactly the same weekend.”
A Special Dream
Houston Texas Temple
Richard Gieseke, a Church member and owner of a small landscaping nursery in Houston, played a special role in beautifying the grounds of the Houston Texas Temple.
One night, a few months before the temple was announced, he dreamed of gardens adorning an unknown temple. “The dream was so vivid,” he recorded, “that I awoke and wrote a letter to the First Presidency of the Church and filed it for later use. The unusual dream was of a beautiful temple with lovely gardens in special arrangements. From the dream I knew the Lord wanted me to begin growing plants at my nursery for the temple.”
And he did just that, using his filed-away letter when the temple was announced three months after his dream.
Six months before his dream, Brother Gieseke had unexpectedly acquired 100 four-year-old oaks. For a reason he cannot explain, he planted the trees in containers larger than usual. After the dream, he designated the finest of the oaks and the best of his other plant material exclusively for future temple grounds. He made every effort to ensure that his temple stock were of “uncommon excellence.” As time passed, his specially designated temple plants grew in size, quality, and value. On many occasions he had opportunities to sell the trees to fill orders that were otherwise unfillable, but he remained firm in his decisions that these plants were for the temple.
In retrospect, Brother Gieseke recognizes how he and his nursery business were blessed during this several-year period. Just before he had his dream, his nursery had consisted of six acres. Within a few years he had the opportunity to acquire a prosperous forty-acre nursery and a fifty-acre tree farm.
Three years after his dream, the plant stock Brother Gieseke nurtured for the Lord’s house finally had a permanent home on the grounds of the Houston Texas Temple. The majestic trees now stand at the front of the temple’s entryway, and his flowers provide the perfect contrasting color against the exterior.