April 6, 2000. “Our stake center will become an extension of the temple,” the bishop had announced back in March, bringing a strange and sudden thrill into the otherwise humdrum Sacrament meeting. Ever since, I’d been counting the days until the wildly historic occasion: the hundredth temple of this dispensation–the first of the new millennium–dedicated in Palmyra!
The chapel was already crowded that evening when I handed my ticket to the usher. I took a seat towards the middle, giddy with anticipation. Before long a stooped, wrinkled woman I didn’t recognize sat down next to me, and we nodded a greeting. The room was still, so still the very air felt weighty. Not even the slight sounds and motions from the congregation could ripple the stillness.
But that, I hoped, would soon change.
The Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer commanded the saints to “shout aloud for joy.” Eliza R. Snow said the Hosanna Shout was given “with such power as seemed almost sufficient to raise the roof from the building,” while B.H. Roberts recorded that “it seemed, as the mighty shout was given, to vibrate waves of emotion.”
My first hosanna shout. For weeks I’d imagined the walls of the stake center reverberating with sound (like the desert cave when the Fremen shout MUAD’DIB!). Finally, the long-awaited moment had arrived. Head bowed, I felt the spirit filling my body like sunlight as President Hinckley offered the dedicatory prayer. After his “amen,” the air hummed with anticipation as Elder Packer approached the pulpit. With a fancy twirl of his handkerchief, he cued the congregation to begin:
Hosanna. Hosanna. Hosanna. To God. And. The Lamb.
My shoulders sank. No shouting for joy. No shouting at all, actually. Instead, a stilted, subdued group mumble, accompanied by a faint breeze from the waving handkerchiefs. Not even the triple amen packed any punch.
I snuck a glance at my seatmate to see if she was as disappointed as I was. But right then the temple organ sounded the opening notes of the Hosanna Anthem, and the choir launched into song. At the appointed moment, the director turned toward the congregation and motioned for us to join in the hymn. And as our collective voice rang out, the fire burned and my disappointment was forgotten.
After the benediction we filed out of the stake center silent and awed. Once outdoors the spell was broken: my seatmate and I looked at each other, grinned, and spontaneously embraced in a tight hug. She went her way and I went mine, moving through the gathering dusk towards the parking lot, my teeth chattering like mad even though it was a mild spring evening. For sometimes the spirit maketh my bones to quake.
If the veil could be taken from our eyes and we could see into the spirit world, we would see that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor had gathered together every spirit that ever dwelt in the flesh in this Church since its organization . . . the faithful apostles and elders of the Nephites . . . and every prophet and apostle that ever prophesied of the great work of God. In the midst of these spirits we would see the Son of God, the Savior, who presides and guides and controls the preparing of the Kingdom of God on the earth and in heaven. From that body of spirits, when we shout “Hosannah to God and the Lamb!” there is a mighty shout that goes up of “Glory to God, in the Highest!”
June 30, 2002. The last session of the Nauvoo Temple dedication, broadcasted to a worldwide audience in 72 nations. Some said there would never again be such a gathering. But more impressive to me was the privilege of bringing along my freshly baptized daughter, Elizabeth. My mother flew in from Maryland for the occasion, bringing heirloom white handkerchiefs inherited from her own grandmother.
As the dedication service moved toward its climax I thought of Hariklia, this grand-, great-grand, and great-great-grandmother of ours who died Greek Orthodox. I didn’t remember her, but Mom loved her deeply and had experienced a powerful spiritual manifestation while doing her temple work. I imagined Hariklia preparing to join in the hosanna shout on the other side of the veil. Maybe those of us who’d felt let down by the mumble in Palmyra (surely it wasn’t just me) were ready to shout with boldness this time. For Elizabeth’s sake, I hoped we were.
When the Hosanna Shout is given by “tens of thousands in unison,” B.H. Roberts wrote, “and at their utmost strength, it is most impressive and inspiring. It is impossible to stand unmoved on such an occasion. It seems to fill the prairie or woodland, mountain wilderness or tabernacle, with mighty waves of sound, and the shout of men going into battle cannot be more stirring. It gives a wonderful vent to religious emotions, and is followed by a feeling of reverential awe—a sense of oneness with God.”
August 23, 2009. The final dedication service for the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. I made my 5 oldest kids cram into our Sentra so I wouldn’t have to park our beast of a van in the sure-to-be-jammed Stake Center lot. Turned out there was no need: when we arrived, just minutes ahead of the clock, the lot was nearly empty. Ditto for the cultural hall, with its hundreds of folding chairs set in neat rows behind the full chapel. The kids swiftly claimed the serendipitous patch of padded chairs at the very back of the room. The ushers, looking somewhat bewildered, trekked across the cultural hall to ask if we wouldn’t rather move up. (No thanks.)
I dozed through most of the service. The solemn sing-song cadence of the speakers’ voices had a hypnotic effect. (Although I tend to doze whenever I sit still and unoccupied for more than 5 minutes, so I can’t blame the speakers.) I roused myself as Elder Ballard stood to lead the hosanna shout, which he did with an admirable measure of apostolic gusto. But it mattered not. This time the congregation’s lukewarm response was no surprise–and no real disappointment, either.
And that was the biggest disappointment of all.
 Quoted by Woodbury, Lael J. “The Origin and Uses of the Sacred Hosanna Shout.” In Sperry Lecture Series. Provo, Utah, 1975; 22.
 Woodbury; 22.