Despite a considerable breeze, the rows of shovels used to break ground for the Smithfield temple remained upright on their stand before being used to pierce the earth this morning.
The piles of dirt upturned by two Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apostles — Elders Quentin Cook and Gary Stevenson — as well as several others represent an important first step in constructing the 81,000-square-foot, three-story structure that is to be dedicated as the Smithfield, Utah, temple.
The groundbreaking was attended by church leaders, state and local politicians, prominent members of the community, and local members of the church.
Different attendees shared what the temple means to them.
Rebekah Lattin, a 17-year-old Smithfield native and member of a youth choir that performed as part of the groundbreaking, said it will be convenient to have a temple in her hometown because the Logan temple is often crowded.
“Going to the temple is just a very, like, peaceful experience,” Lattin said. “Having another one will be super nice.”
Kurt and Lana Kotter of Weston, Idaho, also attended the groundbreaking. They plan to attend and volunteer in the Smithfield temple, which will be the closest one to their home. Their daughter, Lindsey Lott, spoke at the ceremony.
“We love the temple,” Lana said.
“We’ve been very involved with the Logan temple,” Kurt said. “The fact that there’s going to be one a little closer to home is fantastic.”
Kurt explained the importance of the temple for Latter-day Saints.
“We believe that the temple is a place that will bind families together,” he said. “One of the core beliefs of our religion is that families can be forever and the temple is central to knitting families together for return.”
Scott Poulsen, whose pioneer ancestors came to Smithfield after arriving in Salt Lake, felt the ground was sacred and had been preserved as a spot for the temple. His family had owned the land for generations.
“I had the opportunity to live here for many years and listen to my mother tell the stories about her ancestors,” Poulsen said. He talked about the strength he feels from considering the sacrifices his ancestors made to make things better for their family who came after.
“There’s just a great calm to me that comes as we move forward with this,” Poulsen said, “not just temples, but this whole effort going forward.”
Stevenson also talked about those ancestry during the ceremony.
“We honor the struggles and the sacrifice of the early pioneer settlers with deep gratitude,” Stevenson said. He quoted an column written by The Herald Journal Managing Editor Charles McCollum that emphasized the importance of pioneer ancestry in Cache Valley’s culture.
In comments he made before saying the dedicatory prayer to spiritually declare the ground as a temple site, Cook mentioned the beauty of Cache Valley even when compared to other gorgeous places he has seen. A native to the valley, he also reminisced on his experiences in Smithfield, saying he spoke to several people before the ceremony who played in the past for the Smithfield Blue Sox.
“In just the last hour I’ve met several who participated in that. One of them with a smile on his face said ‘I considered this place kind of sacred ground, but it really is now sacred ground,’” Cook said.
After the dedicatory prayer and conclusion of the program, two groups of people who had been invited to invoke the initial disturbance on the dirt did so. Afterwards, anyone in attendance was welcome to do the same.
Cook explained to The Herald Journal more about why temples are important to members of the church.
“For us, the temple is the most holy place on Earth, and it focuses very much on Jesus Christ,” Cook said. “It’s sacred, not secret.”
When asked what he would tell members of the church in Cache Valley, Stevenson talked about the importance of families and loving one another.
“I think the message from me would be how important families are,” Stevenson said. “When we talk about families, we immediately think of our earthly families, okay, but when we draw back just a little bit, we start to talk about being children of a loving Heavenly Father. And as we think about our role as children of a loving Heavenly Father, that means that we're all brothers and sisters … as brothers and sisters, I think it's a little easier to apply brotherly love.”