President Gordon B. Hinckley's announcement Saturday that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would build a new temple in the Salt Lake Valley marks nearly 23 years since the last such edifice was completed in the desert basin that early church leader Brigham Young declared to be "the right place" in 1847.
The Jordan River Temple, at 10200 South and 1300 West in South Jordan, was dedicated in November 1981, nearly 100 years after its predecessor in downtown Salt Lake City, and has since become one of the most heavily used of the faith's 119 operating temples.
Latter-day Saints believe the valley's other edifice, the Salt Lake Temple, was seen by President Brigham Young in a vision on its current site shortly after Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah, and its construction was announced on July 28, 1847. Constructed of granite blocks carved from a quarry at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and hauled 20 miles by ox cart, it took pioneer craftsmen more than 40 years to complete the structure.
It was dedicated by President Wilford Woodruff during 31 dedicatory sessions that ran from April 6-24, 1893. Including the annex, the building has 253,000 square feet of floor space, making it the largest LDS temple in the world.
President Hinckley said he would announce in a short time exactly where the new building will be located, He said while it may appear to many that church leaders are "favoring" the Salt Lake Valley by planning yet another structure here, current "temple attendance is such that we must accommodate those who wish to come. If present growth trends continue, we shall probably need yet another."
Eleven temples now cover the state from Logan to St. George, and both the Bountiful and Mt. Timpanogos temples are within a 30-minute drive of the Salt Lake Valley. But booming home construction in the south end of the valley and projections of additional tens of thousands of residents locating there in the coming decades mean even greater demand for temple worship in Jordan River.
Latter-day Saints who live in the area know church officials added an additional parking lot for that temple several years ago, and both lots are nearly filled now on a regular basis.
Marsha Foreman of South Jordan remembers well the day in 1977 when then-church President Spencer W. Kimball came to tour the property that her parents, Alma and Helen Holt, donated to the LDS Church for construction of a temple. During the tour, she remembers his car got stuck in the mud.
She and her siblings had played on the land and remember picking tomatoes in the field that Alma had inherited from his father. "That's where I taught my kids to ride horses, and there used to be great pheasant hunting," on the property her family had dubbed "the other place," she said.
Over the years, as development was moving toward South Jordan, family members and developers tried to buy the land, but her parents declined to sell. One day in 1977, Alma Holt was in the Salt Lake Temple thinking about how long the line was to do ordinance work, she said.
Driving home that day, he "felt impressed" to call President Kimball and offer to donate his property so the church could build a temple, she said. There had been local speculation that the church was considering a site in Sandy, she remembered.
A few days later, President Kimball came to tour the property, and church survey crews then followed. On Feb. 3, 1978, the announcement was made that the church would build a temple there.
Foreman remembers her father visiting the site every day and watching the construction closely. The property was frequently visited by groups of Latter-day Saints who would "spread blankets on the ground and hold meetings or firesides there" near a sign announcing the project, with the skeleton of the structure in the background. President Kimball returned to the site on June 9, 1979, for groundbreaking ceremonies, and Foreman remembers him in a hard hat, climbing aboard a bulldozer to scoop the first shovel of earth.
More than 568,000 people attended the open house in September 1981, and another 160,000 attended several dedicatory sessions that ran from Nov. 16 to Nov. 21, 1981. With more than 148,000 square feet of floor space, it is the faith's fourth-largest temple.
Though the site for the new temple announced Saturday has yet to be named, speculation has no doubt begun as local Latter-day Saints look forward to another building in which to perform their most sacred ordinances.
President Hinckley also announced plans Saturday for a new temple in Twin Falls, Idaho, to serve the "thousands of members who live between Idaho Falls and Boise." Idaho has the third-largest LDS membership of any state, outranked only by California — where the ground for the Sacramento Temple was recently broken — and Utah.
The announcement brings to 130 the number of LDS temples either currently in use, under construction, or in the planning stages.