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Duce's Wild: Living in the US and more than 200 miles from an LDS temple

Temples were the focus of a recent area broadcast that included our stake in western Montana.

Several times it was mentioned that 15 holy temples of varying sizes have been constructed in the central United States, which includes Chicago to the east and Cardston, Canada, to the west. I assume I wasn’t the only one who felt simultaneous gratitude mixed with covetousness.

Our stake in western Montana is a four-hour drive from four temples. And for many years, we were in a district that encouraged an eight-hour drive to our in-state temple.

Five years ago, President Thomas S. Monson said 85 percent of the worldwide membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lived within 200 miles of a temple (see "The Holy Temple — a Beacon to the World," April 2011). Since then, 20 more temples have been dedicated at various locations around the world, so the percentage of those who live more than 200 miles from a temple has likely shrunk significantly.

For those of us living in that small, worldwide minority of LDS temple attenders who travel more than 200 miles, it feels a tinge like those in various circumstances who accept that timing is not yet right, but wonder if personal weakness is preventing fulfillment of a deep desire.

“Temples are more than stone and mortar," President Monson also said in 2011. "They are filled with faith and fasting. They are built of trials and testimonies. They are sanctified by sacrifice and service.”

So, yes, we have a lot of work to do in all of those areas if our stake members vainly imagine that pins on a map might put our valley on the short list of potential temple sites.

Here’s a few things I've noticed about those in our area:

Seasonal trends: We have many in our area resigned to spending holidays alone because they would never want their children on icy roads traveling over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. Around here, our temple attendance has understandable seasonal trends.

Group trips: For many years, our stake rented a bus for temple travel. Since the majority were older folks requiring frequent bathroom breaks, the journey was too long for those watching the clock. Cancelling the bus trips felt both defeating and freeing. Since then, we’ve tried to schedule vanloads of Relief Society sisters to travel together. Last month, only two faithful ladies managed to go. Sadly, I’ve heard more than once from ward members who aren't aware of the new film presentations that were implemented a couple years ago.

Demographics: While every ward is different, ours is reaching a curious plateau. By next year, we might have as many full-time missionaries serving from our ward as children participating in the annual Primary program. All nine of those valiant Primary kids gave a full three-minute talk and sang a special musical number. Together, their singing volume rivaled any 50-kid choir, and we were so proud.

Family history work: Last summer, our stake hosted its first family history booth at our rural county fair. The interest was very encouraging and resulted in new appointments at our family history centers. Our dedicated family history consultants and patrons are working like crazy, and more of us could be doing research so that we can bring our own names to the temple.

Covenant making: While every temple sealing is a celebration on both sides of the veil, it feels incredibly special to look around the room to see hometown loved ones who made the long journey to witness and support. We need to increase the number of endowed members who regularly renew temple covenants and invest in that support if we expect to have the church invest in our area.

For many years, I found myself on the edge of my seat during Saturday sessions of general conference when new temple announcements were usually made. Instead of just keeping my fingers crossed, I’ve got to control what I can control — ensure my daily decisions are temple worthy and encourage my family and ward family to do the same.

Stacie Lloyd Duce is a columnist and magazine editor featured regularly in several Montana and Utah publications. Email: duceswild7@gmail.com