SARATOGA SPRINGS — News of an LDS temple coming to Saratoga Springs turned the Griffiths home upside down Sunday morning.
When LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson made the announcement, Casey Paul Griffiths, bishop of the Harvest Hills 9th Ward, said everyone in the room screamed.
"My wife was in a different part of the house and she thought we were watching a football game," he said.
A short time later, Bishop Griffiths posted on his Facebook page: "SARATOGA SPRINGS TEMPLE!!!!!!!! WAHOOOOO!"
A Saratoga Springs temple was one of five new temples announced by President Monson during the Sunday morning session of the 187th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In addition to Saratoga Springs, other temples announced Sunday will be built in Pocatello, Idaho; Nairobi, Kenya; the greater Manila, Philippines area; and Brasília, Brazil.
Saratoga Springs temple
The Saratoga Springs temple will be the 18th for the state's 2.1 million Mormons.
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah and former mayor of Saratoga Springs, released a statement in response to the news of a temple in her community.
"It’s evidence of the strength, service and the potential of the people in Saratoga Springs that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its newest temple here. When I was mayor, I always worked with my fellow council members (which all remain my closest friends today) to provide vision for the future of our community with all citizens in mind. I am pleased that they continued this work and it resulted in this addition to our community."
Saratoga Springs Mayor Jim Miller also expressed enthusiasm for the announcement.
"On behalf of myself, the City Council and many of our residents, we are thrilled to have this sacred building added to our community," Miller said in a prepared statement. "There are many faithful members of the LDS Church in Saratoga Springs and the surrounding area who will benefit from having this new temple located in our city. Saratoga Springs looks forward to working with the LDS Church in making this new temple a beautiful part of our community."
Luciana Shulze, a resident of Saratoga Springs, said she was thrilled to hear the news.
"It is really special because I lived here for 15 years when nothing was here," she said, adding that when the temple is completed she won't have to travel very far to do temple work.
In Bishop Griffiths' ward, the youth have been challenged to visit the temple 10 times during the school year.
"We have often had youth wait three to four hours to do baptisms because of the great temple attendance in our area," he said. "After the Lord, the credit for this really goes to our youth, who have sacrificed to serve in the temple. One young lady organized her own temple trips at 5:30 a.m. every Tuesday morning. This will be a tremendous blessing."
Pocatello Idaho temple
For the 450,000 members in Idaho, Pocatello will give the state its sixth temple.
Greg Madson, a native of Pocatello who attended Idaho State University, said he almost fell out of his chair.
"As President Monson began announcing locations, I thought to myself, 'Wouldn't it be cool if Pocatello was announced?' Then, boom, there it was," said Madson, who converted to the church in 1979.
"Finally, my hometown — full of faithful, diligent Latter-day Saints — is going to have a temple. That community, that for so long has been thought as a dirty railroad town, is going to have a house of the Lord. This is long overdue and will be a terrific blessing to southeast Idaho and to the Pocatello community."
Betty Kolsen, Madson's mother-in-law, has lived in Chubbuck, a city near Pocatello, since the 1960s. She attends the Cantebury Ward in the North Pocatello LDS Stake. With a strong LDS Institute program at Idaho State University, Kolsen thought a temple would prove to be a great blessing for the community. The announcement was "pretty awesome," she said.
"I had a tear or two and goose bumps stood up all over me," Kolsen said. "It's a very humbling experience for it to come in our day and age."
Paul Andrus, another Chubbuck resident of almost 40 years, has missed having the Idaho Falls Temple while it was under renovation. For the last two years, he has traveled to temples in Rexburg, Twin Falls, Logan and Brigham City.
"Having one in Pocatello will make it easily accessible, and I hope we take advantage of it," Andrus said. "When built, I'm sure it will make the community a more beautiful place."
Nairobi Kenya temple
The Nairobi Kenya temple will be the eighth for Africa's 500,000 Latter-day Saints.
Alex Omole, a bishop in Nairobi, rejoiced at the announcement, which he learned about through social media.
"This is good news," Bishop Omole said. "The temple will be a great blessing for our people."
Farmington resident John Barger and his wife, Lauri, presided over the Kenya Nairobi Mission from 2004-2007. They were in the Conference Center Sunday and the news triggered an explosion of joyful texts from family and friends. They have also received many questions from nonmembers regarding the announcement, he said.
"We were in shock. We gasped and wept a little as we immediately realized how this will affect so many of our dear friends in East Africa," John Barger wrote in an email. "The church's presence in East Africa will be greatly enhanced."
Members in Kenya have traveled about 2,000 miles to attend the Johannesburg South Africa Temple, and it's even farther for members in Uganda and Ethiopia, John Barger said.
"So having a temple in Nairobi will allow families who in the past had only hoped to attend once in their lifetimes will be able to regularly accomplish ordinances for their own ancestors."
Herbert Egumza, 23, a native of Kenya, is a student at LDS Business College. He was also present in the Conference Center for the announcement. As the surprise registered, his phone also erupted with messages from family and friends.
"There are no words to express the happiness we feel. It will mean so much to those who have strived to go to the temple," Egumza said.
Greater Manila temple
The temple in the greater Manila area will be the fourth in the Philippines, a nation with more than 750,000 Mormons. The first temple in that country is also in Manila and was dedicated in 1984.
Chris Taylor, who served a mission in Manila in the late 1990s, was astonished by the news.
"The church has been growing so quickly there, I'm sure it's necessary," Taylor said. "This will be much more convenient for everyone traveling long distances. I am happy and sure this will bless the wonderful people there in many ways."
Jorge Duran served as the director for temporal affairs in Manila from 2001-2007.
"The announcement was a wonderful surprise and a blessing," Duran said. "For many Latter-day Saints, getting to the current temple is like traveling to another country. The traffic and population density impede many members to enjoy the blessings of the temple."
Brasília Brazil temple
The Brasília Brazil temple will be the 10th for a nation with 1.3 million LDS members. The first temple in Brazil was dedicated in Sao Paulo in 1978. The eighth temple is under construction in Rio de Janeiro, and the ninth, in Belém, was announced in April 2016. The Fortaleza Brazil Temple is also under construction.
Elder Paschoal F. Fortunato, an area Seventy, isn't from Brasília but is familiar with the church in that region. The news of another temple is a testament to the faith of the area's members, who have in some cases sold all they own or given up a job for one 10-hour bus ride to attend temples in Sao Paulo or Campinas, he said Sunday through a Portuguese translator.
"The members of Brazil have great faith and have sacrificed much to attend and serve in the temple," Elder Fortunato said. "The members are happy and looking forward to the blessing of having a temple closer to home."
In addition to the Belém temple, President Monson announced three other temples last April: Harare, Zimbabwe; Quito, Ecuador; and a second temple in Lima, Peru.
In April 2015, President Monson announced temples in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Africa); Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand.
Prior to Sunday's announcement, the church reported 155 operating temples, with three under renovation, 11 under construction and another 11 that have been announced.
The church will dedicate the Paris France Temple on May 21 and rededicate the newly renovated Idaho Falls Temple (Idaho's first temple) on June 3. The Tucson Arizona Temple will be dedicated on Aug. 13, and Idaho's fifth temple, in Meridian, will be dedicated Nov. 19. Utah's 17th temple, Cedar City, will be dedicated on Dec. 10.
Contributing: Sean Moody