SALT LAKE CITY — There was a single word that Craig Sellers kept repeating Sunday afternoon after he learned a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was coming to the Tooele Valley in Utah.
"We were just thrilled," he said over and over. "Our family was thrilled."
Sellers, a 20-year resident of the area who serves as the stake president of the Tooele Utah Valley View Stake, said his family was seated together in their home when President Russell M. Nelson made the announcement. Amid the excitement the church leader quickly recalled when his son asked him four years ago if they would ever get a temple.
"At the time, I didn't know whether we would get one at all," Sellers said. "But it will bless a lot of lives and strengthen the numbers out here in a wonderful way."
The Tooele Valley Temple was one of eight announced by President Nelson at the conclusion of the two-day 189th Annual General Conference.
The other temples on the list include:
- Pago Pago, American Samoa
- Okinawa City, Okinawa
- Neiafu, Tonga
- Moses Lake, Washington
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Antofagasta, Chile
- Budapest, Hungary
The announcement brings the total number of operating temples to 162 with another 47 either announced or under construction, for a total of 209.
"As we speak of our temples old and new, may each of us signify by our actions that we are true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ," said President Nelson, who asked members to listen "carefully and reverently" before revealing the temple sites. "May we renovate our lives through our faith and trust in Him. May we access the power of His Atonement by our repentance each day. And may we dedicate and rededicate our lives to serving God and His children — on both sides of the veil."
President Nelson also said plans for a major restoration of the Salt Lake Temple, Temple Square and the adjoining plaza near the Church Office Building will be announced on April 19. The Manti and Logan temples will also be renovated in the near future, he said.
“This work will require that each temple be closed for a period of time,” President Nelson said of the planned renovations. “Church members may continue to enjoy temple worship and service in other temples nearby. When each project is completed, each historic temple will be rededicated.”
The Tooele Valley Temple will be the 21st in Utah, and follows recently announced temples in Saratoga Springs (April 2017), Layton (April 2018) and Washington County (Oct. 2018).
Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn also used the word "thrilled" in reaction to the news.
"I am thrilled with the news of a temple coming to our beautiful valley!" Winn said in a text to the Deseret News. "Members have waited for this announcement for many years. I look forward to working with church officials as this great edifice comes to our valley!"
Charlie Roberts, who served as mayor of Tooele City from 1997 to 2005, said like all Utah communities, people have speculated about a temple coming to Tooele for years.
"To hear it over the pulpit was exciting," Roberts said. "Our valley is growing and it's going to continue to grow. I remember when the Jordan River Temple was built and it was out in the sticks, nowheresville. All I've seen with temples is how they spur good development. So I expect that will happen wherever it's built out here."
Carlie Ni Hughes, a graduate of Grantsville High School, said a temple will add to the natural beauty of area.
"Tooele Valley is beautifully set between two mountain ranges and overlooks the Great Salt Lake. A temple will only add to the majesty of the valley," Hughes said. "The communities within the valley are rooted in rich traditions and I know the Saints' hearts will continue to turn to their fathers and posterity as they serve in the House of the Lord. A temple is a blessing that comes with great responsibility and the Saints of Tooele Valley will rise to the opportunity."
Outside the Conference Center following the Sunday afternoon session, Elder Allistair B. Odgers, an Area Seventy, and his wife, Noeline, in town for general conference from New Zealand, were most excited about the new temple coming to Budapest, Hungary.
Some time ago, when Elder Odgers was serving as stake president, they helped teach and baptize a group of people from Hungary in New Zealand. Elder Odgers ordained one man as an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood because he was going back to Hungary the next day, Elder Odgers said.
The Budapest Temple will be the first in Hungary and the 14th temple in Europe. It will serve more than 5,000 Saints attending 22 congregations. Official recognition for the church was granted in 1988, according to Church Public Affairs.
"That was a very significant announcement today," Elder Odgers said of the temple in Hungary. "We understand there's probably not a lot of members there, but just like the one in Rome, we see that as something very, very significant for the Saints that opens up doors elsewhere."
American Fork residents Gary and Carma Huggard agreed. Gary Huggard served in the U.S. Air Force for 24 years, including time in Europe during the Cold War, and is familiar with Hungary's religious history. Their daughter also served in the neighboring Czech Republic.
"To go from where it was to now getting a temple where people are free to worship is very significant," he said.
Clay Taala, whose family is from Pago Pago, American Samoa, celebrated news of the first temple in American Samoa, where Latter-day Saints make up nearly 30 percent of the populace, according to Church Public Affairs.
In 1977, church leaders announced a temple for American Samoa but later determined it would be better suited if built in Apia, Western Samoa, according to the 2013 Church News Almanac.
"It's awesome," Taala said with a big smile. "Normally we have to travel, so having a temple at home means a lot to us."
Cami Hansen and her daughter, Megan Hansen, of Midway, were delighted to hear about the American Samoa and Okinawa Japan Temples. They have family and missionary connections to the South Pacific and Japan.
"It's wonderful to see the church reach these places and bless the people," Cami Hansen said.
The Okinawa Japan Temple will be the country's fourth. The church has been in Japan since 1901 and has nearly 130,000 members spread throughout more than 260 congregations.
The Neiafu Tonga Temple will be the second in that Polynesian kingdom. Latter-day Saints make up 60 percent of the country's 108,000 residents, according to Church Public Affairs.
Andi Steven's eyes began to water as she talked about the new temple coming to Moses Lake, Washington, the fourth in northwestern state. She and her husband live in the Tri Cities area and the need for a new temple is great, she said.
"Our temple (Columbia River Washington) is so crowded all the time. We have so many people that sometimes we have to turn them away," Stevens said. "This new temple will be such a blessing."
The San Pedro Sula Temple will be the second in Honduras, where church membership has spiked from 6,000 members in 1980 to more than 178,000 today.
The announcement of the Antofagasta Chile Temple comes about six months after the country's second temple was dedicated in Concepcion (Oct. 2018). There are nearly 600,000 Latter-day Saints in Chile.
Former BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum served his mission in Antofagasta.
"I felt such an immediate rush of emotions when I heard President Nelson announce it; elation, excitement, gratitude, joy," Mangum said. "While I was serving there our mission president encouraged us missionaries to pray daily that a temple might one day be built in that area for those amazing people, so I'm absolutely ecstatic that those prayers are being answered. I have such a special place in my heart for that unique, beautiful corner of the world and the people there. I couldn't be more excited for them."
Since becoming Church president in January 2018, President Nelson has announced 27 new temples. Last October he announced 12 (the largest number of temples announced on the same day) and last April he announced seven new temples.
Before Sunday's announcement, the last 31 temple announcements have come in a conference session, with all but two of the 56 announced over the past decade done so from the Conference Center pulpit, according to Church News.