A pattern of taking the temples to the people is continuing for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Russell M. Nelson announced 13 new temples and the renovation of the Provo Utah Temple at the conclusion of general conference Sunday.
“We thank all who are working on our new temples,” he said. “They are being built all over the world.”
Four of the 13 will be built in the western region of the United States, adding to nine new temples announced last April, several of which are already under or close to construction.
Here’s a look at how some are reacting to plans for new temples in Heber Valley, Utah; a second temple in Rexburg, Idaho; and in Cody, Wyoming.
Heber Valley Temple
News of a temple in Heber Valley was “surprising and not surprising” for Kelsey Berg, a seventh generation Latter-day Saint in the area.
Berg’s thoughts turned to her family heritage while discussing the temple, and she paused to look in the Family Tree App for some of the names of her own Swiss and German ancestors who settled in the Heber Valley. Some are buried in the Midway cemetery.
“We think our valley is pretty special,” said Berg, who graduated from Wasatch High School in 2007. “To see our special valley get a temple is pretty cool. It’s something our ancestors sacrificed for, and to be able to perform those ordinances in the valley will be pretty cool.”
Steve Carlile’s pioneer ancestors also settled in Heber Valley, and much of his extended family still lives in there today. He said his phone vibrated with messages following the announcement and there were expressions of joy.
“Everybody is really excited ... ecstatic,” he said. “For me, it’s really exciting to think about all of our family celebrating on the other side of the veil, and what it means for them. It’s a cool thing.”
Carlile believes the new temple will be a “huge blessing” for both those who reside in the valley and those who visit or vacation there.
“I feel strongly that the temple is going to add significantly to the reason that people will be drawn to the valley,” said Carlile, who graduated from Wasatch High in 1999. “The blessings of having a temple there will be shared with those who are of our faith and those who might not be that are drawn in, to really enjoy Heavenly Father’s creations. Having a temple there will bless all who enjoy the valley.”
A second temple in Rexburg, Idaho
Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill said church officials called him earlier this year to ask about the possibility of a second temple. He kept this information private and said he was delighted to hear about Sunday’s announcement about the Rexburg North Temple, Merrill told the Idaho State Journal.
“I knew they were considering it, but I didn’t know for sure. You never know for sure until they make the announcement,” Merrill told the Idaho State Journal. “(When) I had a conversation with people from the church, they were asking about what the city’s attitude would be toward a second temple.”
The new temple is expected to serve Latter-day Saints living in Sugar City, St. Anthony, Ashton, and parts of Montana. Sugar City Second Ward Bishop Glade Pennock echoed the mayor with joyful feelings at the news.
“It’s a great thing. There was a need for a second one,” Pennock told the Idaho State Journal. “I was really hoping for a Sugar City Temple. I thought that would be the sweetest temple on earth.”
Another Sugar City resident, D.J. Teichert, was “thrilled” with the news. The current temple stays rather busy with just Brigham Young University-Idaho students, he said.
“It’s going to be great to have two temples in Rexburg,” said Teichert, who was recently released as a young single adult bishop on BYU-Idaho’s campus. “It will be a great blessing to our community and I think give more people an opportunity to go regularly. ... You can see the hand of the Lord in this area. Madison County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. The prophet is aware of what is going on here and sees the demand in the future for more people to be in the temple. So we are just thrilled.”
The announcement of a second temple in Rexburg comes two weeks after the beginning of the open house for the Pocatello Idaho Temple. A rendering and the location of the Burley Idaho Temple has also been selected, although a groundbreaking date has not been scheduled.
Cody Wyoming Temple
Andrew Jacobsen, who serves as stake president in Cody, Wyoming, told the local newspaper the temple announcement surprised local leadership but will save hours of travel in the future, according to the Cody Enterprise.
Right now the closest temple for Latter-day Saints in Cody is in Billings, Montana, about 100 miles to the north.
“It’s very exciting,” Jacobsen told the Cody Enterprise. “It’s a big deal for us. It gives us a lot closer access to a temple. ... Having it this close will make it easier.”
“It will mean a lot to those good people,” said Darwin Thompson, whose mission boundaries included Cody when he served as a missionary to Montana in the late 1970s.
For some Latter-day Saints, the mention of Cody, Wyoming, brought to mind “Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites,” a popular fiction series by author Chris Heimerdinger in which a family uses a cave near Cody to be magically transported back to Book of Mormon times. Cody is Heimerdinger’s hometown.
“All of the people I was sitting in the room with looked at me when it was announced,” Heimerdinger said. “I thought the news of Madagascar getting a temple was pretty exciting, too.”
A short time later when he looked on Facebook, a friend had already posted the message, “Did you hear that Cody, Wyoming, is getting a temple? The first thing I thought of was the ‘Tennis Shoes’ series,” Heimerdinger said.
“Somebody beat me to it,” he said. “My Facebook page went nuts yesterday. In fact, I got more attention for a post that I made there about the announcement than anything that I have posted in a long time.”
While his book series may have brought some added attention to Cody over the years, nothing should overshadow the faith and sacrifice of many “extraordinary Latter-day Saints” living in the Bighorn Basin, the author said.
“I think they deserve a lot more credit than I do,” Heimerdinger said. “The idea that Cody is receiving a temple is an extraordinary thing. I never imagined that.
“Temples always had the reputation of being really big and massive, and they had to be in a major metropolitan area. So the whole idea of smaller temples, more accessible to people in smaller communities, that’s been an extraordinary transition over the last 20 years. So it’s exciting news.”
The Cody temple news comes one week before the groundbreaking of the Casper Wyoming Temple on Oct. 9.