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Church hosts first temple open house since COVID-19 pandemic in Pocatello, Idaho

Take a look inside Idaho’s sixth temple and the church’s 170th worldwide

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Pocatello Idaho Temple in Pocatello, Idaho, is pictured on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Ground was broken for the temple in the spring of 2019.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Pocatello Idaho Temple in Pocatello, Idaho, is pictured on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Ground was broken for the temple in the spring of 2019.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

POCATELLO, Idaho — For a very long time, nothing but sage brush covered the eastern foothills around Pocatello.

Now the new Pocatello Idaho Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will serve as a towering landmark and beacon on the hill for thousands of members and friends in the community.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles called it “a beautiful temple,” describing all the localized elements, colors and design incorporated into the planning and architecture. But most importantly, the apostle said, the temple will be a blessing in the lives of the people.

“All these elements remind us of Pocatello, and that’s important,” he said. “But even more important is the way that temple worship can enhance, enrich and bring us to Christ. Anytime that happens, anywhere, that’s going to enhance the community. It’s going to enhance the families of those who are temple patrons.”

Elder Stevenson and other church leaders hosted a group of reporters Monday on a tour through Idaho’s sixth temple, the first public open house since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pocatello Idaho Temple is scheduled to be dedicated on Nov. 7 in three sessions by President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. When dedicated, the Pocatello temple will be the church’s 170th operating temple and serve about 61,000 members in the area.

Prior to the dedication, tens of thousands are expected to visit the temple during the public open house, which begins Saturday, Sept. 18, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 23, except for Sundays, including Sept. 19, 26, Oct. 2-3 (general conference), 10 and 17.

To make a reservation or learn additional information, visit pocatellotemple.org.

A youth devotional will be held prior to the dedication on Saturday, Nov. 6. The dedicatory sessions and youth devotional will be broadcast to all congregations in the Pocatello Idaho Temple District.

What is unique about the features of the Pocatello Idaho Temple?

The temple exterior:

  • Set in the eastern foothills of Pocatello across 11 acres, the 71,000-square-foot sacred structure has an exterior that is a light gray granite from suppliers in China.
  • The temple has a streamlined classical architec­ture design, with a similar pattern to other temples and other buildings in Pocatello.
  • The height to the top of the Angel Moroni is 194 feet and six inches.
  • The exterior art glass features wildflowers of the Idaho mountain desert, including the syringa, which is the Idaho state flower, and the bitterroot. The colors in the art glass are sage, representing the sagebrush of the region; gold, representing the wild grasses that turn gold in the summer; and pink and coral, representing the sunset, the bitterroot flower and Red Hill above Pocatello.

Interior features:

  • The carpet and rugs have a design that incorporates the floral motif and colors of the syringa, Indian paintbrush, and bitterroot in the Pocatello landscape.
  • The same floral motif and colors are found in the decorative painting and lighting throughout the temple.
  • The main stone, luna beige, is quarried out of Bethlehem, Israel. The celestial and sealing room marble was quarried in Turkey.
  • The chapel room features beautiful art glass depicting Jesus Christ holding a sheep. It was salvaged from an old Presbyterian church in the eastern United States and restored for the temple.
  • As with all temples, murals and original artwork are featured throughout the Pocatello Idaho Temple. Several original works depict mountains and landscapes from the area, such as “Haystack Mountain,” by Ken Spencer, as well as “Mink Creek” and “Scout Mountain Vista” by Ken Stockton. One painting of particular note is Minerva Teichert’s “Not Alone,” which portrays pioneers Mary Fielding Smith and her son Joseph F. Smith crossing the plains. A print of this artwork currently hangs in the temple but will be replaced by the original when an exhibit at the Church History Museum has concluded.
  • Artists Michael Coleman and Leon Parson also contributed original artwork.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talks with members of media after leading them on a tour of the Pocatello Idaho Temple in Pocatello, Idaho, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talks with members of media after leading them on a tour of the Pocatello Idaho Temple in Pocatello, Idaho, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Church leaders at the media tour

Elder Stevenson was joined by several church leaders, as well as local leadership, at the media tour Monday. Among those in attendance were:

The church’s North America Central Area Presidency:

  • Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, president.
  • Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, first counselor.
  • Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, second counselor.
  • Elder Alfred Kyungu, area assistant.

Elder Stevenson attributed the strong showing of church leadership at the Pocatello Idaho Temple to its being the first temple open house since the COVID-19 pandemic. The leaders were also there at the invitation of President Russell M. Nelson.

“I couldn’t have been more thrilled to receive an invitation to be able to come and participate in this open house,” Elder Stevenson said. “We’ll see if this happens with more of the temple open houses that take place.”

President Camille N. Johnson, president of the Primary general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks to members of the media prior to a tour of the Pocatello Idaho Temple in Pocatello, Idaho, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.
President Camille N. Johnson, Primary general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks to members of the media prior to a tour of the Pocatello Idaho Temple in Pocatello, Idaho, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

What leaders and members are saying about the temple

As a young girl, President Camille N. Johnson lived near Idaho State University. She observed the building of Holt Arena and attended many sporting events there. Sister Johnson was thrilled to return to her hometown to be part of the Pocatello Idaho Temple open house.

“I love its setting, I think it’s spectacular up on the hill, with so many of the design elements inside that are meant to remind us of the of the beautiful world that our Savior created for us,” she said. “It really is a light on the hill.”

President Johnson is especially excited for area children and youth who will grow up attending the temple. She and Elder Nielsen praised the youth for helping to clear sage brush before the groundbreaking and plant thousands of flowers on the temple grounds.

“I think this shows the faithfulness of the members in this area and how strong they are that the Lord would see fit to put something like this here,” Elder Nielsen said. “I’m really impressed with our young people in this temple district who have come out in full force. They have been a big part of everything that has happened to this temple.”

Temples are all about “unity and hope,” Elder Sabin said.

“In this area I think the temple will be a beacon of hope, not just for the members but for everyone,” he said. “It helps our members to be better citizens, better friends, better family members, better neighbors. We hope everybody embraces the temple as their temple, whether they are members or neighbors. We hope this makes us all work together in unity and hope.”

Sherri Matson, a Latter-day Saint who lives in Chubbuck, Idaho, is involved in a local interfaith community group consisting of people from various faiths and religions. Many of them participated in the groundbreaking and have supported the project from the start. The interfaith group plans to tour the temple this week.

“(We appreciate) their acceptance, excitement and general spirit of celebration,” Matson said. “It’s been neat to see them asking so many questions. They are excited to tour the temple as a group, to come together to celebrate with us and share in something so meaningful and important in our lives, to understand us better and to see the beauty.”

Larry Fisher, a Latter-day Saint who was born and raised in Pocatello, lives down the street from the temple and said he gets chills every time he drives by it.

“During construction, I drove by just to watch the progress,” Fisher said. “Now to see it light up at nighttime, it’s just a beacon on the hill that just makes me feel closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and makes me want to be a better person.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Pocatello Idaho Temple is pictured on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Pocatello, Idaho.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Pocatello Idaho Temple is pictured on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Pocatello, Idaho.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Pocatello Idaho Temple timeline

The first branch of the church in Pocatello was organized in 1888.

By the end of the 1900, there were more than 100 families living in the Pocatello ward.

The Pocatello Idaho Temple was announced in April 2017 by President Thomas S. Monson.

Elder Wilford W. Andersen, a General Authority Seventy and president of the former Idaho Area, presided at the groundbreaking of the Pocatello Idaho Temple in March 16, 2019. The temple is located at 3100 Butte Street in Pocatello.

Elder Andersen was joined by his counselors, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen and Elder Brian K. Taylor. Elected officials, dignitaries and even Pocatello native Taysom Hill, who plays for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, were among many who attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

Nearly two years to the day of the groundbreaking ceremony, a crane placed the Angel Moroni statue atop the temple spire on March 10, 2021.

There are more than 462,000 Latter-day Saints in Idaho who attend over 1,100 congregations, according to the church’s newsroom.

When dedicated, the Pocatello temple will join temples in Boise, Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Meridian and Twin Falls as the Gem State’s sixth operating temple. A seventh temple is will soon be built in Burley.