Apostle prays Smithfield Utah Temple will be ‘a beacon light’ at groundbreaking near his hometown
Elders Quentin L. Cook and Gary E. Stevenson participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cache Valley’s second temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
SMITHFIELD, Cache County — Two apostles with Cache Valley roots were sent “home” Saturday by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to participate in the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Smithfield Utah Temple.
Elders Quentin L. Cook and Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, who were both raised in the Logan area, delivered remarks and Elder Cook dedicated the site for construction with as many as 600 people in attendance on a windy morning.
“I love this beautiful valley,” said Elder Cook, who also reflected on his youthful years of playing sports in the area. “I have seen much of the world, but this peaceful valley surrounded by these majestic mountains always feels like home to me. It is among the most beautiful places on earth.”
“We think it’s no coincidence that Elder Cook and I are both Cache Valley boys and have this assignment today,” Elder Stevenson said. “And we suspect that (the late) Elder (L. Tom) Perry has great interest also today in what is going on here.”
In his dedicatory prayer, Elder Cook expressed appreciation for pioneers ancestors “who have gone before us and who have laid the foundation for a temple in northern Cache Valley.”
“We pray that this temple will be a beacon light for the communities it serves,” he said.
Why a second temple in Cache Valley?
Cache County has the second-highest concentration of Latter-day Saints in Utah (64%) and Idaho, according to the 2020 U.S. Census of American Religion.
“It is not surprising that the Lord would want an additional temple to serve the faithful members in their efforts to provide sacred ordinances for deceased ancestors,” Elder Cook said.
A second temple in Cache Valley is an indication of the church continuing to establish itself, the apostles said.
“A temple represents stakes and wards, and stakes and wards represent devout Latter-day Saints,” Elder Stevenson said. “It’s heartwarming and just beautiful to watch.”
The Smithfield temple district will serve church members in the communities of Benson, Franklin, Hyde Park, North Logan, Preston, Richmond and Smithfield.
A second temple in Cache Valley will support the area’s “tremendous” growth, said Darrell Simmons, a former Smithfield mayor who also serves as a patriarch in the church.
“The temple will have a huge impact on the future of this community,” said Darrell Simmons, who has lived in Smithfield for more than 40 years.
“We feel really blessed to have it,” said Ruth Simmons, Darrell’s wife.
The Smithfield temple will be the 26th in the state of Utah. There are currently 172 dedicated temples worldwide, with 50 temples under construction and 60 more announced.
“Over 85% of members of the church now live within 200 miles of a temple,” Elder Stevenson said.
“This is all part of the great plan of happiness, the plain and precious truths of the gospel that inform us that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father who desires that we return and live in his presence and as his eternal family,” Elder Stevenson said.
The Poulsen family legacy
Before Elder Cook dedicated the property at 800 West 100 North for the Smithfield Utah Temple, it was agricultural land farmed by the LaMont Poulsen family for more than 160 years.
Church real estate agents approached the family about buying the 13.3-acre parcel in 2018. it was not easy for the family to sell the land, but no one wanted to face ancestors in the hereafter and be the one that said, ‘No,’” the Herald Journal reported.
Zander Poulsen, LaMont’s 17-year-old grandson who attended the groundbreaking ceremony, has moved pipe in the field with his cousin in recent years.
“We are super excited,” he said. “We get to look across the street and see the temple. It’s pretty crazy to think there will be a big temple sitting here.”
‘Volumes’ of faith
Lindsey Lott, a Latter-day Saint from Preston, offered brief remarks about her ancestor William Woodward, who joined the church in England and journeyed with the pioneers to Utah in the 1800s. He returned to Europe as a missionary and came home with handcart pioneers in 1856 as the clerk for Capt. James G. Willie. The day after he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, he received temple ordinances in the Salt Lake Endowment house.
“That speaks volumes to me of his faith,” said Lott, who was asked to focus on the topic, “How my ancestor’s faith led us to the building of the temple in Smithfield, Utah.” “I am certain that William is happy to have another temple built in Cache Valley.”
Turning the soil
Government, education, business, interfaith and church leaders were among the more than 500 invited guests at Saturday’s groundbreaking, many of whom participated in the ceremonial “turning of the soil.”
A strong wind blew during the entire event, which ruffled hair and caused speakers to hold on tight to their talks, but also provided a breeze in the heat of the morning.
“My first feeling about having this wind with us was a little bit of a disappointment,” Elder Cook said. “Then the spiritual feeling came over me that for many of us who are fifth- and sixth- and seventh-generation members of the church, it is kind of nice to have an element that is opposing us here a little bit. When you think of the Kirtland Temple and the Nauvoo Temple and you think of our history, maybe having a little wind go across is a good remembrance of what our ancestors have faced in the pursuit of building temples.”
Following the dedicatory prayer and ceremonial turning-of-the soil, Elder Cook and Elder Stevenson offered a few lighthearted memories that drew laughter from the crowd.
Standing with shovel in hand, Elder Stevenson said, “My dad always said, ‘A shovel handle is not something that you lean on, Gary.’”
“I remember more picking beans,” Elder Cook said.