SYRACUSE — When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new temple in Layton two years ago, Jeff Thomson and his family were “thrilled” but assumed it meant a temple would not be coming to Syracuse, at least not any time soon.
Thomson said he was pleasantly “shocked” to hear President Russell M. Nelson announce his city as one of eight new locations for a Latter-day Saint temple at the end of the Sunday afternoon session of the 190th Annual General Conference.
Thomson, who serves in a bishopric in the Lakeview Farms Ward of the Syracuse West Stake, said his young children suddenly wanted to know why their parents were crying.
“I was thinking about other countries and literally the last two places in the world I would have ever thought of would be Shanghai and Syracuse,” he said shortly after the announcement. “I thought with the Layton temple there would be no way Syracuse would ever be on that list. ... Syracuse was on the Lord’s radar for some reason.”
Along with Syracuse and Shanghai in the People’s Republic of China, President Nelson announced temples in Bahia Blanca, Argentina; Tallahassee, Florida; Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Benin City, Nigeria; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The temple announcement comes as the church temporarily closed all temples worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Members can still draw upon the power of temple covenants by living worthily, President Nelson said.
“Talk about the temple with your family and friends,” he said. “Because Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we do in the temple, as you think more about the temple you will be thinking more about him. Study and pray to learn more about the power and knowledge with which you have been endowed — or with which you will yet be endowed.”
Syracuse will be the 24th temple in Utah. Since 2017, the church has announced temples in Saratoga Springs, Layton, Washington County, Tooele Valley, Taylorsville and Orem, along with renovations to the Salt Lake and St. George temples.
Brad Poll, who serves as the bishop of the Jupiter Hills Ward, also in the Syracuse West Stake, said his family had paused work on a jigsaw puzzle to hear the announcement. Their jubilant reaction almost caused them to miss the news about the other temples.
The church has seen “tremendous” growth in the area in recent years and the timing for a temple seems right, Poll said.
“We are excited and extremely grateful to know that Heavenly Father would trust the people of Syracuse with one of his holy temples,” Poll said.
Outside of Utah, the announced Pittsburgh temple will make two in Pennsylvania, joining the Philadelphia temple which was dedicated in 2016. The church has more than 100,000 Latter-day Saints in Pennsylvania.
Former BYU and Pittsburgh Steeler lineman Chris Hoke serves as president of the Pittsburgh North Stake. He said a new temple will be a great blessing for members in their area, especially the youth. News of a temple in Pittsburgh was special for him, he said.
“It was just an exhilarating moment. Tears of joy. Tears of gratitude,” he said. “This is what we’ve been praying for here in Pittsburgh for a lot of years. This is going to be a tremendous blessing for western Pennsylvania, for Pittsburgh. We could not be more excited to be part of this work right now.”
Since becoming the president of the church, President Nelson has announced 43 temples, including 19 in 2018 and 16 in 2019. In his address during the Sunday morning session, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that 96% of the existing temples have been dedicated during President Nelson’s lifetime and 84% have been dedicated since he was ordained an apostle.