Gathered on a small hill at the edge of Saratoga Springs, nearly a thousand members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stood in near silence to listen to speakers and watch the groundbreaking for a new temple.

“We welcome each of you for being here today. We’re grateful you’re here,” said Utah Area President Craig C. Christensen. “For some of you, for the next several months, life will be marked by the progress made in this magnificent building being built at this site.”

Local and regional church leaders, government and city officials and other dignitaries shoveled the first few handfuls of dirt on the site. Those in attendance were also invited to use the golden painted shovels to take pictures and dig in the area for the future sacred church building.

Christensen said he visited the area about a month ago and walked around for an hour in preparation for the groundbreaking. During that time, he stated he envisioned the building and construction of the temple and the final completion of the building.

“Then something more important occurred. I started to think what will take place within the walls of the temple once it is completed and dedicated,” he said. “I realized in a more profound way how this particular temple will bless many individuals and families.”

President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for the Saratoga Springs Temple in April 2017 before his death eight months later. The building will be three stories tall and approximately 87,000 square feet in size. An adjacent 21,000-square-foot meetinghouse will also be built.

The buildings will sit on about 22.7 acres at 897 S. Ensign Drive in the new Beacon Pointe development west of Redwood Road and north of Meadow Side Drive.

“What a blessing the Lord is giving us in this area,” said Chad Wilkinson, a long-time resident of Saratoga Springs. “As we prepare to break ground for this new temple, may we silently commit today to prepare the soil of our hearts to do our part to qualify for the powerful promises offered us by the Lord and his holy prophets.”

There are currently 17 temples in Utah with others announced or under construction in Orem, Taylorsville, Layton, Tooele and Washington County.

The Provo City Center Temple was the last temple constructed in Utah County in 2016, rebuilt on the same grounds of the Provo Tabernacle after a devastating fire.

Although anyone may enter LDS meetinghouses, a temple is a dedicated space for members in good standing to perform ceremonies like baptism and eternal marriage by proxy for those who have died, according to the church.

“I’m so happy to see a temple being started here in Saratoga Springs,” said Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, the second counselor in the Utah Area Presidency, at Saturday’s event. “It’s touching to be here today when a temple starts to emerge from the ground and a house in which we can make covenants, receive instructions and receive revelations.”

The speakers also quoted scriptures and past statements from prominent church leaders who promised blessings to members who went to the temple or completed family history work for ancestors.

“We are thrilled with this blessing of the temple in Saratoga Springs,” said Debbie Christensen. “Let us prepare our hearts spiritually first that when it physically is here, we will be ready to enter his holy house in this part of the vineyard.”

Currently there is not a completion date released for the temple construction.

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or astilson@heraldextra.com.

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