Greeted with cheery faces despite the rain and overcast sky, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, presided over the groundbreaking for the Payson Utah Temple on Saturday morning.
The ceremony took place on the future site of the temple in southwest Payson, at the intersection of 930 West and 1550 South, just off of the I-15 800 South exit and neighboring an LDS meetinghouse in the Payson Utah Mount Nebo Stake. One official estimated that more than 2,000 people attended.
Conducting the ceremony was Elder William Walker, executive director of the Temple Department, who commented on how glorious and distinctive he expects the Payson Utah Temple to be. The temple will be 96,000 square feet with "elegant and lovely" architecture and art.
"This temple is a symbol of your community and more importantly a symbol of your faith," Walker said to the crowd of predominantly LDS members.
Janette C. Hales Beckham, former Young Women general president and a native of Spanish Fork, spoke at the groundbreaking. Beckham thanked many of the people in her life that helped her to achieve temple worthiness and ordinances.
"This is a great day," Beckham said. "Even the earth has been washed."
Prior to Oaks's speech, Elder Steven E. Snow of the church's Presidency of the Seventy spoke of his experiences living two blocks away from the St. George Temple.
"Make it a part of your worship," he said. "This is a sacred day. I know temples strengthen us and our families."
Oaks welcomed the 26 LDS stakes in the new Payson Utah Temple District from Spanish Fork, Payson, Mapleton, Salem, Santaquin, Goshen and Delta. He then referenced some of his own connections to southern Utah County, including giving his first talk while attending the Park Ward in Payson, meeting his late wife, June Dixon, at a basketball game at Payson High School in 1951 and playing in a couple local events with the Payson Band.
"You can understand my special pleasure in hearing the announcement of the temple in Payson and the joy I felt when President Monson assigned me to be the presider of this ground-breaking," Oaks said. "The Payson temple will be a visible influence on millions passing both by day and by night. But we pray that the temple will be much more than a symbol and a source of pride for the saints in this part of Utah County."
He encouraged LDS members to be temple worthy and to attend the new temple to receive blessings and strengthen families.
Following his remarks and the closing exercises, Oaks invited the four general authorities in attendance to shovel a scoop of dirt from the shallow trench, followed by the 26 stake presidents in the Payson Utah Temple District, then local government officials, and lastly, any 12-year-old ordained deacons.
Oaks noted that he purposefully excluded women from the ceremonial shoveling out of respect for them because of the muddy conditions in front of the podium. He didn't want their shoes to get soiled.
The Payson temple will serve approximately 78,000 Latter-day Saints from Spanish Fork to Nephi, helping to alleviate the pressure on the Provo temple, which is one of the busiest in the world.
Upon publicly announcing the Payson temple's construction in January 2010, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson said, "Temples answer those soul-searching questions of the purpose of life, of why we are here and where we are going. They are sanctuaries from the storms of life and bless the lives of members of the Church who worship within their sacred walls."
Payson will be the fifteenth LDS temple to be built in Utah, and the third in Utah County, succeeding the Provo Utah Temple and Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple.
The new Provo temple to be built from the damaged Provo Tabernacle, announced in the Saturday morning session of general conference last weekend, will bring the count to four LDS temples in Utah County.