The First Presidency has announced that a temple will be built in Fresno in central California. It will be the 99th temple in the Church and the 27th new temple announced since President Gordon B. Hinckley said in the April 1998 general conference that 30 smaller temples would be constructed.
The announcement of the Fresno California Temple was made Jan. 8 in a letter sent by the First Presidency to local priesthood leaders. Metropolitan Fresno has a population of about 1.5 million.
The Fresno California Temple district will include some 10,000 members in seven stakes: Fresno, Fresno North, Fresno East, Fresno West, Hanford, Visalia, and Porterville, and the California Fresno Mission.
The new temple will be California's fourth and the first in the central part of the state. With this announcement, the Church has 54 operating temples and 45 in some phase of planning or construction.
Although the LDS presence in northern and Southern California came as early as 1846 and 1847, it was not until after the turn of the century that the Church was established in central California.
An early Church member in Fresno, Elizabeth Hamlin Cottrell Lynch, recorded in her diary one of the first visits of missionaries to the few members living in the area: "On a rainy afternoon in 1914, two missionaries came to our door. It was hard to tell who was happiest, the missionaries or mother." In a few days they returned and said they had found a Chamberlain and Clawson family. "They organized the first Latter-day Saint Sunday School in Fresno at the residence of Arvin and Ira Hamlin. . . . Three families initiated the nucleus of the Church in central San Joaquin Valley. On Aug. 5, 1920, a Relief Society was organized at the Hamlin home in Fresno." The groups met upstairs above a shop and garage.
The first branch was created Nov. 21, 1920, and Clarence Fancher was called as the first branch president. The branch extended 60 miles south of Fresno to Manteca, 90 miles north, and to the mountain ranges on the east and west. Pres. Fancher, who had come from Wyoming, was charged to find all the members in valley. He noted that in one year, he traveled 4,870 miles successfully locating and activating members.
The branch's first building was dedicated by President Heber J. Grant in 1927. After the branch reached 600 members in 1945, it was divided into the Fresno North and East branches. A stake in Fresno was created in 1951. (Locally published History of the Fresno Stake by Dallas Tueller, 1987.)
Jean Stokes of the Fig Garden Ward, Fresno East stake and a longtime member of the Fresno North Branch, recalled that "our branch met in a cannery at one time; that is where our son was blessed. We've gone through meeting in buildings filled with smoke after being used for other things, to canneries, to wards, to stakes, to many stakes. We've gone a long ways since we've been here. And on Sunday, they announced that a temple would be built here."