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Twin Falls temple is a spiritual lifeline

President Monson dedicates edifice, thousands celebrate

TWIN FALLS, IDAHO

The Snake River weaves through all of south-central Idaho providing a lifeline for farmers and ranchers whose livelihood is totally dependent upon water. Dams and irrigation pipes take water from the river to the land, giving needed nourishment to rich soil that now supports bumper potato crops and dairy cattle.

Water here cannot be underestimated, said Elder Brent H. Nielson, an Area Seventy. It was the water that brought the people to the valley.

Dubbed Magic Valley more than 100 years ago by early newspaper reporters, much of the area's identity is still tied to water. The area is famous for Shoshone Falls — the Niagara of the West — and Idaho's Twin Falls, located two miles east of Shoshone Falls.

Now, however, Church members have a different, more important, kind of water in their community, the living water talked about in the scriptures by the Savior to the woman at the well. (See John 4:10, 14.)

"The living water has now arrived in Twin Falls with the temple," said Elder Nielson.

President Thomas S. Monson dedicated the temple, the Church's 128th worldwide, Aug. 24.

Like the physical water that brought people to the valley, the living water will sustain Church members here, said Temple President D. Rex Gerratt, a former member of the Seventy.

"The living water applies very specially in the temple, most importantly in a spiritual way for the people in Magic Valley," he said.

Located near the Snake River Canyon, the temple stands just two miles from Shoshone Falls. And the temple grounds are defined by stone elements symbolizing local landscapes. Two water elements, twins falls, stand at the entrance to the temple grounds.

Church members lined those temple grounds on the day of the temple dedication for the cornerstone ceremony, wanting to see a prophet and partake of the living water now in their community.

"It is nice to see all of you and to participate in this cornerstone exercise with you," President Monson told them.

President Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Presidency of the Seventy and Sister Ann Dibb, second counselor in the Young Women General Presidency then sealed the cornerstone, located in the southeast corner of the temple. The cornerstone contains a time capsule with local histories and other items significant to the Church.

Dozens of children dressed in their Sunday best sat quietly around the cornerstone platform of the temple. Looking at the children, President Monson said, "Boys and girls, remember this day."

The temple is the Church's fourth in Idaho; other temples in the state are located in Idaho Falls, Boise and Rexburg. The temple will serve 42,000 Church members living in 14 stakes in communities across south-central Idaho, including Twin Falls, Jerome, Burley, Oakley, Rupert, Ketchum and Hailey.

The 31,245-square-foot temple is "certainly going to be a pillar of strength to the member families," said President Gerratt. "We will be a much stronger Church because individual families will be much stronger in the Church."

Knowing the impact a temple would have on the community, the 14 stake presidents in Magic Valley got together in 1996 and wrote a letter to the First Presidency requesting a temple in their midst, said Elder Nielson.

In 2004 they received word that a temple would be built. "The saints here are so faithful," he said. "I think having a temple here for the members has just been a miraculous thing."

In many ways, the temple is a fulfillment of the faith of the early pioneers who settled the area, he said.

Elder Nielson's great-grandfather, Horton David Haight, was asked by the Church to leave Farmington, Utah, and settle Oakley, Idaho, where he served for many years as stake president. His great-grandmother's journal talks about how she cried all the way to Oakley.

"I can tell by reading that journal that it was an emotional experience for her to come, to leave her home in Farmington, Utah, and come and settle this area," he said.

Most people in the temple district share a similar pioneer legacy of faith, he said.

With the temple, "we feel like the Church is finally established in the Magic Valley."

The community — an estimated 20 percent of the Twin Falls population are Latter-day Saints — has also embraced the temple, said Elder Nielson. "It has been a wonderful experience to see how the community received the temple."

During a public open house July 11 through Aug. 16, 159,863 people toured the new temple. The local newspaper's editorial board — all members of other faiths — wrote a house editorial welcoming the new temple and explaining that President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Twin Falls in 2004 to select a site. "Collectively, we're proud that the church chose to build a temple here and that Hinckley personally picked the site. In so doing, he honored Twin Falls residents of every faith," wrote the editorial board.

President Jeffrey J. Ackerman of the Filer Idaho Stake recalled visiting Twin Falls as a small child. Back then the area where the temple stands was identified by the beautiful Snake River Canyon and Evel Knievel's 1974 ill-fated attempt to cross it.

Now, he said, the temple will become part of the community's identity, a spiritual, soul-sustaining living water for local members.

"It is deep and powerful and meaningful to the members of the Church here," he said. "It is just as the Lord taught at Jacob's well. It is the water that whoever would drink will never thirst again. And if we drink and drink deeply, what an amazing blessing it is in our lives."

E-mail to: sarah@desnews.com

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