Mesa Arizona Temple
Find out about and read the dedicatory prayers given by President Grant, President Kimball and President Oaks
Mesa Arizona Temple
Find out about and read the dedicatory prayers given by President Grant, President Kimball and President Oaks
Click here for Mesa Arizona Temple information including temple schedule and directions from temples.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.org.
Location: In Mesa, 16 miles east of Phoenix, in central Arizona's Valley of the Sun.
Site: 20-acre site selected Feb. 1, 1920, by President Heber J. Grant, Apostles David O. McKay and George F. Richards. Purchased in 1921.
Exterior finish: Concrete reinforced with steel. Exterior is faced with a terra cotta glaze that is egg-shell in color and tile-like in finish.
Temple design: Modification of the classic style, suggestive of pre-Columbian temples and even the Temple of Herod.
Architects: Don C. Young and Ramm Hansen.
Construction supervisor: Arthur Price.
Construction chairman: J.W. LeSueur, O.S. Stapley, John Cummard, Andrew Kimball.
Rooms: Baptistry, celestial room, four ordinance, nine sealing rooms.
Total floor area: 113,916 square feet.
Dimensions: 220 feet by 243 feet, and 50 feet in height above the foundation.
District: Stakes in southern Arizona.
Groundbreaking, site dedication: Site dedicated Nov. 28, 1921; ground broken April 25, 1922, by President Heber J. Grant.
Dedication: Oct. 23, 1927, by President Heber J. Grant, broadcast by radio. Rededicated after extensive remodeling April 15-16, 1975, by President Spencer W. Kimball; 7 sessions.
Done by President Spencer W. Kimball
O God, the Eternal Father, we, Thy servants and handmaidens, come to Thee with hearts overflowing with gratitude and in the name of Jesus Christ, Thy Well-Beloved Son, we thank Thee that we are privileged this day to dedicate unto Thy Most Holy Name, a temple of the Living God.
We thank Thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that Thou and Thy Son, Jesus Christ, did visit Joseph Smith, Jr., in his youth, and that he was instructed by Thee and by Thy Beloved Son.
We thank Thee that Thou didst send Thy servant, John the Baptist, and that he did lay his hands upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordain them to the Aaronic, or Lesser Priesthood.
We thank Thee for sending Thy servants Peter, James and John, Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, who ministered with the Savior in the flesh and after His crucifixion, and that they did ordain Thy servants Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, and bestow upon them the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, by which, authority and apostleship we do dedicate unto Thee, this day, this holy edifice.
We thank Thee for sending Thy servant Moroni to deliver the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God. We rejoice before Thee in the influence for good that the Book of Mormon has had in the world, and that it is indeed a new witness for Christ, confirming His teachings as recorded in the Holy Bible. We thank Thee that thousands and hundreds of thousands of Thy children have proved the truth of the testimony of Thy servant Moroni, which he left on record in the book itself: "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true, and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." Grant, we pray Thee, that the Book of Mormon may have an ever-widening influence in the world and that many more of Thy children may receive the conviction of its truth in their hearts. We rejoice that after the lapse of an hundred years, in spite of all the attacks that have been made against its divine authenticity, it still stands unimpeached as the Word of God, and that the evidences brought forth from archaeological and other sources only tend to confirm its truth.
We thank Thee for the integrity and the devotion of Thy servants, the Prophet and Patriarch, Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith. We thank Thee that they labored in Thy cause all the days of their lives, from the time of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ until the day of their martyrdom, and that they were faithful even to the sealing of their testimony with their blood.
We thank Thee for Thy servants, who have stood at the head of Thy Church since the martyrdom of Thy servant Joseph Smith, who have led and directed Thy people by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and who have sent forth representatives to proclaim an everlasting gospel in nearly every land and clime.
We thank Thee for each and all of the faithful men who have ministered as general authorities of the Church in this last dispensation.
O God, our Eternal Father, we pray Thee to bless the Presidency of Thy Church—Thy servants Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins and Charles W. Nibley. May they be guided by the unerring counsels of Thy Holy Spirit, day by day. May they be even as a three-fold cord that cannot be broken. May they see eye to eye in all matters for the upbuilding of the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth.
Bless, O Father, in like manner, each and all of the Apostles, the Presiding Patriarch, the First Council of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric.
Bless, we beseech Thee, those who preside in all the stakes of Zion, and in all the wards and branches of the Church, and over the various quorums of the Priesthood, whether of the Melchizedek or of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Bless those who preside over the missions of the Church throughout the world, together with all Thy servants and hand-maidens who have gone forth to proclaim to the peoples of the world the restoration to the earth of the plan of life and salvation. Be graciously pleased to give the success in their ministry, and grant that every barrier now standing in the way of the proclamation of the gospel may be removed, and liberty of conscience accorded to all peoples.
Bless, O Father in Heaven, all Thy servants and hand-maidens who hold responsible positions in the various auxiliary organizations of Thy Church, whether as general, stake, or ward officers: in the Relief Societies, in the Sunday Schools, in the Mutual Improvement associations, in the Primary associations, Genealogical associations and in the Religion Class organizations. Bless each and every one who is laboring for the benefit of the members, as well as the members themselves, in these associations. Bless likewise those who preside and who labor in the Church schools and seminaries.
Bless those, O Father, who have been called to preside and labor in this temple and also in other temples that have been erected to Thy Holy Name. We thank Thee for all of the temples that have been erected in this last dispensation, and we pray Thee choice blessings to be and abide with all those who minister there-in. We pray that the same sweet spirit which is present in all of the temples that have heretofore been erected may abide with all those who shall labor in this holy house.
We pray that Thy blessings may be upon kings and rulers in all nations, that they may minister in justice and righteousness and give liberty and freedom to the peoples over whom they rule.
We thank Thee for this land of liberty in which we dwell, which Thou hast said is "a land choice above all other lands." We are grateful that Thou didst inspire the noble men who framed the Constitution of our beloved country, and we beseech Thee that the principles of that wonderful document may ever be maintained; that contention and bitterness may cease, and that peace and patriotism, love and loyalty, may prevail.
We pray Thee to bless the President of the United States. May he find favor in Thy sight and be governed in all his administration by the principles of righteousness. May Thy blessings also be upon the vice-president, the members of the cabinet, the senators and congressmen, and upon all the officers in every state and territory of the nation.
We beseech Thee, O God in Heaven, that the people of the United States of America may ever seek to Thee for guidance and direction, that Thy declaration and promise that this is a land choice above all other lands, and shall be protected against all foes, provided the people serve Thee, may be realized and fulfilled, and that the people may grow in power and strength and dominion, and, above all, in a love of Thy truth.
We now pray for the State of Arizona, in which this temple has been erected. We thank Thee for the splendid men and women who were pioneers of this land. We thank Thee for their courage and indomitable purpose, and their lofty ideals which sustained them mid hardships and privations. We are grateful that Thou didst bless the land in answer to their toil, and that the desert has been made to blossom as the rose. We thank Thee for the kind and generous treatment that has ever been accorded Thy people who have settled in this state, by the officers thereof. We pray Thee to bless the governor of the state and all who are charged with the administration of the affairs thereof. And may the people who dwell here be blessed and prospered of Thee in righteousness.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt stay the hand of the destroyer among the descendants of Lehi who reside in this land and give unto them increasing virility and more abundant health, that they may not perish as a people but that from this time forth they may increase in numbers and in strength and in influence, that all the great and glorious promises made concerning the descendants of Lehi may be fulfilled in them; that they may grow in vigor of body and of mind, and above all in love for Thee and Thy Son, and increase in diligence and in faithfulness in keeping the commandments which have come to them through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that many of them may have the privilege of entering this holy house and receiving ordinances for themselves and their departed ancestors.
We thank Thee, O God, our Eternal Father, that the land of Palestine, the land where our Savior and Redeemer ministered in the flesh, where He gave to the world the plan of life and salvation, is now redeemed from the thralldom of the unbeliever, and is under the fostering care of the great, enlightened, and liberty-loving empire of Great Britain. We acknowledge Thy hand, O God, in the wonderful events which led to the partial redemption of that land, and we now renew the supplication made unto Thee in behalf of Thy covenant people at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple: "O God of Israel, turn Thy face, we pray Thee, in loving kindness toward Thy stricken people of the House of Judah. Deliver them from those that oppress them. Heal up their wounds, comfort their hearts, strengthen their feet, and give them ministers after Thine own heart who shall lead them, as of old, in Thy way. May the days of their tribulation soon cease, and they be planted by Thee in the valleys and plains of their ancient home; and may Jerusalem rejoice and Judea be glad for the multitude of her sons and daughters, for the sweet voices of children in her streets, and the rich outpouring of Thy saving mercies upon them. May Israel no more bow the head, or bend the neck to the oppressor, but may his feet be made strong on the everlasting hills, never more, by violence, to be banished therefrom, and the praise and the glory shall be Thine."
We remember before Thee Thy people in all parts of the world. May their hearts be turned unto Thee and to the keeping of Thy commandments, that Thy Name may be glorified in the whole earth.
We pray for Thy Saints in distant lands. May they enjoy the companionship of Thy Spirit, and be blessed with increasing faith and power for good. Continue to remember, we pray Thee, Thy Saints in the valleys of the mountains, whereunto they were led by Thy servant Brigham Young and his associates, under divine guidance, and where the greatest of all temples in this dispensation has been erected, and where Thou has blessed and prospred Thy people even beyond all that could have been expected.
We especially pray Thee, O Father in Heaven, to bless the youth of Thy people in Zion and in all the world. Shield them from the adversary and from wicked and designing men. Keep the youth of Thy people in the straight and narrow path that leads to Thee; preserve them from the pitfalls and snares that are laid for their feet. O Father, may our children grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ. Protect them from infidelity and unbelief, and give unto them a testimony of the divinity of this work as Thou hast given it unto us. Preserve them in purity and truth, and lead them in the way of salvation.
We thank Thee, O God, that Thy Son, our Redeemer, after having been crucified, laying down His life for the sins of the world, did open the prison doors and proclaim the gospel of repentance unto those who had been disobedient in the days of Noah, and that He subsequently came to the land of America, where He established His Church and chose disciples to guide the same.
We thank Thee for restoring again to the earth the ordinances of the gospel of Thy Son Jesus Christ, whereby men and women can be, in very deed, saviors upon Mount Zion, and where they can enter into Thy holy temples and perform the ordinances necessary for the salvation of those who died without a knowledge of the gospel.
We thank Thee, O Father, above all things, for the gospel of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and for the Priesthood of the Living God, and that we have been made partakers of the same, and have an abiding knowledge of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged.
We thank Thee for the words of Thy Son Jesus Christ to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon: "This is the gospel, the glad tidings which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us, that He came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness, that through Him all might be saved whom the Father had put into His power and made by Him, who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of His hands."
We thank Thee, O Father, that thou didst send Thy Son Jesus Christ, to visit Thy servants Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. We thank Thee for the words of our Redeemer spoken in that temple:
"I am the first and the last, I am He who liveth, I am He who was slain. I am your advocate with the Father. Behold, your sins are forgiven you, you are clean before me, therefore lift up your heads and rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have with their might built this house to my Name, for behold, I have accepted this house, and my Name shall be here, and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house."
We thank Thee, O God, that by the testimony of Thy Holy Spirit Thou hast manifested Thine acceptance of all the temples that have been erected from the days of Kirtland until this present time.
We also thank Thee for sending Thy servants, Moses and Elias, and Elijah, to the Kirtland temple, to confer upon Thy servants, Joseph and Oliver, the keys of every dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ from the days of Father Adam down to the present dispensation, which is the dispensation of the fulness of times.
We thank Thee, that through the visitation of Elijah the prophecy of Thy servant Malachi—that the hearts of the fathers should be turned to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest the earth be smitten with a curse—has been fulfilled in our day, and that our hearts in very deed go out to our fathers; and we rejoice beyond our ability to express that we can, through the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, become saviors of our ancestors.
We thank Thee, O God, our Eternal Father, with all our hearts for the testimony of Thy servants Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon: "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all, which we give of Him, that He lives; for we saw Him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that He is the Only Begotten of the Father—that by Him and through Him, and of Him the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God."
We thank Thee, O Father, for the knowledge which we possess, that Thou dost live, and that Thy Son Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, and our Savior, and that Thy servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., was and is a prophet of the true and living God. And, O Father, may we ever be true and faithful to the gospel of Thy Son Jesus Christ, revealed through Thy servant Joseph.
We now thank Thee, O God, our Eternal Father, for this beautiful temple and the ground upon which it stands, and we dedicate the ground, and the building, with all the furnishings and fittings thereof, and everything pertaining thereunto, from the foundation to the roof, to Thee, our Father and our God. And we humbly pray Thee, Father, to accept of it and sanctify it, and to consecrate it through Thy Spirit to the holy purposes for which it has been erected.
We beseech Thee to enable us to guard this house that no unclean thing shall enter here. May Thy Spirit ever dwell in this holy house and rest upon all who shall labor as officers and workers herein, as well as upon all who shall come here to perform ordinances for the living or for the dead.
May Thy peace ever abide in this holy building, that all who come here may partake of the spirit of peace, and of the sweet and heavenly influence that Thy Saints have experienced in other temples, may all who come upon the grounds which surround this temple, whether members of the Church of Christ or not, feel the sweet and peaceful influence of this blessed and hallowed spot. And may this building be sacred unto Thee and protected from the elments of destruction.
O God, our Heavenly and Eternal Father, sanctify the words which we have spoken, and accept the dedication of this house, and these grounds, which we have dedicated unto Thee by virtue of the Priesthood of the Living God which we hold, and we most earnestly pray that this sacred building may be a place in which Thy Son may see fit to manifest Himself and to instruct Thy servants, and in which Thou shall delight to dwell.
All this we ask and do in the authority of the Holy Priesthood and in the name of Thine Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen and Amen.
‘Granny’ finds long-lost daughters, brother
Family history research turns up family
By Jill B. Adair
Church News contributor
MESA, Ariz. — Eighty-year-old Evelyn Letsom, affectionately called "Granny" by all who know her, refers to it as "A Miracle on Broadway." The name because she lives on Broadway Road in Mesa and the miracle because of the miraculous way she found her only two daughters and a brother she hadn't seen in more than 50 years.
"Granny" also found out that she really does have grandchildren — five of them, in fact, and 18 great-grandchildren — she never knew existed.
Sister Letsom of the Barkley Ward, Mesa Arizona Pueblo Stake, lives alone in a small apartment two miles from the Mesa Arizona Temple, where she volunteers four days a week — some days washing clothes in the laundry, others doing dishes in the cafeteria. She is a visiting teacher and her walls and tables are adorned with pictures of the things that she loves the most — the Savior, the temple, and the prophet. Now there are new pictures added to the collection — pictures of a family she found only recently.
Her amazing story begins in 1921 when she was born Leona Elizabeth Harwood in New York. She was a little sister to four older brothers. Her mother gave her away when she was 4, wanting to keep only her sons. When she turned 8, the woman she lived with married and they changed the girl's name to Evelyn LaFave. She lost all contact with her birth parents and brothers. She grew up, married and had two daughters — born in 1942 and 1943 — then a baby boy. When the baby was three months old, tragedy befell. She picked him up and found that he had died in his sleep.
She recalls the confusion and chaos at the time: policemen and the coroner coming in and out of her home, her husband repeatedly yelling at her that the baby was dead as she tried to comprehend what happened, her oldest daughter asking why they had put her baby brother in a black suitcase. From the overwhelming stress of the situation she fell apart, having a mental breakdown. She was taken away to a hospital, where the doctors told her to forget about her children, that she would not be able to have them back.
Her husband left her, abandoned the girls, and moved away, never returning. She did not know where the girls had been taken and never saw them again. They wound up in an orphanage, wondering when their mother would return.
In 1968 she married Milton Letsom in Oklahoma and later moved to Arizona. In 1974 Milton was diagnosed with a rare disease. While he was in the hospital, LDS missionaries found her one day at the hotel she and her husband managed in Glendale and gave her a Book of Mormon, which they both read. After he returned home from the hospital, the Letsoms attended the Mesa Arizona Temple open house before it was rededicated. Soon they were baptized.
Brother Letsom passed away in 1981. The couple did not have any children together; however, Sister Letsom baby-sat many children over the years. Having a hard time saying her name, they called her "Granny."
In 1995 she went to the temple for her own endowments, was sealed to her husband, and then began research on her family. She found that three of her brothers had passed away. She had another brother, Roland, for whom no death date could be found.
Early in 2000, Billie Bradshaw, the ward family history consultant, helping her search for her brother, posted a query on the Rootsweb genealogy web site on the Internet. For nearly a year nothing helpful happened from that posting, although Sister Bradshaw did correspond once with someone compiling information on the Harwood name and Sister Bradshaw shared what she knew about her friend, Evelyn Letsom.
On March 26, 2001, Sister Bradshaw received a message from a Jefferson County genealogy e-mail list which read in part: "Working on family tree. Need help, Leona Elizabeth Harwood; Father, Raymond W. Harwood, Mother, Viola Grandee." There was also some brief information of other family members.
She thought that someone else was working on Sister Letsom's family line. However, she did not contact Sister Letsom that same day about the message. The next day, another message was received — not through the list, but directly to Sister Bradshaw's e-mail address.
This message was much more specific: "I am looking for information on Leona E. Harwood, daughter of Raymond Harwood and Viola Grandee Harwood. She married Herman Louis Donnelly on 20 July 1942 in Syracuse, N.Y. She is my mother that I have been trying to locate for many years. I hope your friend, Ms. Harwood, is one and the same."
"I was dumbfounded," recalls Sister Bradshaw. "I didn't even know she had any daughters."
The message's sender was Sandy Fishbeck, living in DePeyster, N.Y. Sister Bradshaw immediately printed off the messages and took them to Sister Letsom. As Sister Bradshaw read the messages to her, they were both in tears — tears of disbelief, of amazement, of joy.
Sister Letsom asked Sister Bradshaw to send an e-mail message back to Sandy with Sister Letsom's phone number. Sandy called her mother almost immediately after she received the e-mail; the reuniting of the family began. Sister Letsom remembers getting that phone call. "It was very emotional and hard to believe," she said.
Several weeks later, Sandy, accompanied by her son, his wife and their two children, came to spend a week with Sister Letsom in Mesa.
Sister Letsom recalls what it was like when she opened her door and saw her youngest daughter for the first time in 55 years: "I just couldn't believe it," she said. "But I got my arms around her as fast as I could and the tears came. I was so glad to see her."
Of finding her mother, Sandy said: "God has blessed me for sure. All my life I have had a longing for my mother. Somehow, I have felt like she was with me over the years. As a little girl, I would sit and wait for the mailman to give him my letter, 'To my mother' written on it. He would smile at me and off he would go down the street. It was not until I was bigger that I found out you needed a stamp and an address for your letters to go somewhere, but he was so sweet about it — a little girl at this children's home waiting for her mother and a letter.
"To have found her was the next thing to heaven for me," said Sandy. "We have so much to live for and to go on with our life, so much time to make up for. I will never let her go again. God has blessed us, made us a family again. I have dreamed of this. She is loved more than she will ever know."
The miracle continued. After Sandy returned to New York in April, she and her husband went to a restaurant in Watertown, which they found out was run by a man named Charles Harwood. Sandy asked if he knew of a Roland Harwood. He told her that they were relatives. He said that Roland, who is now 83, lived in Florida for 35 years and, just two days prior, had returned to New York to live with one of his sons in Watertown.
Charles brought Sandy's uncle to the restaurant to meet her; she told him of his sister's whereabouts. Sister Letsom and her brother have since corresponded; they had not had any contact for 76 years.
In September, Sandy is flying her mother to New York for a family reunion. Sister Letsom hopes then to be able to see her oldest daughter, Leita, and Roland.
"I do not think there is an ending," Sandy said. "This is a story that will have many more chapters to come."
Before Sister Letsom received her temple endowments, Bishop Melvin Stradling said something that made a lasting impression on her about going to the temple: "The windows of heaven will be opened, and blessings will be poured down upon you." Sister Letsom added, "But I never expected Niagara Falls."
‘Valley of the Sun’
Arizona experiences growth; 3 new temples to meet needs
By Jill B. Adair
Church News correspondent
One hundred and thirty years ago Latter-day Saint settlers began colonizing what would become the state of Arizona. While initial efforts were futile, overcoming obstacles was their common lot. Severe hardships came in the form of harsh temperatures, isolation from Church leaders in Utah, drought, crop failures, difficulties with neighbors and floods, but still they were undaunted.
Eventually, more than 30 colonies were started throughout Arizona. The greatest concentration and development started in the Salt River Valley in the central part of the state with the founding of Lehi in 1877 and Mesa the following year. Phoenix was a distant neighbor to the west.
Resurrecting an ancient Indian canal system made life in the desert possible; later automobiles, dams and reservoirs and air conditioning made it easier.
The area, nicknamed "Valley of the Sun," grew steadily. Other towns sprang up — connecting the dots — including Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Apache Junction, Queen Creek on the east side and Glendale, Peoria, Surprise, Goodyear and Buckeye on the west.
During the past decade, population increased at an explosive rate. Phoenix, the state capital, recently surpassed Philadelphia as the country's fifth largest city with 1.5 million residents and construction in its suburban towns kicked into high gear, bringing the total population of the valley to nearly 4 million.
According to a US Census Bureau report last year, Gilbert and Chandler, in the southeast part of the valley, and Peoria in the northwest, were named in the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the country. Some have grown nearly 300 percent in the last few years.
All of this makes Arizona one of the fastest growing states, with a current population of more than 6 million, not counting many thousands of "snowbirds" from other states and Canada who, drawn by the warm climate, take up temporary residence here each winter.
Church membership in Arizona has also flourished; nearly 400,000 members are divided among 87 in 2008 stakes. Additional stakes are frequently created and leaders struggle to meet demand for meetinghouses.
In the valley, where 65 percent of Church members live, five new stakes were organized since last fall in neighborhoods of tremendous growth including Goodyear and Maricopa, two more in the Queen Creek area and another one in Mesa.
Mesa has grown in Church membership more than any other community in the state. There are now 20 stakes covering the city. The first Arizona temple came to Mesa, being dedicated in 1927 and rededicated in 1975 after expansion and remodeling.
Prior to 1927, members throughout Arizona traveled to the St. George Temple in Utah. So many bridal parties traversed the trail during the early years that the wagon road to St. George became known as the "Honeymoon Trail."
For more than 50 years the Mesa Temple served much of the Southwest, Mexico and Central America and was the first to offer sessions in Spanish.
A smaller temple was built and dedicated in Snowflake in 2002, serving 11 stakes in northeastern Arizona.
Currently, 74 stakes are in the Mesa Temple district. The Church's Temple Department reports that, outside of Utah, the Mesa Temple is the busiest one in the world.
So Church members rejoiced when President Thomas S. Monson announced last month plans to build two new temples in Arizona, one in southeast Gilbert and the other one in the Gila Valley; and then at the announcement last week of plans to build another temple in Phoenix.
The three new temples are the first to be announced by President Monson since he became president of the Church on Feb. 3.
"It is my personal priority to make sure members of the Church have access to the blessings of the temple," said President Monson, in the April 28 announcement of the new temples in Gilbert and Gila Valley. "It is here where members learn of their divine origin and destiny; where they are strengthened spiritually as individuals and as families. Temples are sanctuaries from the storms of life."
Church leaders believe these future temples honor early Arizona pioneers as well as present-day members.
"How blessed we are to have announcements of these new temples," said Elder James J. Hamula, an East Valley resident who was called as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in April after eight years as an Area Seventy. "It is a tribute to the vision of our prophet and the faithfulness of our people here who have been faithful for many, many years."
"We have seen such dramatic growth in the Phoenix metropolitan area," he said. "Even though that has slowed a bit with the recent downturn in the economy, we are still seeing a pattern of significant growth."
He believes four areas contributing to growth are: The consistent and steady growth in convert baptisms; families that move to the area for affordable housing, weather and favorable market conditions; young people who were raised here choose to remain to raise their families; and Hispanic immigration.
"I think we will see continued growth for many years to come," he said.
Elder W. Douglas Shumway of the Seventy and a native Arizonan, said of the new temples, "It's a blessing to the dedicated saints in Arizona who love the Lord. These temples will bless the families and lives of the saints and bring them closer to their Father in Heaven through ordinances and temple attendance."
"We were shocked, surprised and elated," said Gilbert Arizona San Tan Stake President Matthew L. Riggs of the announcement of a temple within his stake's boundaries in southeast Gilbert near the western edge of Queen Creek.
"It will be a lot more convenient to the many members of our stake who have young families; more will be able to go." He said it will also make temple attendance more available for so many in areas further south and east who have been a part of a warp-speed transition from rural to urban.
On the other side of town, Surprise Arizona Stake President Alvin B. Hancock, who has seen his stake double in size in three years, said a temple in Phoenix will be a great blessing to the members on the west side of the Valley.
"Phoenix is not an easy town to cross," he said. "The traffic is atrocious and time consuming."
G. Wesley Wagner, president of the Peoria Arizona North Stake, said having a temple closer will be a particular blessing to the older members of his stake, many who live in the large retirement communities of Sun City and Sun City West. One ward charters a bus once a month to take more than 50 members to the temple for two sessions, leaving at 7:30 a.m. and returning at 4 p.m. Many in the ward make the nearly 90-minute, one-way drive weekly.
"We have many faithful souls who make that trek across the valley and the Lord is blessing them," said Sun City Ward Bishop Stan Buell.
Ward member Linda Slocum helps with the bus arrangements. "There is just no easy way to get to the temple through all the traffic," she said. She is thrilled at the prospect of a closer temple. "We are so excited; we never thought we'd see the day!"
Temple President Ezra T. Clark Jr., who oversees 1,600 temple workers in the Mesa Arizona Temple, said many workers and patrons drive nearly three hours from the Gila Valley, in the eastern part of the state, which includes the Mormon-settled towns of Thatcher, Safford, Pima and Central. He is glad they can also look forward to having a temple in their area.
"A lot of faithful brothers and sisters come from the Gila Valley," he said. President Spencer W. Kimball, 12th president of the Church who served from 1973-1985, was reared in the community of Thatcher.
President Clark said he is confident great blessings will come to the people of Arizona as these temples are built and dedicated, ensuring less travel time, more availability, more opportunities for temple workers, increased interest in family history work and resulting temple work, more opportunities for youth to do baptisms, more temple worship and service.
"Bringing temples closer to the people allows more of them to participate in the magnificent blessings that are there," he said. "Many very sacred and spiritual things will occur."