President Thomas S. Monson arrived at the Gila Valley Arizona Temple Saturday, May 22. He will dedicate the temple, the Church’s 132nd worldwide and third in Arizona, on Sunday. Also participating in dedication events are President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Presidency of the Seventy; and Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Temple Department. Accompanying the Brethren were Sister Ann M. Dibb, President Monson’s daughter and second counselor in the in Young Women general presidency; Sister Kathleen J. Eyring; Sister Patricia T. Holland; Sister Margareth Costa; and Sister Vicki Walker.
President Monson will attend a cultural celebration Saturday evening, staged by more than 1,600 youth in the temple district, which includes six stakes in Eastern Arizona and one stake in New Mexico. He will address the youth before the celebration.
The temple is located at 5291 W. Highway 70 in Central, Ariz., a small town between Pima and Thatcher, Ariz.
The First Presidency announced plans to construct The Gila Valley Arizona Temple on April 26, 2008. Ground was broken on Feb. 14, 2009. The temple is constructed on the exterior with architectural precast concrete. Art-glass designs accentuate its windows. Interior materials include maple and cherry wood from the United States, along with marble and limestone. Interior murals depict local river, desert and mountain landscapes.
Nearly 375,000 members of the Church currently reside in Arizona. The Latter-day Saint heritage of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico stretches back to the 1840s, when members of the Mormon Battalion of the U.S. Army marched through the region en route to San Diego — one of the longest military treks in history. Over 130 years ago, in 1879, a group of 28 Latter-day Saints left their camp in present-day Show Low, Ariz., to settle in The Gila Valley. Then Church President John Taylor organized the St. Joseph Stake in February of 1883. At that time, the St. Joseph Stake stretched from Miami, Arizona, to El Paso, Texas. One of the most notable people of the St. Joseph Stake was Spencer W. Kimball, who became the 12th president of the Church in 1973 and served until his death in 1985. President Kimball was known for his great love for people.