BRIGHAM CITY, UTAH
A symbol of this northern Utah community's pioneer past will soon be facing a new neighbor, a symbol of eternal progression and forever families.
In the shadow of the historic Box Elder Tabernacle, ground was broken July 31 for the new Brigham City Utah Temple, with President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, presiding at the morning ceremonies, providing the keynote address, directing the unveiling of the architectural rendering and offering the prayer in dedicating the temple site.
It was a fitting role for President Packer who, along with his wife, Sister Donna Smith Packer, are Brigham City natives; seven of their 10 children were born in the community.
"I am home," said President Packer, who will be 86 on Sept. 10. He attended eight decades ago the old Central School that once sat on the same property. During his talk, he reminisced about growing up with 10 siblings in the community and then raising his own family in Brigham City.
He introduced his only surviving sibling, his sister Donna Packer Swiss, who traveled from California to attend the ceremony.
President Packer said that the building across the street, the Brigham City Tabernacle, "was always a beacon."
He said that about six years after the tabernacle was dedicated on Oct. 28, 1890, the building burned, having caught fire from a potbellied stove in the basement. By the time the fire was discovered, it was too late for people in the community to save it. "But the rock stone walls stood, and so they determined that they would rebuild it immediately. They did, and we have this wonderful tabernacle."
He described how he, at about age 8, and one of his brothers walked up a dirt pathway to the building to attend stake conference in the tabernacle. He said that after a lot of talks — which he and his brother did not understand particularly — and some singing, "there stood a tall, gray-haired old man to speak. I did not remember what he said, but I got the impression that here stood an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. That was George Albert Smith, who later became president of the Church."
President Packer said, "When we look back at the memories here and the places we lived and grew up, it really is home and the center place for our family. It is a very sacred event. Temples are being built all around the world. I am getting a little rickety, but I feel confident in promising you that I will be back for the dedication of the temple here in Brigham City."
President Packer referred to Brigham City's peach industry, the first orchard having been planted by a pioneer settler a block west of what is now the temple site. He referred to the art rendering of the soon-to-be-built temple and noted that portrayed on a panel is the peach blossom, "symbolic of who we are and what we are."
He said that after he had served in the military for four years, he returned home and found Donna Smith, "the Peach Queen," and she became Sister Packer. "We have traveled around the world. I have traveled two and a half million miles, and I think she has traveled most of that. But everywhere we go, there is always Brigham City. That draws us here."
President Packer said he had nothing to do with the location of the temple in Brigham City. "It came up through the normal, regular processes, and I was not aware that there was going to be a temple in Brigham City until it was announced that President (Thomas S.) Monson was coming up here to choose a site.
"He called and said, 'I'd like you to come with me. We're leaving in 30 minutes.' … We came up and stood on this site and memories, memories, memories! Now I can see in my mind's eye a temple sitting here in about two years time. It will be gorgeous. It will be white. You will see in the design of it reflections of previous temples that have been built, particularly the Salt Lake Temple. And you will know that it will be a beacon from all over the valley."
Later, he said, "Some of you have been everywhere in the world, and some of you can imagine how rapidly the Church is growing across the world — stakes and missions and wards. But as our son Allan said, families — growing by families.
"So it is an honor to be here, and it is with deep emotion that I contemplate the fact that Donna and I are here and much of our family is here on this sacred and historic occasion."
In her address during the hourlong Saturday morning program, Sister Packer recounted the ancestral ties for both herself and her husband to Brigham City.
"My mother, Nellie Edith Jordan, was transplanted out of the fertile soil of England into the western Box Elder County [community] of Howell, Utah," she said.
"My father's people were Scandinavian, as many of your forebears were. They came in the 1850s and were helped in the raising of their 14 children by the wonderful priesthood leaders, including President Lorenzo Snow. …
"My husband's people came with the second company to Salt Lake City in 1848. After living in Herriman, Utah, for some time, they moved into this Box Elder temple area in the 1860s. …
"How grateful I am to have our roots so deep in this wonderful soil."
Also speaking was Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, who said "in some respects, it's easier to build the building than to build the people to participate worthily in the temple."
He offered an A-B-C list to help with the preparation of the people: "A" for "ancestors," doing the family history work for names to take for which to do temple work; "B" for "brides" and "bridegrooms" and "baptisms," for the key ordinances, particularly the sealings in creating eternal families; and "C" for "children," in getting the youngest generation on the path to the temple.
Other speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony were Elder Steven E. Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Allan F. Packer of the First Quorum of the Seventy and son of President Packer; and Elder William R. Walker of the First Quorum of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department.
In conducting the ceremony, Elder Walker told of accompanying President Monson and President Packer to the property at 250 S. Main Street in selecting the site for the future Brigham City temple.
When the president of the Church asked the president of the Quorum of the Twelve about his thoughts of the prospective site, "President Packer said, 'President Monson, I think this is a perfect place for a temple,' " Elder Walker recalled.
" 'That's good enough for me,' he responded, and he raised his arm to the square," Elder Walker continued. "It was a wonderful moment for me to witness, a historic moment."