Despite temperatures rising into triple digits, hundreds gathered and rejoiced June 4 as ground was broken for a new temple in Phoenix.
“This is a happy beginning,” said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy. “We honor the Lord Jesus Christ today, and we honor another building on the earth that He will call His.”
Hundreds more gathered to celebrate the occasion at meetinghouses receiving live broadcasts throughout the temple district, including Phoenix, Glendale, Surprise, Peoria, Buckeye, Goodyear, Deer Valley, Cottonwood and Prescott.
The temple is one of three in Arizona President Thomas S. Monson announced shortly after becoming president of the Church in 2008.
The Gila Valley Temple opened May 2010 and the Gilbert Temple is under construction.
According to U.S. Census 2010, Phoenix is the nation’s sixth largest city with a population of nearly 1.5 million and the metropolitan area – often referred to as the Valley of the Sun – has more than 4 million. The new temple is the first to serve primarily Phoenix and the northern and western parts of the Valley.
The temple is adjacent to an 8-year-old meetinghouse at 5220 E. Pinnacle Peak Road and within the boundaries of the Glendale North Stake. The groundbreaking service was held inside that building until the turning of the ground, when everyone moved to the nearby temple site.
“It’s taken us a couple of years,” said Elder William R. Walker, executive director of the Temple Department, the day before the groundbreaking ceremony. He acknowledged opposition by some residents of the neighborhood when temple plans were announced. “The important thing is that it’s going to go forward. We are very happy about it.”
The temple, which sits on approximately five acres, was redesigned from its original two-story plan to a one-story building to meet the existing zoning restrictions and will have a footprint of 27,423 square feet and a full basement. Church officials also agreed to reduce the spire’s height and width after concerns were raised by neighbors.
“It’s newly designed – not another one like it,” said Elder Walker, adding that some may recognize familiar design elements from the Mesa Temple – Arizona’s first temple, which was dedicated in 1927.
Since that time the Mesa Temple has been the only temple for members living in the Phoenix area. The Snowflake Temple opened in 2002 to serve northeastern Arizona.
The earliest LDS settlers of the central part of the state arrived near Mesa in 1877. According to historical records, within 30 years migration toward Phoenix had begun.
By 1912, just 10 months after Arizona became a state, a group of nine members met in a room above a candy store in Phoenix for the first time. They continued to meet in various places including a laundry shop and over a bicycle shop until the first meetinghouse was constructed at the corner of Seventh and Monroe streets in 1918.
Elder Rasband spoke of those early members during the groundbreaking service, saying that members of the new temple district are partaking of the fruit of those who had come before. “No doubt they dreamed of having a temple in their midst,” he said.
He encouraged all those in attendance to make the day a journal entry and to commit to coming back and “claiming all of your promised blessings.”
In the dedicatory prayer, he said the spot was a “divinely chosen site,” offered up a “mutual prayer of thanksgiving” and prayed for the Spirit to be poured out upon the community.
He also asked that the influence of the temple would help all to live lives of goodness and peace and that each would strive to be worthy of the blessings that have been bestowed.
Todd and Sherena McMurdie attended the service with their five children, who got to turn the ground with the shovels. President McMurdie, who serves as second counselor in the Phoenix West Maricopa Stake, said he and his wife were glad their children could participate.
“This is where our children will be married, someday,” he said. “It’s a great boost in building testimonies of the power of eternal families and that it really can be forever.”
President David Williams of the Peoria Arizona Stake said the temple is a “tremendous blessing” to his family and members of his stake.
“This is something we’ve looked forward to for a long time,” he said. “We love the temple and are excited to be able to worship here.”