CEDAR CITY, Utah
A “Southern Utah boy through and through,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has “red sand in my shoes and lava in my bones.”
Born and raised in St. George, Utah, he claims a Southern Utah legacy that literally runs through his blood; he is the direct descendent of Robert Gardner, William Snow, Richard Bentley and William Carter — great-great-grandfathers all sent during original colonizing years into Utah’s Dixie.
“That colorful corner of the Lord’s creation means everything to me. I was born there. I was raised there. I grew up there hearing those stories and cherishing that heritage. And, yes, my burial plot is there,” said Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
He also married a Southern Utah girl; Sister Patricia Holland is from Enterprise, Utah, and “claims a magnificent pioneer heritage of her own.”
Elder and Sister Holland participated, on Sunday, Dec. 10, in the dedication of the area’s second Latter-day Saint temple in Cedar City, Utah.
Elder Holland grew up almost literally in the shadow of the St. George temple, which was announced Nov. 9, 1871, and dedicated 6 years later on April 6, 1877. The St. George Utah Temple is the oldest operating temple of the Church and was the first built in Utah. It now becomes a Southern Utah bookend with the Cedar City Utah Temple — the newest temple in the Church, 159th worldwide, and the 17th temple in Utah.
President Thomas S. Monson announced construction of the temple in Cedar City at the Church’s April 2013 general conference. Ground was broken for the temple Aug. 8, 2015, at 300 South Cove Drive in Cedar City. President Henry B. Eyring dedicated the temple.
Both the St. George temple and the new Cedar City temple stand as a legacy to early pioneer sacrifice, determination and hard work. Early settlements in the area were dependent on unstable water sources and were built in areas with limited timber.
“Clearly the purpose for building the temple in St. George was to bless the early settlers and give them courage to stay there,” said Elder Holland. “They fought alkali in the soil, mosquitos in the air and a raging Virgin River every year. The people were so discouraged most of the time, that it would have been so easy to leave — and some did. But the devoted ones stayed and the rest is history.”
Cedar City and St. George — connected today by 50 miles of Interstate 15 — were not as accessible to one another more than a century ago.
The Black Ridge, a deep, rough, lava flow, became a barrier between the two cities. Even Apostle George A. Smith, for whom St. George was named, called the path “the most desperate piece of road that I have ever traveled in my life, the whole ground being covered for miles with stones, volcanic rock, cobble heads — and in places deep sand,” according to the Markers and Monuments Database of the Utah Division of State History.
As a result, most early settlers in Cedar City traveled around the Black Ridge — at least a two-day trip through Enterprise, Utah — to reach the St. George temple, said Richard Saunders, dean of library services at Southern Utah University.
Settling Southern Utah was “beyond hard work,” he said.
Although St. George and Cedar City shared a legacy of sacrifice and pioneer grit — and for 140 years a temple — Elder Holland’s early connection to Cedar City is defined by an athletic rivalry between two high schools and colleges. A student leader and varsity athlete at Dixie High School and Dixie College in his native St. George, Elder Holland often traveled north to Cedar City for athletic challenges. As he participated in the dedication of the new temple “all of that has been forgiven — I hope!” he said.
“President Young, with that prophetic vision of his, felt these little communities needed to be established, including the difficult ones,” said Elder Holland. “I marvel at the faith and devotion that those people showed in taking those assignments, and going at great sacrifice, leaving homes, farms and the personal possessions they had in the northern part of the state.”
That legacy of faith continues today, said Elder Holland, speaking of the new Cedar City Utah Temple District.
“You have faithful people in Beaver and Panguitch, in Panaca and Parowan, and many other communities,” he said. “The whole region is filled with devoted faithful people who are going to be blessed by this temple. It is their faithfulness that has justified building it.“
That faith has defined not just the area’s past, but will also define its future, added Elder Holland.
“When the history of this dispensation is written what is obvious now — that might not have been so obvious early on — is that it was the dispensation of temple building and temple covenants,” said Elder Holland. “We will never again count temples by twos and tens in this Church. We will now count them by hundreds. … That is the destiny we have in this work and we are not through yet. We are to be a temple-going, a temple-attending people.”