SMITHFIELD, Utah — Before breaking ground for the Smithfield Utah Temple on Saturday, June 18, Elder Quentin L. Cook and Elder Gary E. Stevenson reflected on Northern Utah’s pioneer heritage, their roots in the area and the strength of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cache Valley.
With a heart full of “appreciation for those who have gone before us and who have laid the foundation for a temple in northern Cache Valley,” Elder Cook dedicated the site of the future temple — which he prayed would be “a beacon light for the communities it serves.”
Elder Cook and Elder Stevenson — along with their wives, Sister Mary Cook and Sister Lesa Stevenson — all grew up in Cache Valley and are graduates of Utah State University.
“I love this beautiful valley,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “I have seen much of the world, but this peaceful valley surrounded by these majestic mountains always feels like home to me. It is among the most beautiful places on earth.”
Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also spoke of Cache Valley’s beauty. He shared the reaction of Mary Ann Maughan — sent by Brigham Young to the Valley in 1855. “Oh! What a beautiful valley,” she exclaimed when she first glimpsed the area.
Elder Stevenson added, “We, of course, relate to the scene which caused exclamation from her. In fact, we see it over and over, and never tire of it, as we round the last curve of the highway coming out of Sardine Canyon welcomed by this familiar vista.”
The Smithfield Utah Temple will be built on a 13.3-acre site at the intersection of N 800 West and W 100 North. Plans call for a three-story structure of about 81,000 square feet.
Announced in April 2021 by President Russell M. Nelson, the Smithfield temple will be the second temple in Cache County. The site for the new temple is located just seven miles from the Logan Utah Temple — dedicated in 1884.
Some 600 people gathered on the site on the windy morning for the groundbreaking ceremony; thousands more from 13 stakes in the temple district watched the program remotely.
Elder Cook noted that the wind was a reminder of the great sacrifice many have given in the history of the Church to build and attend temples — leaning into the stiff wind of opposition and persecution in Kirtland and Nauvoo. Those efforts were the foundation for the blessings of temples today, he said. There are now 172 dedicated temples, 50 under construction and 60 announced, bringing the total to 282 temples worldwide, according to Elder Stevenson. In fact, over 85 % of members of the Church live within 200 miles of a temple.
During his remarks, Elder Cook shared his fond memories of growing up in Cache Valley; he participated in football, basketball and baseball games in the area. “I have been told that ‘old timers’ in Smithfield are happy with this location because the ball field was considered the center of town,” he said.
Elder Cook said that the 2020 U.S. Census of American Religion found that 64% of those who live in Cache County are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Only one county in Utah and one county in Idaho exceeded this concentration of members.
“It is not surprising that the Lord would want an additional temple to serve the faithful members in their efforts to provide sacred ordinances for deceased ancestors,” he said.
Elder Cook said he cherishes the sacrifices and dedication of the faithful, early Latter-day Saints who worked closely with the Prophet Brigham Young in developing Cache Valley. “Despite enormous challenges, it is inspiring to contemplate what they accomplished,” he said.
Settled 162 years ago, the history of Smithfield has unfolded in a relatively short time period. At 81 years old, Elder Cook has lived for half that period.
“We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before,” he said. “We honor them and their legacy and express gratitude for what they accomplished. It is in the Lord’s temples where sacred ordinances are performed, not only for us, but for those who have gone before that we express our gratitude in an eternally significant way.”
During his remarks Elder Stevenson answered the important question: “Why is the Lord inspiring President Nelson to give such a high priority to building temples?”
First, he said, “the temple helps us fulfill our divine potential. Our Heavenly Father has a divine vision for each of His children, and the ordinances that take place in the temple are integral to that vision.”
Second, Elder Stevenson said, the Church is building more temples because temples are all about families — heavenly families and earthly families.
“Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you closer to your family; understanding the eternal nature of the family will draw you closer to the temple,” he said.
The invitation of Jesus Christ is universal, he said. “Come unto me.”
Lindsey Lott — a Latter-day Saint from Preston, Idaho — also addressed the congregation. “Throughout my life I have drawn strength from the faithfulness shown by my ancestors,” she said. “We should remember, much of what the Lord accomplishes is through the lives of ordinary men and women who achieve extraordinary things through Jesus Christ.”
At the conclusion of the program, the Cooks and the Stevensons joined local Latter-day Saint and community leaders to turn the soil — signally the official beginning of construction of the new temple. The temple site sits on agricultural land farmed by the LaMont Poulsen family for more than 160 years.
Smithfield Mayor Kris Monson spoke of the influence of the future temple. “What a blessing. What a blessing for it to come to our little community,” she said.
Mayor Monson’s father-in-law, the late Elder Earl M. Monson, was a General Authority Seventy who served as director of the Church’s Temple and Special Projects Division. Mayor Monson and her husband, Mike Monson, turned their thoughts to him during the service. After dedicating his life to building temples across the globe, he would have been so pleased to see a temple built in the community where his children are serving in local government, she said.
“I am excited to watch the progress of the temple,” she said.