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Go-ahead given for Montana temple

The Billings City Council has voted final approval of plans by the Church to build a temple on the city's west end.

The vote Monday night, Oct. 27, was 10-1.Council approval included a handful of technical restrictions on lighting for the 33,783-square-foot temple.

There was a little more than an hour of debate on the special review application, ending a 14-month process that featured late-night public hearings attended by hundreds of citizens, fierce public debate and mounds of studies, petitions and arguments for and against siting the temple just north of Rimrock Road about a mile west of Shiloh Road.

Councilman Dan Farmer, delivering the invocation before the meeting, asked for guidance in coming to a final decision and included this plea: "Please help us bind up the wounds and bring the community back together."

That might take a while. A group of people belonging to the Rimrocks Task Force, formed to fight the temple's proposed location, hurriedly left City Council chambers after the meeting.

Edward E. Jorden, president of the Billings Montana Stake, said he was pleased with the vote, particularly since it was 10-1. He said the restrictions imposed by the council appeared to be acceptable and predicted that once the temple is built, "everyone will relax about the lighting."

Restrictions approved by the council will require the Church to shut off lights illuminating the temple by 10:30 each night, and the lights are not to exceed an average of five foot-candles. A foot-candle is basically the amount of light thrown by a candle on a surface one foot away.

Another restriction limits parking lot lights to a maximum of five foot-candles and stipulates that the Church cannot build a visitors center or missionary training center on the temple site.

Richard L. Larsen, chairman of the temple task force committee and stake clerk, said: "There has been an incredible amount of support in the community for the temple, from non-members as well as members. People of the community itself are relieved and pleased that the process is drawing to a close and support the city council's vote. Certainly, there are still wounds to heal, feelings to be listened to and addressed. The healing processes have begun. We hope that time will show that we are a good neighbor."

Brother Larsen, a former mayor of Billings, said that many people from the city have visited temple sites or have friends or relatives who live near temples throughout the country - the Atlanta, the Denver, the Las Vegas, the St. Louis and other temples. "They have nothing but good things to say, and what they've said has gotten back to the people here," he reported. He said that some non-members who live near temples wrote letters of support.

"I've talked to dozens of groups all over the area and have always been well received. People have told me they are thrilled that we're building a temple here."

He said that many people in Montana have laid claim to the temple. "I travel over the state as a business and labor relations consultant. People all over ask me, How is our temple coming along?' They're not members of the Church, but they call itour temple.'

"We are thrilled with the decision of the city council. By the same token, I think members of the Church are quietly happy. No one is gloating. We're just comfortably thrilled that the desires of the Lord have been fulfilled at this point. That's the way it should be."

There are two stakes in Billings, with a combined membership of more than 6,000. The Billings Montana Temple District, as now planned, will include all of Montana and North Dakota, the western half of South Dakota and roughly the northeast quarter of Wyoming.

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