The inspiration to construct smaller temples close to the members of the Church came to President Gordon B. Hinckley in northern Mexico a year ago during a 3 1/2-hour automobile ride to the El Paso, Texas, airport.
President Hinckley had attended the centennial observance of Juarez Academy in Colonia Juarez, Mexico, in June 1997, and was returning to the airport for the flight back to Salt Lake City."As we were riding to El Paso, I reflected on what we could do to help these people in the Church colonies in Mexico," President Hinckley said in a Church News interview between dedicatory sessions of the Monticello Utah Temple July 27. "They've been so very faithful over the years. They've kept the faith. They've gone on missions in large numbers. These stakes have produced very many mission presidents who served faithfully and well. They've been the very epitome of faithfulness.
"And yet, they've had to travel all the way to Mesa, Ariz., to go to a temple," President Hinckley noted.
He said as they quietly drove along, "I thought of these things and what could be done. The concept of these smaller temples came into my mind.
"I concluded we didn't need the laundry. We didn't need to rent temple clothing. We didn't need eating facilities. These have been added for the convenience of the people, but are not necessary [for the temple ordinances]."
President Hinckley explained that all the necessary features of a temple could be incorporated into a smaller structure, that could be constructed in a relatively short period of time.
Once on the airplane, President Hinckley put his ideas onto paper. "I took a piece of paper," he said, "and sketched out the [floor] plan, and turned it over to the architects to refine it.
"The concept is beautiful," he said. "It's a very workable concept."
President Hinckley introduced the smaller-temple concept to Church members at last October general conference and announced the first three such temples, to be built in Monticello, Utah; the LDS colonies in northern Mexico; and Anchorage, Alaska.
In speaking of the smaller temples at general conference, President Hinckley said, "There are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of the temple ordinances? While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer, we believe, came bright and clear."
A little more than nine months after President Hinckley made the announcement in general conference, the first of the three smaller temples has been dedicated in Monticello and is now in service. Construction on the temples in Anchorage and Colonia Juarez is nearing completion.
Since the announcement of the first three small temples, the Church has announced the location of seven others, in Columbus, Ohio; Kona, Hawaii; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Caracas, Venezuela; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Fukuoka, Japan; and Suva, Fiji.
Speaking of the temple in Monticello, President Hinckley said, "It contains all the features necessary for the work of the Lord to be done in this holy house. It lacks some features to be found in larger temples, but those are not of an essential nature. All of the essential qualities are here, all of the facilities are here.
"This is a beautiful building. It has been well constructed. There's been no skimping anywhere. This building can take its place among the great temples of the Church, smaller but of the same beauty and the same quality."
President Hinckley, when asked why Monticello was selected as a site for one of the new temples, said, "We wanted to build one that we could get to, that we could observe. This is somewhat new ground we were treading, and we wanted to be able to examine it and see how things fit together. We knew of this part of the state, which is isolated and a long ways from a temple. These people had to travel all the way to Manti in the past, more than a four-hour drive each way, so we concluded to put one here in San Juan County. And the determination was made to put it in Monticello."
Monticello is fairly centrally located, at the junction of U.S. Highway 666, which goes east into Colorado, and U.S. Highway 191 that goes north to Moab and south to Blanding and Bluff. The town is about 7,000 feet in elevation, at the base of the Blue Mountains.
In summing up his feelings about the smaller-temple concept, President Hinckley said, "I'm grateful, and as I have been here participating in these dedicatory services, I have come to feel more certainly than ever that the right thing is being done, that the thing we're doing is what the Lord would have done.
"[The constructing of smaller temples] will meet the needs of literally millions of people throughout the earth for whom the privileges of the temple will soon become available. All of this because we can build them much more quickly and less expensively and still meet the requirements that are laid upon us."