Plans to build two new temples in Arizona, one in the Gila Valley and the other in Gilbert, were announced by President Thomas S. Monson. This will bring the total number of temples to 139 already in operation or in the planning and construction phases.
"It is my personal priority to make sure members of the Church have access to the blessings of the temple," said President Monson. "It is here where members learn of their divine origin and destiny; where they are strengthened spiritually as individuals and as families. Temples are sanctuaries from the storms of life."
There are currently two temples in Arizona: one in Mesa and another in Snowflake. The temples in the Gila Valley and Gilbert will bring the total number to four.
The two new temples are the first to be announced by President Monson since he became president of the Church on Feb. 3.
History of the Church in Arizona dates back to the earliest days of the western migration of the Church. The Mormon Battalion marched through the area now known as Arizona in 1846 on its way to California.
Various efforts to colonize the area followed with the first large-scale effort coming in March of 1873. By Jan. 27, 1878, the Little Colorado Stake, the first stake in Arizona, was created.
Eventually, more than 30 colonies were started, with others in northern Mexico. These hardy pioneers overcame severe hardships in the early years, including drought, crop failures, difficulties with neighbors and floods.
Over the years, members gained prominence and were involved in the progress of the state. They earned a good reputation for their industry and integrity.
On Oct. 23, 1927, the first Arizona temple was dedicated in Mesa. Prior to that time, members traveled to the St. George Temple in Utah. So many bridal parties traversed the trail during the early years that the wagon road to St. George became known as the Honeymoon Trail.
President Spencer W. Kimball, 12th president of the Church who served from 1973-1985, was reared in the Gila Valley community of Thatcher.
Today, membership continues to flourish with approximately 370,000 members divided among 84 stakes and four missions.