GRAHAM COUNTY, ARIZ.
The public is invited to tour The Gila Valley Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has recently been completed. The public open house will begin Friday, April 23, and continue through Saturday, May 15, 2010, excluding Sundays. Public tours are available on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“All of this came together in just a marvelous way,” said Mark Bryce, temple committee coordinator for the Gila Valley Temple. “During the day or at night, it’s a beautiful building, a magnificent structure, and the people who will visit the temple will feel the spirit of the house dedicated to the Savior.”
The temple is located at 5291 W. Highway 70 in Central, Ariz., a small town between Pima and Thatcher, Ariz.. Tours will begin at the Church meetinghouse adjacent to the temple. Free parking is available at the meetinghouse.
Following the public open house, the temple will be formally dedicated on Sunday, May 23. Three dedicatory sessions will be held to accommodate Latter-day Saints in the area who will be served by the new temple.
The First Presidency of the Church announced plans to construct The Gila Valley Arizona Temple on April 26, 2008. Ground was broken on Feb. 14, 2009. The temple is constructed on the exterior with architectural pre-cast concrete. Art-glass designs accentuate its windows. Interior materials include maple and cherry wood from the United States, along with marble and limestone. Interior murals depict local river, desert and mountain landscapes.
The Gila Valley Arizona Temple is the 132nd temple of the Church worldwide and the third temple in Arizona, with others in Mesa and Snowflake. Two more temples in Arizona have been announced for construction in Phoenix and Gilbert. The Gila Valley Arizona Temple will serve some 21,000 Latter-day Saints in the surrounding area of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico.
Latter-day Saint temples differ from the meetinghouses or chapels where members meet for Sunday worship services. Temples are considered “houses of the Lord” where Christ’s teachings are reaffirmed through marriage, baptism and other ordinances that unite families for eternity. Inside, members learn more about the purpose of life and make covenants to serve Jesus Christ and their fellow man.
Nearly 375,000 members of the Church reside in Arizona. The Latter-day Saint heritage of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico stretches back to the 1840s, when members of the Mormon Battalion of the U.S. Army marched through the region en route to San Diego — one of the longest military treks in history. Over 130 years ago, in 1879, a group of 28 Latter-day Saints left their camp in present-day Show Low, Ariz., to settle in The Gila Valley. Then Church President John Taylor organized the St. Joseph Stake in February of 1883. At that time, the St. Joseph Stake stretched from Miami, Ariz., to El Paso, Texas. One of the most notable people of the St. Joseph Stake was Spencer W. Kimball, who became President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1973 and served until his death in 1985. President Kimball was known for his great love for people.