Out of the ashes of a beloved tabernacle, the Church will build the Provo City Center Temple, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on May 12.
Presiding at the groundbreaking of Provo's second temple, Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated "already sacred ground for an even more sacred purpose."
A devastating fire gutted the historic Provo Tabernacle in December of 2010. Originally constructed between 1883 and 1898, the building was a community gathering place for meetings and cultural events in Provo.
After the fire, Church leaders contemplated the future of the tabernacle shell. President Thomas S. Monson announced during general conference in October of 2011 that a temple would be constructed on the site.
More than 5,600 people gathered on the future temple grounds on a beautiful Saturday morning for groundbreaking ceremonies, during which Elder Holland spoke and offered a prayer of dedication. Also delivering remarks were Sister Patricia Holland, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and Elder Cecil O. Samuelson, emeritus Seventy and president of Brigham Young University. The proceedings were broadcast to LDS meetinghouses throughout Provo and Springville, Utah.
The Provo City Center Temple is expected to be completed in three years and will include underground parking.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Church leaders were joined by government and civic leaders in turning over shovels filled with soil to signify the beginning of work on the site.
Elder and Sister Holland attended their first LDS Church meeting together on the site in 1963, nearly 50 years ago. Elder Holland said that he and his family have been sharing experiences on the site ever since.
"I am as thrilled as anyone is in this audience today," he said.
Looking out at the multitude of people seated on the property, Elder Holland noted that more people were attending the groundbreaking event than have been on the site before or will be again.
"What an absolutely stunning site," he said. "A picture-perfect day in Utah County. … And these grounds are filled, as much as possible and practical, with faithful people making history. Sometimes we are so close to history we don't realize we are making it."
He called the site dedication a "remarkable moment."
"This community means really everything to us," he said. "We now have a worldwide ministry but there are certain locations that have made us who we are and what we are."
Elder Holland said he is thrilled with the significance of two temples located within a mile of each other in "the shadow of 'Y mountain' and near the shores of Utah Lake."
He said for more than 100 years, the Provo Tabernacle hosted stake conferences and worship services of all kinds, firesides, funerals, lectures, concerts and graduation services. "It has heard the voice of at least one president of the United States, William Howard Taft, and, by my count, at least 12 presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," he said. "No other public space in Provo has ever had such valued and varied use, and no other structure in this county has been such an integral part of the religious and civic life here."
Elder Holland read an excerpt of the original prayer of dedication of a portion of the building by Abraham O. Smoot. "We dedicate this room and all that it contains to thy service for the purpose of meeting together and learning of thy ways," said Elder Smoot in the dedicatory prayer.
Elder Holland said that statement — which spoke of Latter-day Saints gathering and learning of the Lord's ways — was a pronouncement years ago of days to come.
Elder Holland then dedicated "already sacred ground for an even more sacred purpose — the construction of the Provo City Center Temple."
Sister Holland also spoke of the love for and deep ties her family has in the Provo community.
"Many of us here today were devastated to hear of the nature of the fire and destruction to this building just a few short years ago. I remember when I called to tell my children of this accident they wept. This was their stake center. This was their center of strength. … However, what we thought was devastation has, as with all things of the Lord, turned out to be a marvelous celebration this day."
Elder Clayton quoted the psalmist: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
"We feel a great spirit of joy this day as we contemplate was lies ahead in this beautiful location," he said.
Elder Samuelson called the day a "grand experience" and "historic occasion."
"You know it is historic as we celebrate the beginnings of another new temple and historic as we recognize the blessing of the rebirth of the iconic Provo Tabernacle, literally rising from the ashes of a horrible fire to become a temple of the Lord."
He said the day was wonderful not only for Provo, but also for BYU.
Elder Walker, executive director of the Temple Department, said the new temple is one of 29 temples that President Thomas S. Monson announced since he became the president of the Church a little more than four years ago. The temple will serve Latter-day Saints from 16 stakes in Provo and Springville, Utah.
"I think it is significant that this temple will be a blessing not just to the temple-going Latter-day Saints in this community; this will be a great blessing to the entire community of Provo and the surrounding communities. This truly is a sacred place and it is filled with great history."
After the dedication services, congregation members were allowed to also turn the soil at the groundbreaking site.
Many lingered at the site.
Jennifer King and her mother-in-law, Laura King, remained in their chairs long after the meeting ended.
"I don't want to go home," Jennifer said. "I want to sit here for awhile."