CEDAR CITY, UTAH
In 1917, Madelon J. Paynes’ parents homesteaded 1,280 acres in the Cedar City, Utah, area. On the morning of Aug. 8, she, along with some 1,600 other Latter-day Saints and community members, attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the Cedar City Utah Temple on land that used to belong to her father.
“As a child we’d come up here to chase Dad’s sheep, never in the world dreaming a temple would be in Cedar City, let alone my father’s property,” said Sister Payne. She and her sister, Laurena J. Adams, still live on part of that property in the Cedar Meadows Ward, Cedar City Utah Cross Hollow Stake, only two miles away from where the temple will stand.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy, who presided at the groundbreaking ceremony, honored the pioneer settlers of Cedar City in his remarks. “As we break this ground we remember them and their devotion and gratefully acknowledge what they accomplished,” he said.
Civic, tribal and religious leaders from the region that makes up the proposed temple district attended the ceremony. The area stretches “from Boulder and Escalante on the east; Ely, Nevada, and Milford, Utah, on the north; towns within Lincoln County, Nevada, on the west; and New Harmony, Utah, on the south,” said Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department. In chapels all through that area, thousands more members gathered to witness the groundbreaking ceremony via live webcast.
Elder Clayton encouraged members to apply the construction of the temple as a metaphor to how their own lives are built. “For God intends not to just build this temple, but to make us temples,” he said. “We’re told that we are the temples of the most high and that He dwells within us.”
One of the ways Elder Clayton encouraged members to prepare for the new temple is to engage in finding names for temple work. “[This is] a time to invigorate our family history work to ensure the Cedar City Utah Temple will have abundant work to do, brought to the temple by those who live in the temple district,” he said.
Elder Richards said that just as finding a renewable, sustainable source of water was essential to settlers of this arid region, finding a “well of living water” is essential to spiritual nourishment. “The prophet Ezekiel from the Old Testament talked about water flowing from the house of the Lord, and everything it touched was brought to life,” he said. “In that metaphor, it flowed into the Dead Sea and enlivened it and brought it back to life.”
Elder Richards said, “Let us take the time to pray and think and prepare for this beautiful edifice that we might be filled with the living water. As we make our own covenants and receive the ordinances, and then come regularly to receive them for our families you will be filled with living water.”
Elder Dane Leavitt, an Area Seventy and head of the groundbreaking committee, told the Church News that the people in the area feel gratitude for the use of the St. George temple for many years. "It is a temple that is sweet to each of us," he said. But as residents contemplate a temple within their own community, "We feel deep appreciation to the Church for the opportunity and also a sense of responsibility as a community to prepare ourselves in the physical aspects but also in preparing our lives."
In his remarks during the groundbreaking, Elder Leavitt told members, "Across the months ahead, may we prepare. As we witness the rise of walls, as we watch spires reach, may we likewise rise to a higher plane. May we reach for better things, may we serve in better ways."
Elder Clayton, Elder Richards and Elder Leavitt were joined in speaking at the event by their wives, Sister Kathy Clayton, Sister Marsha Richards and Sister Ruth Leavitt.
Sister Clayton explained that the word "break" can have a negative connotation. “Yet we are here to break ground, to think of the flip side of that coin and the positive possibilities in breaking. For example, breaking a seed to invite growth. Breaking bread to satisfy hunger. And most importantly, allowing our hearts to be broken that will welcome in the Spirit of the Lord to heal us and make us whole.”
“We know that we come to the temple to receive Heavenly Father’s greatest blessings,” said Sister Richards, “and we know that it is always a journey.” No one is alone on this path to the temple, she said, “most especially because of our Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ.” Because They have invited everyone to take that journey, no one need fear it, Sister Richards said. “As we seek the blessings of happiness and unified families, those beautiful blessings that are there, available for all of us, we can trust that our journeys will be successful,” she said.
In her remarks, Sister Leavitt — who resides in Cedar City — expressed her desire to serve within the temple upon its completion. “I’m even more thrilled for the youth and young adults who attend school in this area to be able to have the convenience of having a temple here,” she said.
Youth in the area have already begun serving. Carol Walker, who served as an usher during the groundbreaking and is a Young Women leader in the Beacon Hill Ward, Cedar City North Stake, said her youth had the opportunity to pull tumbleweeds on the road leading to the temple site. “It’s wonderful to see the youth getting involved in the process,” she said.
After Elder Clayton offered the dedicatory prayer, other community leaders — including the 17 stake presidents in the proposed temple district — were invited to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony, each turning over a shovelful of dirt. Elder Clayton and Elder Richards then operated a trackhoe to break ground in the land that the temple will stand on.