In two weeks of public tours at the new Vernal Utah Temple, more than 100,000 people will have visited the sacred edifice.
As of Oct. 22, 138,500 free tickets had been ordered, with about a 30 percent "no-show" rate on Saturdays and about 15 percent the other days.The open house has gone smoothly, with favorable weather most days, as visitors received their first inside glimpse of what will be the Church's 51st operating temple and the 10th in Utah.
Public tours began Oct. 11 and were to conclude Oct. 25. The temple will then be readied for 11 dedicatory sessions Nov. 2-4, with the First Presidency presiding. The dedicatory sessions are primarily limited to Church members living within the temple district, comprising stakes in eastern Utah, western Colorado and southwestern Wyoming. Tickets for the dedicatory sessions are obtained from bishops and given to Church members in good standing.
Converted and expanded from the historic Uintah Tabernacle, which was completed in 1907, the new temple provides a present-day link to the dedication and commitment of Latter-day Saints of earlier days in eastern Utah's Ashley Valley.
One of those Saints, whose memory is cherished among long-time residents, is William H. Smart, president of the Unitah Stake at the time the tabernacle was dedicated by President Joseph F. Smith in August 1907.
Pres. Smart's descendents planned to gather in Vernal on the last day of open house tours where, as the Smart Family Temple Choir, they were to present background music for visitors waiting in line to enter the temple. They were also going to tour Vernal and plant a family tree across the street from the temple in the yard of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers museum. "It will remind us that no matter where we wander in the world, our roots started in a little town called Vernal and with a tabernacle that `grew up' to become one of the most beautiful temples on earth,' " said Larry Maddocks, a family representative.
Among those with memories of Pres. Smart is Alva C. Snow, president of the new temple. Illustrating the stake president's generosity, Pres. Snow recalled that Pres. Smart was wont to purchase an entire haystack from a farmer, with instructions that the hay be available to anyone who might need it.
In a life-sketch written by his grandson, former Deseret News editor William B. Smart, Pres. Smart was remembered as a "Builder in the
In the sketch, Brother Smart recounted that his grandfather established the Uintah Telephone Co. in Vernal in 1907, he was the controlling stockholder and president of Vernal's first bank, he acquired the Vernal Express newspaper, and that he was the moving force in building the first flourmill, the electric power plant, the Vernal waterworks, the Vernal amusement hall and the Uintah Stake Academy.
"On horseback or in his white-top buggy behind his famous white mules, Maude and Molly, he roamed the basin constantly, from rim to mountain rim, examining timber and water and soil, determining where towns should be built and then personally seeing that they were built there," Brother Smart wrote in the life sketch. "Under his direction the towns of Duchesne, Myton and Randlett were platted in 1905. A year later Roosevelt – originally it was named Dry Gulch – was laid out on land William H. Smart purchased and made available to settlers. There, and again in Duchesne, he repeated the Vernal story, building banks and businesses and whatever else was needed to put those towns on their feet.
" . . . Why did he do all this? Certainly not to build his own fortune. He entered the Uintah Basin a wealthy man. He left it a quarter of a century later in near poverty. Despite great organizational genius, and despite his awesome energy, he never prospered personally, partly because whenver he had a good thing going he promptly turned it over to someone else in order to attract good people into the basin and partly because his trust in those he sought to help was sometimes misplaced."
Daughter-in-law Doris Merle Hardy Smart is a member of the William H. Smart family planning to gather at the temple Oct. 25. At age 98, she remembers the occasion when the building was dedicated as the Uintah Tabernacle on Aug. 24, 1907.
She was 8 years old at the time, and was baptized just a few days later, on Aug. 31, 1907, in a large canal east of Vernal.
A member of the Mt. Rose 2nd Ward, Reno Nevada Stake, she has served as ward Relief Society president and a member of the stake Relief Society board. With her husband, Thomas Lawrence Smart, she served two missions: one at the Oakland Temple Visitors Center and the other as a proselyting missionary in the California Fresno Mission. He died shortly afterward. Today, she attends the Oakland Temple regularly, travels as much as possible, continues to learn, and lives in her home alone, making do for herself with the help of family members living nearby.
With her brother and sister-in-law, Homer and Beverly Hardy, Sister Smart toured the new temple on Oct. 15.
"She was so pleased and so happy, and showing us so many things," Sister Hardy commented. "She's quite an alert woman. She was so thrilled and thinks it is marvelous."
Sister Hardy said her sister-in-law's eyes were tearful when the party entered the celestial room of the temple. " `I just can't help it,' " she said. "It was a real event in our lives."