During the St. Joseph Stake conference held on Jan. 30, 1898, visiting Apostle John W. Taylor made Latter-day Saints in The Gila Valley an unforgettable promise: “One of the most beautiful temples that was ever built among the Saints in the Rocky Mountains will be built in this valley.”
Time passed. Locals told their children and grandchildren about the promise.
Then in a letter dated May 1, 1973, from President Spencer W. Kimball to Seth G. Mattice — a personal friend and newly sustained stake president — the subject came up again.
“About 80 years ago approximately, one of the conference visitors from Salt Lake predicted that there would be a temple in The Gila Valley,” wrote President Kimball. “In the many years that the stake has carried on but has not grown greatly and with the realization that one could hardly see any future that would bring a great population to The Gila Valley, yet if that prophecy was made by inspiration, then the Lord will find a way to do it.”
And the Lord did.
The Gila Valley Arizona Temple — the Church’s 132nd temple worldwide and third in Arizona — was dedicated by President Thomas S. Monson in three sessions May 23.
The 18,561 square-foot temple will serve 21,000 Latter-day Saints in the Gila Valley and areas of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, has family roots in The Gila Valley; President Kimball was his uncle.
Indeed, he said, the temple is beautiful, just as Elder Taylor prophesied it would be more than 110 years ago. “I had a feeling that it was going to be lovely, but it was even grander than what I had seen in my mind,” said President Eyring of the temple.
Mark S. Bryce, coordinator of the local temple committee, said numerous visitors to the temple used one word over and over again to describe it — beautiful. “Every time they would say it, I would think to myself, ‘The prophecy is fulfilled!’ ”