The May 15 groundbreaking ceremony for the Deseret Peak Utah Temple had just ended, and leaders and guests from the 220 gathered were being called up as groups to turn shovelfuls of soil at the temple site in northwest Tooele, Utah.
With all the attention directed to the front, a lanky, elderly man briskly walked to the back of where some of the media representatives had gathered and on toward cars parked a short distance away. The man and I made eye contact and exchanged a nod of greeting.
“Wait — he looks familiar,” I thought, even though I’m not personally acquainted with many people from the Tooele area.
A glance at the empty chair on the rostrum where speakers had been seated during the program confirmed my suspicion. The man making the beeline away from the shovel turning and the celebrating congregation was Kim A. Halladay, who had been one of several making formal remarks at the event.
A former stake president having presided over two Tooele stakes and a podiatrist by trade, Halladay spoke of the impact of temples and temple attendance in his life. He recalled learning at a young age of his parents’ attending the Salt Lake Temple monthly, and he recounted Saturday morning temple shifts that started by rising at 3 a.m. and hitting the road by 4.
He stopped when I called out to him and expressed appreciation for the message he had shared. He thanked me, adding an explanation for his hasty departure: “I’ve got to run — I’ve got to fill an assignment in the temple.”
Rather than shake hands with friends or thrust a commemorative shovel into the dirt to celebrate the start of a new temple, Halladay was off to serve in an existing one.
The faithfulness of temple service and attendance of those in the Tooele Valley over the decades is well documented, no matter if Tooele and surrounding communities were assigned to the Salt Lake Temple district — as traditionally has been the case — or the districts of the Jordan River, Bountiful or Oquirrh Mountain temples because of closures or redistricting.
Elder Brook P. Hales, the General Authority Seventy who presided over the Deseret Peak temple’s groundbreaking, said Tooele area Latter-day Saints have at times accounted for nearly one third of the temple workers and volunteers at the Salt Lake Temple.
Recognizing that many Church members across the globe face greater distances to reach the temple, Elder Hales said he hopes a temple soon in Tooele will help temple attendance and service even more for the local Latter-day Saints.
Said Richard Droubay, the former stake president who chaired the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking committee: “President Halladay slipping away today to fill a temple assignment — that’s just in character for many of the Saints we have in this valley who would do the exact same thing.”
And done that they have — even in the Wasatch Front’s inclement weather, making the drive between Farnsworth Peak and the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake.
Droubay shared the perspective of the half-dozen Salt Lake Temple presidents he has known and their experiences in witnessing the temple faithfulness of the Tooele area Saints.
“Whenever there was bad weather — the roads were icy or snowy — the people from Tooele Valley would be there to fill their assignments,” he said. “It didn’t matter that they had to get up an hour or two hours earlier to be there. They were always there.”
For Droubay, the sole disappointment of the Deseret Peak Utah Temple’s May 15 groundbreaking was the fact that onsite, in-person attendance was limited to about 220 people, due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.
“The saddest part of all of this is that we could not have every person here that wanted to be here, because there’s great faith and great personal integrity among the people here. And President Halladay is a good representation of the valley. …
“But soon we’ll have our own temple,” he added, “and we’re absolutely thrilled with that.”
In his remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony, Halladay noted that he and his wife had just submitted mission papers. Depending on the length of the mission assignment and the actual duration of the temple construction, which is projected to be about 23 or 24 months, Halladay will likely not see the temple being built and may even miss its open house and dedication.
But missing the pomp and circumstance of a temple event in order to serve would be nothing new for him.