What brought 2,500-plus youth to the Pocatello Idaho Temple site before the groundbreaking happened

Looking for a green-friendly, cost-free method of clearing out 13 acres of sagebrush in under 30 minutes?

It's been done before — just ask Latter-day Saint youth living in the future Pocatello Idaho Temple District.

Prior to the March 16 groundbreaking ceremony, more than 2,500 young people and their advisors — armed with picks, pruners and shovels — made short work of clearing the brush growing wild across the temple site.

Watching young people from all corners of the community answer a call to serve, “was a highlight of the groundbreaking experience,” said Troy Dye, a former stake president who helped coordinate the groundbreaking events.

Soil that was once used for dry farming had become overrun with sagebrush and grass. It needed clearing to ensure a dignified groundbreaking ceremony.

Perhaps organizers could have contracted with a professional work crew to prepare the site for the groundbreaking. But local leaders understood that would be passing up a once-in-a-lifetime experience for young people who would soon be calling the Pocatello temple their own.

“The temple site is sacred ground — and we felt that the youth who will be sealed and endowed and attend this temple needed to have a connection to the temple that will last forever.”

So instructions went out to 20 stake presidents across the district to gather their young women and young men together on the evening of March 5 and head to the temple site.

Organizers estimated about 1,000 youth would take part. And the southern Idaho weather in March can be a bit sketchy. Organizers didn’t know if snowfall would undermine their plans.

Pocatello-area youth and their leaders gather in meetinghouse parking lot for instructions prior to clearing out sagebrush and grass on the site of the future Pocatello Idaho Temple.
Pocatello-area youth and their leaders gather in meetinghouse parking lot for instructions prior to clearing out sagebrush and grass on the site of the future Pocatello Idaho Temple.

“But the weather cooperated,” said Dye. “We started with a prayer around 5:30 p.m., and it was shocking to see the response.”

The number of arriving youth more than doubled their expectations. Local news reports noted that traffic was backed up deep along Interstate-15 near the Pocatello Creek Road exit because so many vehicles were trying to access the temple site.

“Of course we’re excited,” 16-year-old Jane Jacobsmeyer told the Idaho State Journal. “When we’re older, we’ll be able to take our kids or grandkids here and tell them we helped prepare this ground for the temple.”

A massive workforce makes for a short work project. All of the sagebrush was out of the ground in under 30 minutes.

Using GPS coordinates, organizers marked the spot where the celestial room is expected to be located in the future temple. It was a popular spot for photos. Meanwhile, a camera-equipped drone went airborne to capture the project from the sky.

A few of the youths even took home a sprig of sagebrush as mementos. Meanwhile, several news agencies filed stories of the clean-up project.

Aerial photo captures the massive youth clean-up effort at the site of the future Pocatello Idaho Temple prior to the March 16, 2019, groundbreaking ceremony.
Aerial photo captures the massive youth clean-up effort at the site of the future Pocatello Idaho Temple prior to the March 16, 2019, groundbreaking ceremony.

In his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony, Elder Brian K. Taylor of the Idaho Area Presidency shared the faith-building experience of John Moyle, an early Church pioneer and a master stonemason who offered his skills to help build and prepare the Salt Lake Temple.

Now thousands of Pocatello-area youth will have their own “temple prep” stories to share across generations.

“This will be their temple — and now they will always have a connection,” said Dye. “It was an emotional experience to see all those youth arrive.”

Dozens of Pocatello-area Latter-day Saints are likely still driving vehicles with mud-caked interiors. And they’re probably okay with that.

After all, as many here have said, it’s “sacred dirt.”