TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Elder Gerrit W. Gong could aptly be called an “adopted son” of Taylorsville.
The member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is California-born — but he has deep connections to this diverse, history-rich city located near the center of the Salt Lake Valley. His wife, Sister Susan Lindsay Gong, is a Taylorsville native, and his in-laws — the late Elder Richard P. and Sister Marian Bangerter Lindsay — are beloved members of this community and represent a legacy of local ecclesiastical leadership.
Elder Gong knows Taylorsville well, and more importantly, he knows well the devotion of many faithful Latter-day Saints who call it home. Some are fifth- and sixth-generation members whose pioneer ancestors helped settle Taylorsville. Others are relative newcomers who are enriching the Taylorsville community and their local wards.
“It’s a very special blessing to participate in any temple groundbreaking and site dedication,” he said after presiding at Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Taylorsville Utah Temple. “But for us here, particularly with multiple generations in our own family, this is a special privilege. … This is a great community, and it represents such a wonderful part of the Church.”
The Apostle shared remarks at the morning gathering before offering the dedicatory prayer that signals the beginning of what will be the Salt Lake Valley’s fifth temple.
During his remarks and afterwards in conversations with reporters, Elder Gong referenced the rich blend of heritages, languages and cultures that defines Taylorsville. The future temple, he promised, will be a blessing to all in the community.
“It’s just a wonderful day to have that whole spectrum of all of us who are here — one in heart, one in mind.”
Elder Gong was joined Saturday by Sister Lindsay and his mother-in-law, Sister Marian Lindsay. Also participating were Elder Craig C. Christensen, a General Authority Seventy and Utah Area President, and his wife, Sister Debbie Christensen, along with Elder Dean M. Davies, a General Authority Seventy.
Besides the participating Brethren, only a few people attended Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony because of the ongoing pandemic. But the event was recorded, so people living within the future Taylorsville temple district and beyond can soon watch the proceedings and enjoy the words of Elder Gong and the other local members who share brief testimonies.
Folks attending Saturday’s small gathering were, of course, thrilled to be with Elder and Sister Gong. The couple both fought a recent bout with COVID-19 before making a full recovery.
“We’re glad to be out in public again,” Elder Gong said after the ceremony. “There are no lingering effects. But we know that’s not been the case for everyone, and our hearts are still with those who are suffering or those who have lost loved ones.”
The Taylorsville temple was announced by President Russell M. Nelson during the women’s session of the October 2019 general conference. Less than 10 weeks later, the First Presidency identified the site location, which is centrally located within the Salt Lake Valley just west of Interstate 215 and southwest of the belt route’s 4700 South exchange.
The 7.5-acre site at 2603 W. 4700 South will accommodate a three-story, 70,000-square-foot building and a center spire.
During his remarks, Elder Gong spoke of how the future Taylorsville temple is already connecting people “in deep ways” across generations and cultures.
“We are united in our love for the Lord, and in our gratitude as fellow citizens in this Taylorsville Utah Temple area.”
Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Steadman Overson joined Elder Gong and the others in Saturday’s ceremonial “turning of the soil” following the dedicatory prayer.
The mayor’s family has called Taylorsville home for generations. Her father, Stanley, was a beloved bishop and her mother, Mavis, taught drama to thousands of Taylorsville youth at Eisenhower Junior High School.
“This is so exciting for Taylorsville — what a great opportunity for all of our neighbors and friends,” she said.
The mayor’s fellow Taylorsville native, Sister Susan Gong, told the Church News that the future temple will be built on the same site of a former meetinghouse where her father served as a bishop. “This is holy ground … a piece of Zion” she said.
Sister Gong’s sister, Sharon Lindsay Lyons, remembers the joyful surge her extended family felt collectively when the Taylorsville temple was announced.
“This is such a sacred spot for so many of us,” she said.
Following the ceremony, Elder Davies said the Church’s prolific temple building occurring in Utah and across the globe is “part of our Heavenly Father’s plan to help His children return home to Him. It is all about families.”
With dozens of future temples in development or under construction, he added, “this is the most significant temple building time in the history of the Church.”
Elder Christensen said the multiple temples being built in the Utah Area reflects the faithfulness of the Saints. The many who live within the boundaries of the future Taylorsville Utah Temple district will now find strength watching the edifice being built from the ground up.
“It will be a foundational piece for the faith of the Saints that live in this area,” he said.
Preston Wakefield is a longtime Taylorsville resident and priesthood leader. Following Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony, he’s already begun counting down the days until a beautiful temple inside of his own community is dedicated and inviting people to follow Christ.
“The level of excitement for this temple rises everyday,” he said. “We’re just so grateful.”