On a warm, late-autumn morning with the silhouette of swaying palm trees in the distance, Elder Art Rascon, an Area Seventy, offered the dedicatory prayer to begin construction of the McAllen Texas Temple.
Located in a hidden corner of south Texas, less than 10 miles from the Mexico border, the McAllen temple will be the fifth for the Lone Star State, following Dallas, Houston, Lubbock and San Antonio.
COVID-19 restrictions kept attendees to the Saturday, Nov. 21, ceremony to a minimum; however, the proceedings were made available to Church members throughout the temple district, which includes stakes throughout McAllen, Corpus Christi and Laredo, as well as the northeastern Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
Although Saturday’s groundbreaking is just one of 21 scheduled in 2020 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the sacred ceremony was eagerly awaited by Church members and the community.
The City of McAllen has been “anxiously cooperative” as plans for the temple have been moving forward, said President Timothy Olson, the local temple committee chairman, and he and the temple committee have been overwhelmed by the response of local Church members who have wanted to be involved in the process.
“Having a temple in McAllen is a miracle,” President Olson said.
He and his wife, Sister Rose Ann Olson, were serving as president and companion of the Mexico City Mexico Missionary Training Center when COVID-19 began to spread and the Church sent its missionaries back to their home countries. With no missionaries left at the MTC, the Olsons returned home to McAllen where they were then asked to head the local temple committee.
The military brought the two to McAllen in 1977, and they never left. “Once you get to Texas, it’s hard to get out of Texas,” President Olson quipped and not just because it’s roughly 800 miles from north to south.
The strong Hispanic culture in the area that prizes family and faith in God appealed to them. “It’s just a good place to raise kids and a good place for business,” he said. He and his wife raised their seven children there.
Latter-day Saints within the Rio Grande Valley are faithful, loving and humble, President Olson said. He looks forward to the day following COVID-19 precautions when they can gather together again and enjoy a sincere “abrazo” — embrace.
In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Rascon expressed gratitude for the many thousands of Latter-day Saints “in this lovely valley in southern Texas and across the border into Mexico” who worked to establish the Church. “Their faith, patience and perseverance in the midst of many afflictions have made the miracle of this day possible,” he said. “We thank Thee, Heavenly Father, for their longsuffering, fervent prayers and continued diligence to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The temple was announced during the women’s session of the October 2019 general conference by President Russell M. Nelson. The site located on the northwest corner of Second Street and Trenton Road was announced on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, and the rendering released on Friday, Aug. 28.
The site plans for the temple in McAllen are “gorgeous,” President Olson said. The McAllen temple will be a single-story edifice with a center spire and roughly 25,000 square feet. The 10.5-acre site is comfortably situated in Northwest McAllen and will be the “gem of the entire valley,” President Olson told the Church News.
To the groundbreaking attendees, Elder Rascon said: “As the central spire rises heavenward to this beautiful house of the Lord, might we as God’s children ever increase our faith and look to the heavens for wisdom and not to the ever-shifting values of the world. This temple will bring us closer to God.”
More than 357,000 members reside in 75 stakes and 698 congregations in Texas, which also has eight missions.