Leaders honor faithful, unified members in Tooele Valley as they break ground for Deseret Peak Utah Temple

TOOELE, Utah — With the ceremonial turning of shovelfuls of soil, the Deseret Peak Utah Temple is now under construction and firmly entrenched in its location, following a name change and site relocation in northwest Tooele in the 25 months since the temple was first announced.

The temple will serve faithful Latter-day Saints in the Tooele Valley who have, for decades, been part of the Salt Lake Temple District.

With the namesake mountain serving as a fitting backdrop, Elder Brook P. Hales, a General Authority Seventy, presided at the Saturday, May 15, groundbreaking ceremony for the Deseret Peak Utah Temple.

Elder Brook P. Hales, a General Authority Seventy, turns over dirt with grandson Clark Hales, 4, during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Elder Brook P. Hales, a General Authority Seventy, turns over dirt with grandson Clark Hales, 4, during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

A Tooele Valley resident for nearly three decades, Elder Hales also offered the dedicatory prayer, giving thanks for and blessing the site and ensuing construction efforts. He also prayed for the Latter-day Saints residing in the temple district, “that they may feel the godly power of this sacred edifice.”

Similar to other groundbreakings conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was an invitation-only event and initially announced without a specific date.

However, with the lessening of local government restrictions, some 220 individuals — including local stake presidents, as well as state and local government and community leaders — participated in the event. Many in the audience were seated in the geographic location of what will be the celestial room area of the new temple’s footprint.

Also, the event marked the Church’s first livestreamed broadcast of a groundbreaking ceremony over the internet to members of the temple district, with previous pandemic-period groundbreakings shared days after the ceremony.

Elder Brook P. Hales, a General Authority Seventy, speaks during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Elder Brook P. Hales, a General Authority Seventy, speaks during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

A ‘first’ perspective

Elder Hales, secretary to the First Presidency, recounted the area’s history, which was home to the Goshute tribe and other Native Americans before the arrival of settlers sent by Brigham Young in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Several past members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — including current Church President Russell M. Nelson — have acknowledged publicly over the past quarter century the strength and potential growth of both the general and the Latter-day Saint populations in the Tooele Valley, Elder Hales added.

He listed several things that draw individuals to temples — the Spirit of the Lord that is evident and strong; the service provided through temple work to one’s immediate and extended family as well as to the deceased; the peaceful, comforting connection between heaven and earth; and the blessing to receive covenants that bind one to God.

John Hales, 2, grandson of Elder Brook P. Hales, a General Authority Seventy, turns over dirt during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
John Hales, 2, grandson of Elder Brook P. Hales, a General Authority Seventy, turns over dirt during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Temple timeline — so far

Announced during the April 2019 general conference by President Nelson, the temple was initially known as the Tooele Valley Utah Temple. Five months later, on Sept. 25, the first temple location was formally identified for the nearby community of Erda, Utah.

A year after the temple announcement, an exterior rendering was published on April 7, 2020, with interior design renderings following later that month.

In May 2020, the Tooele County Commission approved a recommendation by Church officials to rezone 167 adjacent acres to a planned community zone, with the plan to include 32 acres of open space, walking trails, parks and more than 400 residences.

Some local residents voiced concerns about the high density of the proposed project and impact on the small, rural community of Erda. After the county commission approved the rezone, some residents launched a petition to force the matter to be decided by a public referendum, which couldn’t be done until June 2021. In August 2020, the Church withdrew its community-development plans.

Attendees gather during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking ceremony in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Attendees gather during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking ceremony in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In an Aug. 18, 2020, letter, the First Presidency wrote: “We acknowledge the efforts of those who have raised questions and sincere concerns about the Tooele Valley temple project, including the residential development surrounding the temple. There is a sincere desire on the part of the Church to avoid discord in the community.

“Therefore, regardless of the outcome of a pending signature-gathering effort, we have determined to withdraw our rezoning request for the residential portion of the temple project.”

On Jan. 19, 2021, the First Presidency announced the temple’s new Deseret Peak name and new location — west of the intersection at 2400 North and 400 West in Tooele, about 2.6 miles southwest of the previous location. Elder Hales said President Nelson personally visited the prospective temple sites in November 2020 before settling on the current location.

With the announcement, the First Presidency expressed gratitude for the faith and prayers of Church members in this area and continued encouragement for all people to treat one another with kindness and Christlike love.

Exterior, interior renderings

Construction specifications

In addition to the 168 dedicated temples worldwide, the Deseret Peak temple becomes the 36th temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently under construction.

The three-story temple will be approximately 70,000 square feet, with a central tower, cast-stone exterior and copper shingles. An adjacent new 20,000-square-foot meetinghouse will also be built.

Shovels used during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Shovels used during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Heavy equipment will start preparatory work on the 17.98-acre temple site beginning Monday, May 17, said Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department, which oversees temple construction and renovation.

Construction for the Deseret Peak temple — a sister in size and general design to the Taylorsville Utah and Orem Utah temples that were started last year — is expected to take 23 to 24 months, Roberts said.

Sacrifice and blessings, miracles and healings

Tooele Valley residents Dianne Rose, Kim A. Halladay and Merna J. Dalton spoke during the hour-long service, underscoring the joys and blessings of temple work and temple service for those on both sides of the veil.

“We depend on them, and they depend on us,” said Rose, emphasizing the blessings of living and proxy endowments and sealings. “It’s the very purpose of the temple work we do.”

Tooele stake presidents participate during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Tooele stake presidents participate during the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking in Tooele, Utah, on Saturday, May 15, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Halladay, who has presided over two stakes in Tooele, shared a lifetime of memories of temple attendance and service, including early Saturday morning shifts at the Salt Lake Temple which meant getting up at 3 a.m. and being on the road by 4 a.m. — followed by work later as a temple sealer. “It was not a sacrifice,” he said. “It was a privilege and an honor to be in the Lord’s house.”

And Dalton, citing the historic prophecy of temples someday dotting the earth, said, “It’s ‘someday’ now, and we’re finally getting a temple.” Likening the temple to a center post for a large tent covering the temple district, the temple uplifts and strengthens God’s children — “and it’s going to help us find our way home,”

Richard Droubay, who chaired the committee that for the past year had planned and prepared for Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony, said he has witnessed miracles leading up to the event.

The most recent was the day before, with thousands of dollars of borrowed landscaping elements waiting to be placed at the event site and a wind-driven storm bearing directly toward the borrowed trees and shrubs. At the last minute, the storm seemed to split in two, passing the site on either side and sparing potential damage.

Perhaps the most heart-warming miracle, however, was the healing of hearts and unity among Tooele Valley residents following last year’s community division regarding the initial temple site in Erda.

“We’ve not had a cross word — nobody has been disparaging of the site,” said Droubay, adding “the healing has been good.”