How connections became a theme at the groundbreaking of the Syracuse Utah Temple, the Church’s 38th under construction

SYRACUSE, Utah — Connections proved to be a common thread at the Saturday, June 12, groundbreaking ceremony for the Syracuse Utah Temple, the latest of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ temples to begin construction.

The messages from ceremony speakers underscored the connections with Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ through temple ordinances and covenants, which seal families today, link Latter-day Saints to their ancestors and help them prepare for the coming of future generations.

And the connections continued from there.

Connections of generations, love, temple work

For Elder Kevin R. Duncan, the General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Temple Department who presided at the event, it served as a homecoming for him.

His great-grandfather was the first bishop of the Syracuse Ward, and Elder Duncan grew up less than a mile and half north of the temple site. He was able to see the family barn roof off in the distance Saturday, and he recalled thinning beets, harvesting onions and hunting across the local fields.

“Your heart is full, because you know the soil — you probably still have some under your fingernails,” said Elder Duncan, who offered an address and a dedicatory prayer on the property, the construction process and the preparation of local Latter-day Saints to attend and work in the temple following its completion.

“This isn’t just land — my heart is here, and I love this place more than I can possibly describe,” he added. “And then to understand why we build temples and then to have one right here is just indescribable.”

Elder Dean M. Davies, General Authority Seventy, speaks during groundbreaking for the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
Elder Dean M. Davies, General Authority Seventy, speaks during groundbreaking for the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For Elder Dean M. Davies of the Seventy, one of several speakers at the ceremony, the connection was one of love — how a temple represents the love of the Father and the Son, the love of living prophets and the love of members past, present and future, all over the world.

The house of the Lord, he said, “is the virtual evidence of the Lord’s tangible love for His people. He reached out and provides these houses where we can learn of Him and His Son and be united as families. You really can’t describe it — it just fills your heart with gratitude.”

The connections carried over to those attending the groundbreaking, such as for Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and his wife, first lady Abby Cox. Her grandfather served as a stake president in Syracuse, with her father growing up in the community.

“It’s incredible to see the hastening that is happening and to be a part of it,” said Spencer Cox, attending his first temple groundbreaking and mindful that the Syracuse temple is one of 27 operating, under construction or announced for the state.

And for Marylynne and Mark S. Thayne, who co-chaired the groundbreaking event committee, important connections were found among the Latter-day Saints in attendance. Rather than a ceremony congregation comprised mostly of local Church leaders from the north Davis County communities of Syracuse, Clearfield, Clinton, West Point and Sunset, many invited to attend were individuals and families who are preparing to go to the temple or who recently returned to the temple.

Marylynne Thayne said a highlight was personally inviting these members, listening to their temple-focused stories and then watching a group of children — all recently sealed to their parents — invited to join Elder Duncan and Sister Nancy Duncan in turning ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt after the event’s conclusion.

Similar to other groundbreakings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was by invitation only. However, when the Thaynes started planning less than five months ago, the attendance limit was 30 — but by Saturday, it had grown to 150, with attendees including civic and community leaders and representatives of nearby Hill Air Force Base.

An exterior rendering of the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on display during the temple's groundbreaking ceremony in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
An exterior rendering of the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on display during the temple’s groundbreaking ceremony in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

‘God wants you to have this temple’

Mindful of his own connections to the temple site as well as similar multigenerational ties that others attending or watching the groundbreaking ceremony had, Elder Duncan linked all of them together.

“No matter if you’re a longtime resident or a ‘modern-day pioneer’ this will be your temple. … God wants you to have this temple. He wants you to be strengthened, to withstand the challenges of life. He wants you to have exaltation and eternal life. He wants you to be saved with your family. He wants you to be happy. He wants all of us to return home to Him.

“Isn’t it amazing to watch how God is directing the growth of temples throughout the world? He desires that covenants and ordinances become more accessible to all of His children. The Lord has impressed upon the First Presidency in a powerful way that this work must go forward in a hastened way. How blessed we are to be upon the earth at this time when the work of salvation is flooding the earth.”

He concluded his message with an invitation and promise: “Brothers and sisters, in the coming months when this temple is completed, and you are attending regularly, I know you will see unparalleled blessings in your lives and those of your family members. This entire community will be blessed and will thrive.

Emmett Thayne, 5, grandson to Mark S. Thayne, joins Elder Kevin R. Duncan, third from left, in turning over soil during groundbreaking for the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
Emmett Thayne, 5, grandson to Mark S. Thayne, joins Elder Kevin R. Duncan, third from left, in turning over soil during groundbreaking for the Syracuse Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Syracuse on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Plans for Syracuse temple

President Russell M. Nelson announced during April 2020 general conference a temple for Syracuse.

The three-story temple of approximately 89,000 square feet will sit on a 12-acre site at the intersection of 2500 West and 1025 South in Syracuse, as identified by the First Presidency in August 2020.

Members and friends in the neighborhood of the temple location sat in front yards and driveways along 2500 West, facing the ceremony site and drawing as close as they could to the event. The groundbreaking was livestreamed to members of the future Syracuse temple district.

An exterior rendering of the Syracuse Utah Temple was released on Feb. 16, 2021.

Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department, which oversees the building and renovation of temples worldwide, said construction of the Syracuse temple should take about two years. Work on the property has already begun regarding water needs and a canal on the perimeter, with construction equipment, materials and trailers lining the site.

The Syracuse Utah Temple becomes the Church’s 38th currently under construction. Those 38 will add to the 168 dedicated temples worldwide — or an increase of nearly 25%.

More than 2.1 million Latter-day Saints reside in Utah, accounting for about two-thirds of the state’s population of over 3.2 million residents. The state is home to 600-plus stakes and 10 missions.

Utah has 17 dedicated temples, with 15 operating and two — the Salt Lake and St. George Utah temples — closed for major renovations.

The Syracuse temple joins six other temples in the state under construction — in Layton, Orem, Saratoga Springs, St. George (the Red Cliffs temple), Taylorsville and Tooele (the Deseret Peak temple). 

Three other temples — in Lindon, Smithfield and Ephraim — have been announced and are in the early stages of planning and design, with site locations already identified for Lindon and Smithfield.