POCATELLO, Idaho — For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the normalcy of daily life worldwide more than a year and a half ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a new temple briefly open to public view.
The new Pocatello Idaho Temple began its to-the-public phase Monday, Sept. 13, with media tours led Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson; and Elder Gary B. Sabin, General Authority Seventy and Temple Department assistant executive director, and his wife, Sister Valerie Sabin.
Joining them were President Camille N. Johnson, Primary general president, and Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy and president of the North America Central Area, with his counselors, Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong and Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, and Elder Alfred Kyungu, an area assistant.
To put it in perspective, it has been 590 days since the Church’s latest temple closed its public open house — Feb. 1, 2020, was the final day for the Durban South Africa Temple, located 10,236 miles (16,464 kilometers) from Pocatello.
A brief news conference — held in the Pocatello Idaho Highland Stake center just west of the new temple — featured Elder Stevenson, President Johnson and Elder Sabin introducing the temple and its purpose and sacredness.
The Stevensons and Sabins then led several dozen local media representatives through the temple, explaining the different rooms and their uses and highlighting art, furnishing and design throughout.
“It is an element that is important to talk about — the beauty of the temple, in the same way that Solomon’s temple was beautiful,” Elder Stevenson said. “But that is just the jewelry box — it is not the jewels.
“The ‘pearl of great price’ are the ordinances, the covenants, the promises, the instruction that is received there, and what it does to create happiness and joy for those who are now partaking of those ordinances on this side of the veil and on the other side of the veil.”
Gathering Israel on the other side of the veil is one of the important things that take place when members participate in temple ordinances, Elder Stevenson said. “But it is also an important element of living the gospel and an important element of helping Latter-day Saints who attend there to both find joy and elevate themselves spiritually.”
Gallery: A look inside the Pocatello Idaho Temple
Accompanying Monday’s introduction of the Pocatello temple to local media was the release of the first interior images of and additional information about the temple. Special tours for those involved in construction of the temple will follow, before the start of the public open house, which runs from Saturday, Sept. 18, through Saturday, Oct. 23, except for Sundays and the Oct. 2-3 general conference weekend.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will dedicate the temple in three sessions on Sunday, Nov. 7.
The last temple dedicated was the Durban South Africa Temple on Feb. 20, 2020, just prior to the sweeping COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in not only in halting the opening of new and renovated temples but also the temporary closure of operating temples worldwide before the First Presidency instituted in May 2021 a cautious, four-phase plan for reopening.
And now, the Pocatello temple is the first of four scheduled for dedication or rededication, with more expected to join them in the near future. The Winnipeg Manitoba Temple will hold its open house and its dedication next month.
“For us, to see so many temples progressing on so many levels is very exciting,” said Elder Sabin of the phased reopenings, the construction that continued through the pandemic and now the opening of new and renovated temples.
“There is so much activity in the Temple Department right now,” he added, noting the Church has 252 temples dedicated, under construction or announced. “And it’s accelerating. That tells me something about hastening the work.”
The pandemic “made us slow down,” said Elder Sabin, again mindful of the temple closures and pause in dedications and rededications.
“Sometimes you have to slow down in order to hasten. You slow down and listen and deepen your spiritual wells. And then you come out hopefully stronger.”
Sitting high on Pocatello’s eastern foothills with an exterior of light-gray granite, the temple is a streamlined classical architecture design and patterned after other temples as well as other buildings in Pocatello.
The art glass features wildflowers of the Idaho mountain desert, including the syringa, which is the Idaho state flower, and the bitterroot. The colors in the art glass are sage, representing the sagebrush of the region; gold, representing the wild grasses that turn gold in the summer; and pink and coral, representing the sunset, the bitterroot flower and Red Hill above Pocatello
Born and raised in Pocatello until the age of 9, President Johnson spoke of watching the construction and opening of Idaho State University’s MiniDome, one of the world’s oldest indoor stadiums (now called Holt Arena). “It really put Pocatello on the map,” she said.
The community and surrounding area remain “on the map” now “in an altogether different and more glorious way,” President Johnson said of the Pocatello Idaho Temple.
“Having a house of the Lord in these foothills is just such a blessing for the members and the nonmembers,” she said. “I think this whole community will be blessed by having the light of the temple here. I am especially confident that the young people in this area are going to be blessed because the temple is here.”
The youth and children “have been so integral in the preparation for the temple,” continued President Johnson, noting their clearing of the sagebrush off the temple property and the planting of 25,000 flowers on the temple grounds.
“The youth are going to own this temple — it’s going to belong to them. And in having the temple belong to them, they are going to belong to the Savior. They are going to know that they are His.”
Announced in April 2017 by President Thomas S. Monson, the Pocatello temple is east of Satterfield Drive and Butte Street and will be the sixth operating temple in Idaho. Other temples are located in Boise, Rexburg, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and Meridian. President Russell M. Nelson announced a seventh temple for Idaho, to be built in Burley, during April 2021 general conference.
Elder Nielsen underscored the number of temples, as well as all throughout the North America Central Area — 20 temples in operation, two ready to be dedication (the Pocatello and Winnipeg temples), with construction underway for the Helena Montana Temple and groundbreakings planned for temples in Casper, Wyoming, and Grand Junction, Colorado, as well as in Burley.
“The Lord is blessing the North America Central Area,” he said of the area bordered by central Canada on the north, Idaho and Colorado on the west, east to Illinois and south to Kansas. “We’re so grateful for the faith of the people in Idaho.”
Pocatello — and Burley — are the latest additions of Idaho temples in what is becoming a solid temple corridor for the Church beyond Utah’s temple-laden Wasatch Front.
Consider the proximity of the temples from northern Utah on up through Idaho’s east side, as evidenced by the distances from the new Pocatello temple to others in operation or announced in the area (dedication years are in parentheses).
- Idaho Falls Idaho Temple (1945) — 50 miles northeast
- Rexburg Idaho Temple (2008) — 75 miles northeast
- Twin Falls Idaho Temple (2008) — 116 miles west
- Logan Utah Temple (1884) — 108 miles south
- Brigham City Utah Temple (2012) — 113 miles south
- Star Valley Wyoming Temple (2016) — 136 miles southeast
- Burley Idaho Temple (announced) —81 miles southwest
- Smithfield Utah Temple (announced) — 92 miles south
“Just think of that corridor,” Elder Nielsen said, “and you can see the power and faithfulness of the people.”
Some 61,000 Latter-day Saints reside in what will be the Pocatello Idaho Temple district.
For information about the open house, including reservations, see pocatellotemple.org.