POCATELLO, Idaho — In the days leading up to the dedication of the Pocatello Idaho Temple, President M. Russell Ballard was in his office midway between returning from a ministry trip to the British Isles and his first opportunity to dedicate a temple in two years.
At age 93, President Ballard sounded as excited as ever about the chance to share the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings that come from temples.
“To be involved and engaged in any way with a new temple that is going to be dedicated is a wonderful moment,” he said.
“It’s a blessing that we have another temple closer to the people so that they can get about this work on both sides of the veil.”
Temples are the only places where ordinances can be performed for those individuals who have already passed on from this life without their having received the ordinances while alive. That temple work is not a means unto itself.
“That is all preparatory to the time of the Second Coming,” President Ballard said. “Preparing the world for that day when the Savior will return.”
Read more: Ahead of temple dedication, Pocatello area youth invited to follow the Savior as their hero
Increasing faith in the Savior through the temple
After a windy and rainy start to the day, calm took over just as the first dedicatory session of the Pocatello Idaho Temple was set to begin on Sunday morning.
In three sessions, the Pocatello Idaho Temple was dedicated on Sunday, Nov. 7.
As the first session began, President Ballard led a group that included Elder Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, to the southwest corner of the temple to ceremonially seal the cornerstone.
Prior to placing some mortar around the cornerstone, President Ballard mentioned some of the contents of the box inside the cornerstone. Church President Russell M. Nelson’s autobiography and a book of his teachings were included. A set of scriptures that was marked by high school seniors in the temple district with their favorite verses was also placed inside.
Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s North America Central Area, and Elder Gary B. Sabin, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Valerie Sabin, also placed some of the mortar.
President Ballard spoke of the enduring symbolism of cornerstones, as was taught by President Gordon B. Hinckley, and bore testimony of the Savior as the chief cornerstone.
“I can say that knowing that Jesus is the chief cornerstone gives me strength and a greater desire to love Him and serve Him the best I can every day,” President Ballard said.
Personal impact for one Apostle
While Elder Andersen participated in the dedication at the invitation of President Ballard, the personal feelings of gratitude for a temple in Pocatello, his hometown, were evident.
“Generations of devoted Latter-day Saints have been an important part of this area,” he said. “They have lived the gospel, taught their children and shared the gospel with their friends and neighbors. They have been remarkable in their willingness to live the law of the tithe and to send their children on missions. The Pocatello temple district includes the city of Pocatello, but also the small towns and farming communities that surround the city. Together, they have built a righteous setting for a beautiful House of the Lord.”
Raised on a small farm outside of Pocatello, Elder Andersen said his youth in the area “allowed me to see and learn from true disciples of Jesus Christ.
“How happy I am that the Lord would choose to bless this community with His sacred temple. For the generations that follow it will bring the ordinances and the courage to follow the Savior.”
He said the temple has characteristics that remind him of Pocatello’s surroundings.
“The large, expansive ceilings in the celestial room that go up three or four stories remind me — you live in Pocatello, and the sky is high and the mountains are out and it’s really a beautiful place. And to have it sit up here looking over the valley is remarkable.”
Ministering to members through the temple’s dedication
As President Ballard and Elder Andersen spoke, their messages felt like individual ministering to some who attended.
“How I felt was peaceful,” said Amy Bowie, who attended the dedication with her husband, son and niece. “I felt the Spirit, and I felt the Holy Ghost testifying that what [President Ballard] was saying was true and that we were in the right place.”
More than having a comforting and reassuring feeling, Bowie said she also felt the importance of families and their eternal nature as President Ballard spoke.
“This is why we’re here,” she said. “This mortal life isn’t our real home. We’re here to be together for eternity.”
She said she was touched with President Ballard’s testimony of the importance of his own family.
“Even in comparison to all the work he’s done in his apostleship,” Bowie said, “he feels that the most important thing he’s done is marry his wife and raise his children and lead a family.”
Kate George is from Spanish Fork, Utah, but now lives a block away from the new temple in Pocatello and saw every step of its construction.
“We watched the whole process,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Sunday, George’s role went from that of onlooker to participant as she sang as part of the choir in the second dedicatory session.
“Singing in there was incredible,” she said. “I got choked up and a little emotional, and I wasn’t expecting that.”
After weeks of practicing with the choir and having spiritual experiences with them, the intensity of the Holy Ghost caught George a little off guard.
“We were singing ‘Our Prayer to Thee,’ which was written by President Nelson, right before the dedicatory prayer,” she said. “At the very ending, I felt the Spirit so strong in that room. It felt like there was more than us singing.”
Singing in a choir for a temple dedication is a rare opportunity, but it is far from one where singers seek the spotlight, George explained.
“When they first called me,” she said, “they said, ‘Please know that this is not a performance; this is your gift to your Heavenly Father.’ I love that. It wasn’t a performance; it was a gift.”
Four generations later
The announcement of a temple to be built in Pocatello may have surprised some people, but Ken Satterfield wasn’t among them. The grandson of A.Y. Satterfield, Ken Satterfield knew his family would want to donate some of its property for the building of a temple. Ken Satterfield’s sister, Lois Spencer, remembers the day of the announcement.
“When they announced it, the first thing we did was get in the car and drive up here,” she said. “And the temple is almost exactly where we stood. It’s a dream come true.”
Her father, Charles Satterfield, had wanted to see a temple built in Pocatello and wasn’t satisfied with the thought that Idaho Falls, Idaho, would be the closest a temple would get to the city he called home.
“My dad kept saying we need to have a temple in Pocatello,” she remembered. “Of course, they built the one in Idaho Falls, and he would say that still wasn’t in Pocatello.”
Twenty-five years went by after Charles Satterfield’s passing before ground would be broken on the temple he longed for.
“When my dad was alive, he always wanted to give some land so the Church could build a temple here,” she said.
Sadly for Lois Spencer, it wasn’t only her father who couldn’t be here for the dedication. Her brother Ken passed away a year ago without being able to see the completion of the temple four generations in the making for the Satterfield family.
“I just wish my brother could have been here,” she said through cold, windswept tears on the Pocatello hillside. “But I think he was. I felt him here.”
Even at age 82, for Spencer, being in the temple isn’t uncommon, and she looks forward to serving in one closer to her home.
“I was a temple worker in Idaho Falls for seven years,” she said. “And I’m hoping to be asked to work here. My folks always worked in the temple, and it’s an honor.”
That feeling of honor comes from fulfilling the responsibility of bringing people closer to the Lord on both sides of the veil.
“It fulfills a need,” she said. “You don’t realize it until you’re actually in there and you’re thinking, ‘By golly, I really can do the Lord’s work this way.’”
Finding faith together
Pocatello’s interfaith community is diverse, but not divisive. The respect among the different church leaders was most easily seen at the groundbreaking of the temple when eight representatives from area churches each participated in the ceremonial turning of the ground.
Aware of the fact that those churches have been involved with temple activities like the groundbreaking and open house, President Ballard said this is a pattern seen around the world.
“Its very presence will bring peace. We know this from our experience all over the world,” he said. “People who are not members of the Church will come and visit the temple site. … They come here, they sense the peace and the love of God.”
Pastor Jacqueline Thomas organized the Praise Temple of God Church in Pocatello nearly two decades ago. As part of the interfaith community, she had many experiences with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leading up to the temple’s construction.
“I see God’s DNA in everything that you do,” she said of the Church’s members. “I see your joy, love and peace when I meet your members and your missionaries.”
Pastor Thomas was one of the local church leaders invited to participate in the groundbreaking of the Pocatello temple. She moved to Ohio while the temple was being built, but she returned for the temple’s open house. She still has the shovel used at the groundbreaking and cherishes the memories it represents.
Leaders of other churches in the area like Pastor Thomas had specific ways they participated in the temple’s events, but members of those churches had questions of their own, as well. For example, choir singer Kate George had a chance to answer questions from her neighbors.
“A lot of my neighbors are not members,” she said. “To watch this building go up, they had so many questions.”
Once the temple was open to the public, George invited neighbors to join her for a special walk-through as part of the open house.
“It was an incredible experience to be able to answer so many questions.”
Youth carrying the torch
President Ballard’s message at the dedication resonated with a younger audience, as well. Will Leavitt, a 16-year-old from Pocatello, said he learned a lot about eternal perspective from President Ballard.
“There’s a plan for us, and He’s made a plan for each and every one of us,” Leavitt said. “He didn’t just put us down here for no reason. There’s an eternal plan.”
Hearing an Apostle speak about Heavenly Father’s plan gave Leavitt a spiritual boost and caused him to walk out of the temple with a huge smile and a bounce in his step.
“I feel really uplifted,” Leavitt said. “I feel really great about the whole experience. I’m just so happy. It was a really happy experience. I really felt the Spirit.”
Gavin Permann from nearby Rockland said the temple and what it stands for will help him fulfill his dreams.
“One of my goals is to stay in the Church, go on a mission and have a family in the temple,” Permann said. “President Ballard said if I stay on the path and keep doing the things that I need to, those things will happen in my life.”
Thousands of youth from the temple district brought friends to the temple’s open house in special sessions where only youth were allowed to participate. The result of this unique opportunity was a feeling of unity among the youth who will grow up near and serve in the new temple. Charlie McKee was one of those who attended with a group of youth.
“There is something about being in the temple with your fellow youth that brought a different spirit in the room,” said McKee. “I loved it.”
While serving as a mission president in Toronto, Ontario, in 1974, President Ballard attended the dedication of the Washington D.C. Temple. He said he remembers how much of a blessing that was for members who previously had to make a two-day trip to attend the temple elsewhere.
The key to keeping up personal interest and excitement to attend the temple was easy for President Ballard to identify.
“Well, they better do their family history work,” he said. “If they stay in family history, then they’re going to want to have one foot in the temple because they’ll have the prompting and they’ll have the nudging from the other side.”
Five other temples also serve the members in Idaho. Idaho Falls, Boise, Rexburg, Twin Falls and Meridian all have temples. Two more Idaho temples were announced in April and October general conferences this year for Burley and Rexburg (the city’s second temple).
With the dedication of the new Winnipeg Manitoba Temple in Canada last weekend, this will be only the second temple dedicated in 20 months. The next temple scheduled to be dedicated is actually a rededication of the Mesa Arizona Temple, which will take place on Sunday, Dec. 12.
Aside from Elder Andersen, other Church leaders past and present have also called Idaho home. President Camille N. Johnson, current Primary general president, was born and raised in Pocatello. She shared her feelings about having a temple there in a September Instagram post when she participated in the media day and beginning of the temple’s open house.