BURLEY, Idaho — On the ground where a farming family plowed the soil for years, members of that family helped break ground for a new temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“This is a dream come true. My mother loved the temple,” said Barbara West, one of five daughters and four sons who grew up hoeing and thinning sugar beets and beans on this same property years ago.
She pointed out her grandfather’s house to the north, and the family house to the east. West’s sister Lisa Funk said their late mother always dreamed there would be a temple in this area. The sisters felt close to their late parents and other ancestors at the groundbreaking of the new Burley Idaho Temple on Saturday, June 4.
Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy — who was born and raised in Burley — thanked the Funk family and many others for their hard work and sacrifices, as he presided over the groundbreaking.
He said, “Today, as we turn this soil, we will symbolically be planting the seeds, just as the Funk family has been planting the seeds throughout the years, with faith and hope that something beautiful would grow.”
With the Snake River just to the northeast, this donated 10.1 acres of farmland will be the home of Idaho’s seventh temple.
“As we symbolically turn the soil here, we all need to symbolically turn our hearts in preparation for having a temple here and symbolically prepare ourselves for the day when the temple will be dedicated,” Elder Nielson said.
Elder Nielson spoke about how his grandparents met and his parents met in Burley. He was born and raised just a few miles from the temple site. He told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking how he was baptized, learned the gospel and gained a testimony in Burley.
“This is sacred ground for you,” he told the congregation. “I know all of you have the same story. You have family members, great-grandparents who began their lives here. Others have come on your own since you became adults, and have made this your home.”
He continued, “Soon the temple will be your home, and I hope that as you feel that and understand that, this will become a wonderful place for you to find solace and peace and joy and happiness.”
Blessings from the temple
Early Church pioneers settled in Idaho in 1855. Several Church presidents are natives of Idaho, including Presidents Harold B. Lee, Ezra Taft Benson and Howard W. Hunter. Elder David B. Haight, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1976 to 2004, was born in Oakley, Idaho, which is just south of Burley and in the Burley temple district.
Burley, which is part of what is known as Magic Valley, has an economy primarily dependent on agriculture. Derlin Taylor, the patriarch in the Burley Idaho Stake, spoke about how the community works together to harvest crops — and there always seems to be enough water for a harvest: “The Lord takes care of it,” he said.
Patriarch Taylor gave thanks to those who came before. “We will rally around this temple. Blessings will flow from this temple to all who live in this valley.”
Malia Manning, 18, from the Paul Idaho Stake, said she knows when the temple is built, the community will grow spiritually and will have peace. She said in the temple she will feel close to her brother and sister, who passed away when they were babies.
Samantha Guerrero-Solis, 8, from the Cassia Ward (Spanish speaking) ward of the Burley Idaho West Stake, bore her testimony in the program for the groundbreaking. “Heavenly Father loves us so much and is blessing us,” she said.
Burley Idaho Temple plans
Plans for the temple include a two-story building, approximately 38,600 square feet with a single attached end spire. The temple site and size were announced June 23, 2021, with an exterior rendering released on Sept. 17, 2021.
The Burley temple will be the state’s seventh, with six operating temples, in Boise, Idaho Falls, Meridian, Pocatello, Rexburg and Twin Falls. President Nelson announced a temple for north Rexburg in October 2021 general conference, and a temple for Montpelier in April 2022 general conference.
Idaho is home to more than 462,000 Church members in 1,181 congregations and 132 stakes. Seven stakes in the Mini-Cassia area are in the temple district.
Right now, those members drive west about 45 minutes to the Twin Falls Idaho Temple. Trish Mendenhall, from the Declo Idaho Stake, works in the Twin Falls temple. She spoke about how those who came before sacrificed their time, money and labor to build up the Church and its buildings.
Now, she said, “We aren’t asked to sacrifice to build a temple, but we are asked to sacrifice our time to be in it and to be found worthy of a temple.”
She is looking forward to the work that can be done when the Burley temple is built: “We are being helped to gather Israel from the other side,” she testified.
As Elder Nielson and his wife, Sister Marcia Nielson, invited the guests to step forward and take a shovel to turn the earth, he thanked each one of them.
“I’m grateful the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in its fullness on the earth today. Today we will begin this process of building another temple, and today it is in our own town. Isn’t that amazing?” he said. “I’m grateful to be a part of this today.”