HEBER CITY, Utah — More than 600 smiling Latter-day Saints gathered on a freshly plowed plot of ground as President Russell M. Nelson presided at the Saturday, Oct. 8, groundbreaking ceremony of the Heber Valley Utah Temple.
The glowing reds, oranges and yellows of the aspen trees’ leaves that surrounded the site suggested it is time to hunker down for the coming winter. But for President Nelson and many of the members present, this was a moment of excitement for something new to grow and take shape.
Before offering a prayer to dedicate the ground for the building of the temple, President Nelson shared a few remarks about the history of the area and the land where the temple will be built.
George and Clara Holmes purchased the property in 1946 after George returned home from serving in World War II.
President Nelson said the new temple will fulfill the Holmes’ “fondest dream.”
“[George] dreamt of building a forever home with his beloved Clara,” President Nelson said. “In a very real way, his dream will be realized here.”
He also shared a history of the settling of Heber City and the growth of the Church in the valley.
Brigham Young first called Saints to make a road from Provo to the Heber Valley in 1858. Many of its first English settlers converted to the Church thanks to the missionary work of Heber C. Kimball in the 1840s. Those converts helped build the road, settle the valley and participate in the first ward to be created in Heber in 1860.
The Heber Valley Coordinating Council now includes eight stakes that reach as far away as the southwest corner of Wyoming. It also encompasses Utah’s communities of Charleston, Wallsburg, Kamas, Oakley, Peoa, Park City and Coalville.
“More will come,” President Nelson said. “This valley will continue to be a fruitful seedbed for devoted and dedicated members of the Church.”
In his prayer, President Nelson expressed thanks to Heavenly Father for the work done by those early pioneers.
“We are deeply grateful for our ancestors. They have laid a foundation of faith that undergirds our spiritual strength. May we learn who they are, find their qualifying information, and bless their lives with sacred rites offered vicariously in this holy house.”
Elder Kevin R. Duncan, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, also spoke at the event.
At one point Elder Duncan taught that temple sealings are blessings but that they don’t replace the need for the Savior’s Atonement in each individual’s life. He explained that a temple sealing is part of an ongoing commitment, not an end unto itself.
“This is a profound message of hope,” he said.
“This temple will be a place of joy and strength for each of you.”
A valley looks forward
The Heber Valley Utah Temple was the 28th temple announced for the state of Utah. President Nelson announced it almost exactly a year ago in general conference on Oct. 3, 2021. The 88,000-square-foot temple will sit on nearly 18 acres of land.
The mayor of Heber City, Heidi Franco, said “the whole valley has been looking forward to this” since that announcement was made.
“It will be an incredible benefit to members here,” she said.
While many members have been excited in the year since the temple was announced, some have been looking forward to it for much longer.
Almon Clegg was born in Heber 86 years ago and still remembers working in the hay fields every summer and earning $1 per week delivering the Deseret News newspaper around the valley.
“It was wonderful news,” he said of the temple’s announcement. “It’s good, great, very exciting.”
What does a temple in the Heber Valley mean to him?
“It means salvation, exaltation, eternal life,” he said excitedly.
At the other end of the spectrum, Heber and its surrounding communities have been growing quickly in the past few years. The mayor noted that it was one of the top relocation destinations during the pandemic.
One family who moved to the area only 10 months ago is the Bishops. They had been living in Montana and participated in the groundbreaking for the Helena Montana Temple that was located 90 minutes from their home.
Liz Bishop said she’s grateful for the chance to have participated in two temple groundbreakings and to know the blessings that will come to the Saints in Heber.
“It’s very humbling to know that we get to be part of this experience of the Lord’s House [being built],” she said. “To be reminded of the covenants we make in the temple and what a blessing it will be to us and our children and these continue to dot the earth.”
Her daughter Ella is 13 and is also looking forward to the new temple.
“I think it’s a really good experience for the youth, that we can prepare ourselves daily to come in these temple doors … and have the Spirit.”
For Ella’s father, Patrick Bishop, he is most looking forward to the protection he feels will come to his family members by participating in temple service.
“There’s a spiritual protection that is given to the youth as they come and prepare themselves to worthily enter the Lord’s House and act as proxy for their deceased ancestors,” he said.
He also believes those who have their ordinances completed vicariously are able to then offer support from the other side of the veil.
“I believe those on the other side of the veil then have a vested interest in helping them in their lives for the service they’ve offered.”
That faith in life beyond what is experienced on this earth was also expressed by President Nelson as he concluded his prayer.
“Each temple stands as a symbol of Jesus Christ, our Mediator with Thee, our Heavenly Father. Each temple stands as a sign of our faith in life after death, and as a sacred step toward eternal exaltation for us and our families.”