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A surprise guest at the Ephraim Utah Temple groundbreaking, President Nelson honors central Utah’s history, pioneers

Rain interrupting the sacred ceremony was the ‘tears of joy’ of those who established the community, participants say

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President Russell M. Nelson turns the first soil at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ephraim Utah Temple in Ephraim on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022. With President Nelson are his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, third from left, Gov. Spencer Cox, left, and his wife, Abby Cox, second from left. Second from right are Elder Walter F. González, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Zulma González, right.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News


EPHRAIM, Utah — As President Russell M. Nelson concluded the prayer dedicating the site of the future Ephraim Utah Temple on Saturday, Aug. 27, rain began to fall.

The rain continued as the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others turned the soil.

Jude Price — who has deep Sanpete Valley family roots and is President Nelson’s first cousin once removed — watched the rain and immediately claimed to know the source. As President Nelson left the groundbreaking ceremony, she yelled out to him, “These are the tears of joy of our ancestors,” she said.

Moments later, the heavens opened, and the sprinkles of rain became a downpour.

President Nelson’s participation in the groundbreaking ceremony was a surprise to those gathered for the ceremony. In contrast to the pomp and circumstances that usually would greet a surprise guest of his stature, however, the Prophet’s arrival was met with reverence, sacred silence and many tears.

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President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ephraim Utah Temple in Ephraim on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

President Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, were accompanied by Elder Walter F. González, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Zulma González; and Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, and his wife, Sister Nancy Duncan. In addition, Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Ephraim Mayor John Scott and other state, county and city officials participated in the ceremony. 

Turning his thoughts to a “stalwart part of the Lord’s vineyard” in central Utah, President Nelson announced a temple in Ephraim on May 1, 2021. The temple will stand less than 10 miles from the Manti Utah Temple, located in a neighboring community along Utah’s pioneer corridor.

The area has great personal significance to President Nelson. “My dear mother was born in Ephraim, a short ways away from where we stand today. My father was born in Manti. Three of my four grandparents were born here in Ephraim. All eight of my great-grandparents lived in Ephraim. All were converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their native countries of England, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.”

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The future site of the Ephraim Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is pictured after its groundbreaking ceremony in Ephraim on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

During his remarks, he recalled that shortly after the April 2021 general conference, he “received very clear instruction” from the Lord that the pioneer craftsmanship of the Manti Utah Temple — set to be renovated by the Church — should be preserved and that a new temple should be built in Ephraim.

“That news was shared quickly here and throughout the world,” he said. “Today, we will begin the work by breaking ground for another temple in this unique valley.” 

President Nelson said Ephraim and the greater Sanpete Valley have a rich history. “The very first Latter-day Saints entered this valley in the fall of 1849. A year later, the settlement they established was named Manti — the name coming, of course, from the Book of Mormon.”

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A light rain begins to fall as President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives a dedicatory prayer at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ephraim Utah Temple in Ephraim on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

In 1877, the first stake in this valley was organized. The Sanpete Stake Academy was founded in Ephraim in 1888. “It also functioned as a Latter-day Saint grade school. It struggled financially for years. Around the turn of the century, Lorenzo Snow, who was by then President of the Church, authorized a $2,000 donation to the school.”

In gratitude, the name of the school was changed to Snow Academy to honor President Snow, as well as his friend and fellow Church leader Erastus Snow, said President Nelson.

In 1932, Snow become a state college. “Both the physical campus and the student body have grown greatly since then,” President Nelson said. “We are most grateful for the faculty, staff and students of that institution. How we love our youth!”

President Nelson called the Manti Temple “the jewel of this valley.”

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The Manti Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints is pictured in Manti on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

President Brigham Young, he said, offered the prayer of dedication for the site of the temple in 1877, when he was returning home from the dedication of the St. George Temple. The public dedicatory services for the Manti Temple were held 11 years later, May 21–23, 1888. Lorenzo Snow gave the dedicatory prayer.

When the Manti Temple closed for renovation in 1981 and was rededicated in 1985 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Nelson — then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — was able to participate in those sacred ceremonies.

A president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not broken ground for a temple since President Thomas S. Monson dedicated the site for the Rome Italy Temple on Oct. 23, 2010, and for the site of the Hartford Connecticut Temple on Aug. 17, 2013. In his lifetime, President Nelson has only participated in three other groundbreaking ceremonies — for the Accra Ghana Temple, the Curitiba Brazil Temple, and the Brigham City Utah Temple.

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The congregation listens as President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ephraim Utah Temple in Ephraim on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

President Nelson has announced 100 new temples since he became President of the Church in January 2018. The Church now has 282 total temples in operation, under construction or renovation, or announced, including 28 temples in Utah.

The Ephraim temple will serve more than 31,000 Latter-day Saints in Sanpete, Carbon and Emery counties, including students who attend the adjacent Snow College. Built on a 9.16-acre site, the temple will be located at the intersection of 200 North and 400 East in Ephraim. The three-story temple will be approximately 39,000 square feet.

During the site dedicatory prayer in Ephraim on Saturday, President Nelson petitioned that “the building of this Ephraim Utah Temple be a wonderful time of preparation in the lives of all who live within these precincts. May they literally become Thy covenant people.”

Delila Olsen — who has lived in Ephraim since 1945 and is less than two weeks older than President Nelson — attended the groundbreaking ceremony on her 98th birthday. The Prophet’s participation in the ceremony was a special birthday gift, she said. “It was just wonderful that he came. The temple is the best blessing that could ever happen to Ephraim.”

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