Menu
In the News
In the Almanac

Helena Montana Temple open house begins with proper focus, not fixation on size, construction technology or design elements

‘The purpose of every temple is to bring us closer to Jesus Christ and to help us understand God’s plan of happiness,’ says Elder Valenzuela at Helena Montana Temple

20230515_112304.jpg

Church leaders and local media representatives talk outside after the media tour of the Helena Montana Temple media day Monday, May 15, 2023, in Helena, Montana.

Scott Taylor, Church News


Helena Montana Temple open house begins with proper focus, not fixation on size, construction technology or design elements

‘The purpose of every temple is to bring us closer to Jesus Christ and to help us understand God’s plan of happiness,’ says Elder Valenzuela at Helena Montana Temple

20230515_112304.jpg

Church leaders and local media representatives talk outside after the media tour of the Helena Montana Temple media day Monday, May 15, 2023, in Helena, Montana.

Scott Taylor, Church News

HELENA, Montana — Standing in one of the two ordinance rooms of the new Helena Montana Temple — this one set up with an altar to be used for the temple ordinance of sealing together a husband and wife, or a child to his or her parents — Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela offered perspective and personal testimony as he spoke to media representatives touring the new temple.

The General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was presiding at the temple’s media day on two accounts — as a counselor in the presidency of the Church’s North America Central Area, which includes Montana, and as an assistant executive director of the Church’s Temple Department.

As media representatives on the Monday, May 15, tour asked questions ranging from the temple’s purpose and availability to its scheduling and rites, Elder Valenzuela repeatedly underscored the temple as the house of the Lord and the importance of being connected with the Savior Jesus Christ through ordinances and covenants, the highest of which are available through temple work and worship.

20230515_101532.jpg

Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, a General Authority Seventy and assistant executive director in the Temple Department, speaks at the Helena Montana Temple media day news conference on Monday, May 15, 2023, in Helena, Montana.

Scott Taylor, Church News

“The purpose of every temple,” he said, “is to bring us closer to Jesus Christ and to help us understand God’s plan of happiness.”

Being connected to Christ through covenants and ordinances “will help us walk in this world with lighter burdens on our shoulders while going through the trials that come in this mortal life,” he added later. “The way we are connected with Him is through our covenants — and there is no better place to do that but in His holy house.”

Elder Valenzuela recounted traveling at age 19 with his parents and nine siblings from Chihuahua, Mexico, across the border and into Arizona to surround a similar altar in the Mesa Arizona Temple to be sealed as a family. And he recalled later traveling 36 hours from Mexico City, Mexico, to Mesa, Arizona, for him and his wife to be sealed in the house of the Lord.

The Helena Montana Temple opens for public tours on Thursday, May 18, 2023.

The Helena Montana Temple.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

And so, on a day when attention could have focused on speed of the Helena Montana Temple from announcement to dedication, its size or its modular construction process, Elder Valenzuela said he felt no different than when he participated recently in the dedications of the Belém Brazil and Winnipeg Manitoba temples.

“When you walk into the Helena temple, you feel that you are in the right place — it doesn’t feel different,” he said. “The spirit we feel inside this temple is the same that I felt in Belém and in Winnipeg. We don’t have large temples or small temples, brick-and-mortar temples or modular temples. We just have ‘temples.’

“What we have is the house of the Lord on earth today.” 

The front doors of the Helena Montana Temple.

The front doors of the Helena Montana Temple.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A temple for Helena

In April 2021 general conferencePresident Russell M. Nelson said, “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have often asked the Lord if there are better ways to take the blessings of the temple to His faithful children.”

For the faithful Latter-day Saints in the west-central Montana region, the new temple drastically reduces the travel to attend one of the surrounding temples. The Billings Montana Temple requires a drive of a little under four hours from Helena. The Cardston Alberta, Spokane Washington, Rexburg Idaho and Idaho Falls Idaho temples are each four to five hours away.

Located on a 4.75-acre site where a previously existing stake center was torn down to make room for the temple and newly constructed adjacent stake center, the 9,797-square-foot temple is one of nine of the Church’s temples between 6,800 and 9,950 square feet.

The temple district consists of five stakes in Helena, Butte, Great Falls and Bozeman.

President Nelson announced a temple for Helena on April 4, 2021 — one of 20 locations identified that day during April 2021 general conference. Of the other 19 temples announced then, 10 are under construction, one is scheduled for its groundbreaking, four have sites identified and four are in planning and design.

Less than three weeks after the announcement, on April 20, 2021, the Church released a site location and exterior rendering for the temple.

The celestial room inside the Helena Montana Temple.

The celestial room inside the Helena Montana Temple.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Just two months and 22 days after the announcement, a groundbreaking for the Helena Montana Temple was held on June 26, 2021, with Elder Vern P. Stanfill, a General Authority Seventy, presiding and offering the prayer to dedicate the site and the construction process. The time of two months and 22 days from announcement to groundbreaking was the shortest for Church temples in two decades.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will dedicate the Helena Montana Temple in two June 18 sessions — at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The period from announcement to dedication — just under 27 months — is the second-fastest turnaround in the past two decades, just behind the two years and 27 days of The Gila Valley Arizona Temple in 2010. 

20211015_150458_CPowell_CEP_9743.jpg

A miniature modular model of the Helena Montana Temple.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Perfect precision

The Helena Montana Temple is the Church’s first constructed through the design-manufacture-install process, according to ChurchofJesusChrist.org, with only a select few temples being done in a modular manner.

Workers assemble a portion of the Helena Montana Temple at the 50-acre BLOX facility in Bessemer, Alabama.

20211015_122331_CPowell_CEP_9262.jpg

Workers assemble a portion of the Helena Montana Temple at the 50-acre BLOX facility in Bessemer, Alabama.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church is working on a pilot program with BLOX, an Alabama company that previously used modular construction for hospital emergency rooms and isolation-care units during COVID-19 bed shortages.

The temple’s 25 modules were constructed in Birmingham, Alabama, and then shrink-wrapped and trucked to Helena. There the modules, including walls and floors, were connected — or “stitched together” — and finished on-site. The exterior stone cladding, the tower assembly and all electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilation systems were also done on-site, putting the finishing touches on this much-anticipated house of worship.

20211015_121244_CPowell_CEP_9180.jpg

A portion of the Helena Montana Temple is loaded to a semitruck in Alabama to be delivered to the 4.8-acre site located at 1260 Otter Road in Helena, where workers stitched together the modules.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“The temple program is exquisite; it’s sacred,” BLOX CEO Chris Giattina told ChurchofJesusChrist.org. “It is not just something that you casually go about. The first part of that was trying to understand what it was, what it really meant to do a temple.”

After visiting the Mesa Arizona and Memphis Tennessee temples, the company learned it needed to perfect its precision. “And so we developed a platform,” Giattina said. “And when we assembled the units, we knew within a width of the laser whether it was plumb or not.”

20211116_085412_CPowell_CEP_3542.jpg

The Helena Montana Temple is installed at the temple site.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Speaking outside the Helena temple on Monday, Elder Valenzuela said, “The Lord has blessed us with technology to do things in a more efficient way, in a faster way. . . . We are taking advantage of all technologies, and so using that design-manufacture-install technology is helping us to build some temples faster.”

‘A place of peace’

Local Latter-day Saints assisting at Monday’s temple media day weren’t talking about announcement-to-dedication turnaround times or the design-manufacture-install process. Rather, they were looking forward to sharing their new temple with others during the public open house that runs through June 3, excluding Sundays.

“In a world that can be so chaotic and confusing, the temple is a place of peace,” said Suzi Stanger, who with her husband, Jim Stanger, are co-chairs of the temple’s open house and dedication committee after chairing the groundbreaking two years ago. “We’re so excited to invite our friends and neighbors to enter this sacred building, to feel the peace that is there.”

Screenshot_2023_05_15_at_8.43.16_PM.png

A local media representative lines up a photo of Jim and Suzi Stanger, the Helena Montana Temple open house and dedication committee co-chairs, during the temple’s media day news conference on Monday, May 15, 2023, in Helena, Montana.

Screenshot, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Jadyn Ashton, 17, of Helena, emphasized the proximity to do temple ordinances for deceased ancestors. “And I know I’ll probably be around here on the grounds — sitting, reading, journaling — because it’s a place you can go no matter the day or time and feel the Spirit. You can be comfortable and feel Heavenly Father with you.

“For us youth, it’s going to be especially nice,” she added, “because we can always come here and do baptisms when we want and just be able to get away from the hard things of the world and be at peace with the sanctity of the temple.”

Covenants and ordinances

Earlier this year, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said today’s increased number of temples — 177 dedicated temples and 315 total, including those under construction and in planning — provides an opportunity to “focus on what matters most in relationship to the temple.”

He explained: “I think we routinely talk about the temple. I don’t think we talk nearly as much about the covenants and ordinances. And I don’t think we should even talk about the covenants and ordinances separate from and apart from the Savior.”

Temples shouldn’t be seen in comparison of physical traits but rather as providing “access to the same covenants and ordinances whereby we have a covenant connection with the Father and the Son,” Elder Bednar said.

Which is why on a day when media representatives at the Helena Montana Temple were not fixated on asking questions about the temple’s size, design elements, materials or construction process, the conversations instead revolved more around the temple work and worship and the ordinances and covenants connecting the faithful Latter-day Saints to the Savior and the Father.

Screenshot_2023_05_15_at_8.46.46_PM.png

Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, leads media representatives into the Helena Montana Temple for a tour on the temple’s media day Monday, May 15, 2023, in Helena, Montana.

Screenshot, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Standing Monday in front of the Helena Montana Temple and gazing at the phrases “Holiness to the Lord” and “The house of the Lord” inscribed above the arched entrance, Elder Valenzuela returned to a temple’s purpose of bringing one closer to Christ and understanding God’s plan of happiness.

“Everything about the temple starts with the plan of happiness that was presented to us before this life and the central role of Jesus Christ in it,” he said. “Because of Him, everything in our lives can be blessed, can be healed and can be uplifted.”

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed