A little more than 100 years after its first missionaries arrived in south Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is opening its new house of the Lord in the area with formal tours of the McAllen Texas Temple beginning Monday, Aug. 21.
Local media representatives were invited to attend a morning news conference and to tour inside the new temple, followed by the first of several days of special-guest tours for local civic, education, business and faith leaders.
Church leaders welcoming Monday’s guests included a trio of General Authority Seventies — Elder Jose L. Alonso, who is also a counselor in the Church’s North America Southwest Area presidency, along with Elder Michael A. Dunn and Elder Adeyinka A. Ojediran.
Along with Monday’s media day activities, the Church released interior and exterior photographs of the McAllen temple on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
President Russell M. Nelson announced a temple for McAllen, Texas, on Oct. 5, 2019, one of eight new temple locations he listed during the women’s session of October 2019 general conference.
The temple site — on McAllen’s northwest corner of Col. Rowe Boulevard and Trenton Road, in the state’s southernmost tip and a dozen miles from the Texas-Mexico border — was announced two months later on Dec. 11, 2019, with the rendering released on Aug. 28, 2020.
Construction of the temple followed the Nov. 21, 2020, groundbreaking, with Elder Art Rascon, an Area Seventy, presiding and offering a prayer dedicating the site and the construction process.
COVID-19 restrictions — impacting most of the Church’s 21 temple groundbreakings that year — kept attendance at the McAllen ceremony to a minimum. However, the proceedings were available virtually to Church members throughout the temple district, which includes stakes in McAllen, Corpus Christi and Laredo, Texas, as well as the northeastern Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
Following Monday’s media day and the special-guest tours that run through Thursday, the temple’s public open house begins Friday and runs through Saturday, Sept. 9, excluding Sundays.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will dedicate the house of the Lord on Sunday, Oct. 8, in two sessions, at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. local time. The dedicatory sessions will be broadcast to all units in the McAllen temple district.
The temple will be the Church’s 183rd dedicated house of the Lord, with the Feather River California Temple to be dedicated later that same morning.
Church’s history in southern Texas
Missionaries first arrived in Texas in 1843. In 1898, about 300 Church members settled on land purchased by the Church in northeast Texas. The settlement became the colony of Kelsey.
The first missionaries to enter the Rio Grande Valley came from the Mexican Mission in the early 1920s to teach Spanish-speaking people. A Spanish branch was established on Sept. 11, 1921 in Brownsville, with members constructing a chapel two years later.
Missionaries from the Central States Mission arrived in south Texas soon thereafter, establishing an English-speaking Sunday School in Brownsville in 1925 and then the Rio Grande Valley Branch in 1927. The unit has been operating continually since and is now the Harlingen 1st Ward.
McAllen’s first Church unit was the Alamo Branch, created in 1951, with members meeting in a local recreation hall. Raising money for their own building, local members purchased and remodeled a local convalescent center into a meeting place, dedicating it in 1957.
In the early 1960s, local Church leaders purchased property for a meetinghouse, then began construction on a new chapel. The project’s architect envisioned a rock wall to foster unity, with members collecting and contributing rocks for the wall. Former local members and missionaries who had served in the area sent rocks, with contributions coming from 15 states, including Hawaii.
When the project was ready for the concrete pour, cement trucks unexpectedly arrived a day early, with the Latter-day Saint men helping with the project already gone to their regular jobs. Local Relief Society sisters rallied to climb the scaffolding and direct the concrete pour into molds for the building’s tower.
In 1975, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized the McAllen Texas Stake.
For many decades, Latter-day Saints in southern Texas participating in temple ordinances and worship had to drive 27 hours to the Mesa Arizona Temple. Beginning in 1984, travel time to the temple was whittled with the coming of temples in the Lone Star State — 10 hours to the Dallas Texas Temple (dedicated in 1984), 10 hours to the Houston Texas Temple (2000) and just six hours to the San Antonio Texas Temple in 2005.
Today, Texas is home to more than 378,000 Latter-day Saints comprising 78 stakes and nearly 750 congregations. Once dedicated, the McAllen temple will be the fifth dedicated house of the Lord in Texas, joining the temples in Dallas, Houston, Lubbock (dedicated in 2002) and San Antonio. Temples have been announced for three other Texas cities: Austin, Fort Worth and Prosper.
The temple’s features
The single-story, 27,897-square-foot McAllen Texas Temple stands on a 10.61-acre site, with a new meetinghouse having been constructed on the property.
The steel-frame structure is enveloped in a precast exterior. The top of the temple’s dome reaches a height of 98 feet above the ground, with the 10-foot spire giving the edifice its 108-foot height. The exterior is patterned after the Spanish colonial architecture of the area.
Inside, designs feature citrus blossoms, representing the citrus crops grown in and around McAllen. Joining the blossoms are patterns of barbed quatrefoils, scrolls and ribbons found through the interior.
The blues through the building are a nod to both the bluebonnet — the state flower of Texas — and the nearby Gulf of Mexico. The complementing golds and greens are a call to the other colorful elements of the Texas landscape.
The flooring includes gold carpet in the general areas and instruction rooms, wall-to-wall wool rugs in the celestial and sealing rooms and blue, green and gold area rugs used elsewhere. The Crema Marfil, Simena, Cenia M. and Yellow River marble was quarried and fabricated in Spain.
The interior art glass is used in the doors to the celestial, sealing and confirmation rooms as well as the doors and viewing area of the baptistry.
The citrus blossoms and barbed quatrefoils designs are found in the millwork, while the doors are made of mahogany and bear bronze hardware.
McAllen Texas Temple
Location: 300 W. Trenton Road, McAllen, Texas, 78504
Announced: Oct. 5, 2019, by President Russell M. Nelson
Groundbreaking: Nov. 21, 2020, by Elder Art Rascon, an Area Seventy
Open house: Aug. 25 through Sept. 9, excluding Sundays
Dedication: Oct. 8, 2023, by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Property size: 10.61 acres
Building size: 27,897 square feet
Building height: 108 feet, including the spire