With an emphasis on temples being the house of the Lord and God’s love and desire for His children to come home, ground was broken for the new Knoxville Tennessee Temple on Saturday, Jan. 27.
“We are all sons and daughters of God — He loves us and wants us all to come home,” said Elder Shayne M. Bowen, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the North America Southeast Area presidency, as he presided at the event.
The temple will be the third for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tennessee, to be built in a suburb of Knoxville, nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
“The temple is different than a chapel; it’s not where we have weekly meetings,” Elder Bowen explained to attendees, including interfaith, local government and community leaders as well as Latter-day Saints. “It’s an opportunity that we have to go to the house of the Lord literally and make covenants with Him.”
He added: “God is bringing His work to His people so that we can enter in and worship in the holy temple, receive the saving ordinances that will allow us to return home and live in His presence as families forever. There’s nothing better than that.”
In his prayer dedicating the site and the ensuing construction process, Elder Bowen expressed gratitude for Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. “We are eternally grateful that through Thy plan of salvation and exaltation, with Jesus Christ at the center of Thy plan, each one of us has a clear path through Thy temples to come back home, back into Thy presence.”
He also acknowledged the appreciation of the local Latter-day Saints. “Father, this groundbreaking, in preparation for Thy holy temple, has been the hope and the desire of Thy Saints in this part of the vineyard for many years,” he prayed, recognizing Church members in Knoxville, in eastern Tennessee and in neighboring areas.
What other speakers taught
Two youth from the temple district spoke during the services about importance of attending the temple and participating in and learning from the ordinances.
Kaitlyn Adams, from the Knoxville Tennessee Cumberland Stake, said that because of participating in temple services, she sees “how much closer we’ve gotten to God.”
And Logan Pickup, of the Kingsport Tennessee Stake, said temple ordinances and instruction and the increasing number of temples worldwide are evidence of “God’s love all over the world.”
Gloria Smartt, a member of the Chattanooga Tennessee Stake, said one of the first blessings she recognized from attending the temple was a feeling of peace. Recalling when President Russell M. Nelson visited the area in the 1990s as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, she said: “He gave us counsel to attend the temple and always have a question in your mind.”
Wanas Martin of the Cookeville Tennessee Stake spoke of the house of the Lord in terms of the New Testament teaching of Christ as the Light of the World.
“This light can illuminate our dark and dreary paths in our lives and is to be an illumination within our very being,” Martin said. “The temple is here to help with this illumination. It is the house of the Lord, a house of glory. Not only will it illuminate the dark sky at night in this area, but it can illuminate all who enter. There will be power here. It is His house. His glory will be found here.”
Background of Knoxville temple, others in Tennessee
President Nelson announced a temple for Knoxville on April 3, 2022, one of 17 new temple locations he announced at the conclusion of the April 2022 general conference.
Plans for the Knoxville Tennessee Temple call for a single-story edifice of approximately 30,000 square feet. The location — a 4.99-acre site at 13001 Kingston Pike in Farragut, Tennessee — and site map were released on Oct. 31, 2022, with an exterior rendering published two months later on Dec. 19, 2022. Farragut is a suburb west of the Knoxville city limits.
Tennessee is home to more than 57,000 Church members in over 110 congregations. Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first arrived in 1834 to the state, located in the southeastern United States.