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Latter-day Saints prepare for Gila Valley Arizona Temple dedication

By Carole Mikita | Posted - May 21, 2010 at 5:55 p.m.



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GRAHAM COUNTY, Ariz. -- Latter-day Saints in the Gila Valley area of Arizona are awaiting the arrival of Church leaders from Salt Lake City Memorial Day weekend for the dedication of their new temple.

About 91,000 guests toured the temple during a three-week open house.
About 91,000 guests toured the temple during a three-week open house.

With the upcoming dedication, The Gila Valley Arizona Temple takes its place as the 132nd temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. With the announcement of two new temples in Phoenix and Gilbert, this will bring the total number to five in Arizona.

More than 21,000 Church members will use this new temple, but visitors traveled long distances to see it during the three-week open house. Approximately 91,000 guests toured the temple.

The first Latter-day Saint settlers came to Thatcher, Ariz., in 1879. Four years later, the Kimball family arrived from Utah. Young Spencer W. Kimball grew up working the farm, played guard on the Gila Valley Academy basketball team and was elected student body president.

Gila Valley Arizona Temple
  • Announcement: April 26, 2008
  • Groundbreaking: February 14, 2009
  • Dedication: May 23, 2010
  • Address: 5291 W Highway 70
    Central, Ariz. 85531

Following his mission, he married Camilla Eyring. They raised their family in Safford, Ariz. Kimball later became his Church's 12th president.

Michael Landon with the Church History Library said, "There are many stories by individual Latter-day Saints, living down there, about personal interaction with him [and] his willingness to extend himself to anybody in the community."

Landon talked about one event in 1941 when President Kimball was an Arizona Church leader, dealing with serious flooding of the Gila River some distance from his home.

"It didn't make any difference," he said. "These people needed help and he was going to do what he needed to do to assist them."

Even after he became Church President, Landon says, Kimball never forgot his friends -- particularly the Native Americans in the Gila Valley.

As Latter-day Saints look to the future with their new temple, they will also pause to remember the past and those who came before.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com


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