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SMITHFIELD, Cache County — Land was broken on Saturday for the 26th Latter-day Saint temple in Utah, a long awaited temple for Cache Valley, where church members have not had a new temple since 1884 when the Logan Utah Temple was completed.
Zander Poulsen and Gavin Carlson are particularly excited to have a temple on land where they used to help their grandfather farm. It's a farm that had been in the Poulsen family for generations, they said. Poulsen said he was shocked when they learned about the temple, and they are excited to be able to have the temple on land with a rich family history for them and others nearby.
They said the temple has been a frequent conversation among the youth in Seminary classes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They knew where the temple would be a little earlier than everyone else and had to keep the secret.
Addie Poulsen, a granddaughter in the Poulsen family who is 19, said it is frequently difficult to get appointments to do baptisms for the dead at the Logan temple, and having another temple in the area will allow her to be able to attend more frequently. She's also hoping to be married inside the new temple. The Smithfield Utah Temple, which is designed to be a bigger temple, will have two baptismal fonts.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the dedicatory prayer, "Our hearts are full of appreciation for those who have gone before us and who have laid the foundation for a temple in northern Cache Valley. ... We pray that this temple will be a beacon of light for the communities it serves."
He spoke before the prayer about playing sports growing up in the area, and said the location for the temple is near some baseball fields that are significant to many people in the area. He also spoke of friends he has among the Latter-day Saint stakes near the temple site.
"I have seen much of the world, but this peaceful valley, surrounded by these majestic mountains, always feels like home to me. It is among the most beautiful places on earth," Elder Cook said.
He shared memories associated with the valley and the people who live there, but Elder Cook said Saturday was primarily a solemn occasion.
"I'm full of appreciation. For me it's just an incredibly wonderful sacred event," he said.
He said church membership in Cache County is 64%, more than only two other Utah counties. He spoke about the sacrifices of early church members who helped to build the church and the cities in the valley.
"We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. We honor them and their legacy and express gratitude for what they accomplished," Elder Cook said.
He encouraged those who are not Latter-day Saints to participate in the open house when the building is completed and learn more about the temples. He stressed that what happens inside the temples is not secret, but it is sacred. Temples are considered the house of the Lord to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In temples, they participate in ordinances, make covenants and learn about the purpose of life.
Before turning the dirt to break the ground, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said holding a shovel in the valley seemed fitting, quoting his dad saying that a shovel is not something to lean on. He said he worked in the fields around Smithfield. Both Elder Cook and Elder Stevenson grew up in Cache Valley.
Elder Stevenson said the people of Cache Valley have an uncommon respect and remembrance for their ancestors, and a new temple helps honor the struggles and sacrifices of pioneer ancestors.
"Our theology suggests no nobler gesture, no greater gift than that of sacred ancestral temple ordinances tying our hearts to our ancestors," Elder Stevenson said.
He said temples help members ensure they are fulfilling God's vision for them, and help families come closer together.
"Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you closer to your family. Understanding the eternal nature of the family will draw you closer to the temple," Elder Stevenson said.
He said a temple is an indication of faith in the members of the area, and he has seen Saints recently in Brazil, Japan and other countries rejoice in temple construction and find a deeper connection with their pioneer roots. Around the world, temples are blessing communities of members, he said.
Outside of Utah there are multiple other temples under construction. Elder Stevenson said there are 172 dedicated temples around the world, with the Hong Kong Temple rededication and the Cape Verde Temple dedications happening on Sunday. He added that 85% of church members now live within 200 miles of a temple. There are also 50 temples under construction and 60 temples announced.
Thirteen stakes will be assigned to use the new temple, including five Smithfield stakes and three Idaho stakes.