BRIGHAM CITY — Like sentinels watching over this northern Utah community, the upper points of a second landmark Mormon edifice will soon reach above Brigham City's treetops.
The new Brigham City Temple will join the historic Box Elder Tabernacle on the opposites side of South Main Street's 200 block. Construction of the temple kicked off Saturday with a groundbreaking that included the release of an architectural rendering of the temple, the 14th in Utah for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The tabernacle and temple-to-be were called "beacons" to the community and Box Elder County by President Boyd K. Packer, the Brigham City native who is president of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He presided over Saturday morning's ceremonies, was the keynote speaker, unveiled the architectural rendering of the new building and offered the dedicatory prayer for the temple site.
"I am home," said President Packer, who eight decades ago first attended the old Central School that once sat on the same property. During his talk, he reminisced about growing up with 10 siblings in the community and then raising his own family in Brigham City.
"I can see in my mind's eye a temple sitting here ?— it will be gorgeous and it will be white," he said, adding that "it will be a beacon for all the valley."
He was joined in speaking by his wife, Sister Donna Packer; Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Steven E. Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder William R. Walker of the Quorums of the Seventy and executive director of the church's Temple Department; and Elder Allan F. Packer of the Quorums of the Seventy, who is President Packer's son.
A four-floor building with approximately 36,000 square feet, the Brigham City Temple is patterned after the classic designs of the church's Logan, Manti and Salt Lake temples.
However, the new temple will feature its own unique features —? a limestone exterior and a peach-blossom motif appearing both on the outside walls and planned for the inside design as well.
The Brigham City temple will face east toward the tabernacle and will have two spires — the taller one with its Angel Moroni statute that will rise several feet higher than the Box Elder Tabernacle's tallest point.
The temple was among several announced by President Thomas S. Monson, president of the LDS Church, at the October 2009 general conference.
LDS temples differ from the church's meetinghouses or chapels, where members meet for Sunday worship services.
Temples are considered houses of the Lord where Christ's teachings are reaffirmed through marriage, baptism and other ordinances that unite families for eternity and where members learn more about the purpose of life.
A crowd of an estimated 7,000 packed the temple-site property and the lawns of the tabernacle on the east side of South Main Street. The ceremonies were also broadcast live to a dozen local LDS stake centers and to the tabernacle.
Construction on the temple is expected to take 18 to 20 months, and it will likely be ready in about two years from now for dedication and operation, Elder Walker said.
President Packer, the church's longest-serving general authority with a tenure of a half-century, said he plans to return for the dedication.
"I'm getting a little rickety," quipped the 85-year-old, who sat while giving his address, "but I feel confident in promising you that I'll be back for the dedication of the temple.
"And I think I have enough authority to get me assigned to be here."