PAYSON — The 152nd temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be built in Payson.
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced the new temple plans Monday afternoon.
"Temples answer those soul-searching questions of the purpose of life, of why we are here and where we are going," President Monson said. "They are sanctuaries from the storms of life and bless the lives of members of the church who worship within their sacred walls."
The new temple is expected to ease pressure on the Provo Temple, one of the busiest in the church. The new temple will serve approximately 22 stakes from Spanish Fork to Nephi, comprising approximately 78,000 church members.
Rumors that a temple would be built in south Utah County have circulated for years.
"It's been a whirlwind around here today," Payson Mayor Rick Moore said Monday. "We're just excited that it's coming here. We'll do what we can to make (the church) proud."
Plans for the temple haven't yet been turned in to the Payson city planning department, but Moore and other city officials knew an announcement was imminent.
"It's been a sworn secret around here for about a week," he said.
Earlier Monday, Moore received a phone call from Presiding Bishop H. David Burton confirming that Utah's 15th temple will be built in Payson.
The temple will be built at 930 W. 1590 South in a developing area just off state Route 198 and about six blocks from Payson High School. An LDS stake center is under construction a few blocks away.
The temple property is located on gently sloping ground that offers scenic views of the area, as well as easy access to the freeway.
Some temple-going members have been driving to Provo, some 14 miles away, or even Manti — some 60 miles from Payson — for temple services because of the pressure on the Provo Temple.
Payson, located on the south end of Utah County, has a population of more than 17,500.
LDS Church leaders were in Payson during the past few weeks looking at sites there, as well as in Santaquin, Moore said.
"I think that's wonderful," a surprised Gordon Taylor said.
Taylor, a retired dentist and lifelong Payson resident, is chairman of the Payson Historical Preservation Board and served a term as mayor from 1998-2002.
According to Gloria Barnett of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Brigham Young prophesied that a temple would one day be built in Payson.
"I've heard that story over and over," Barnett said.
For years it was believed the temple would go on P Mountain, a prominent hillside near the mouth of Payson Canyon where high schoolers have a block P.
Barnett said Young often stayed at the John B. Fairbanks house on Main on his way to St. George. Fairbanks was an early Payson LDS Church leader. That home was moved to This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City, and the land has been converted to a parking lot for the Third Ward chapel, which still stands.
"I knew it would come, but maybe not in my lifetime," Barnett said of a temple in Payson.
Debbie Bushnell, a 23-year resident, called the planned location for the temple "a nice area."
"It will be a real blessing to the church members here, although the Provo Temple isn't that far away," said David Dahlquist, president of the LDS Payson South Stake. "We had hoped that our temple attendance would increase … to bring about the desired result."
Artists' renderings, the size of the temple, ground-breaking dates and other information will be announced as they become available.
The Payson temple bring the total number of temples worldwide, already in operation or in the planning and construction phases to 152.
The new Payson temple will be the third in Utah County, joining the Provo Temple and the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork.
After opening the Bountiful, Mount Timpanogos, Vernal and Monticello temples in a four-year span from 1995-98, the LDS Church once again is expanding the temples in the Beehive State. The Draper and Oquirrh Mountain temples both opened in 2009. Plans for a new temple in Brigham City were announced in October.
A letter was sent Monday to local church leaders in the Payson area regarding the new temple announcement.
LDS Church temples provide a place where church members make promises and commitments to God and where the highest sacraments of the faith occur, such as the marriage of couples for eternity.
Temples differ from the tens of thousands of local meetinghouses where members typically meet for Sunday worship services and midweek social activities.
The practice of temple building is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments, and from its historical beginnings to the present day, the LDS Church has constructed temples. The first temple was built by the church in Kirtland, Ohio. The first Utah temple was completed in St. George in 1877, followed by Logan in 1884, Manti in 1888 and Salt Lake City in 1893. The Ogden and Provo temples both became operational in 1972, and the Jordan River Temple opened in 1981.
Temples offer public open houses before they are dedicated. Thereafter, only worthy church members can enter inside.