M ore than seven decades after ground was broken for the first Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Meridian, Idaho, Church and community members gathered on August 23 to celebrate the growth of the Church in the area and break ground for a new temple.

Prior to officially breaking ground for the Meridian Idaho Temple, Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, offered a dedicatory prayer. Other participants on the program included Elder Blake R. Alder, an Area Seventy and President H. David Christensen, who serves as president of the Caldwell Idaho Stake offered the invocation. Sister Marsha Richards, wife of Elder Kent F. Richards, shared her testimony, and Sister Lori Henneman from the Meridian Idaho Paramount Stake offered the benediction. A choir consisting of members of the Eagle Idaho Stake provided music. After the formal ceremony and dedicatory prayer, all attending were invited to take a turn holding a shovel and turning over dirt.

In a field just south of the Boise River, an excited crowd watched as Elder Bednar joined other local leaders to break ground for the state’s fifth temple. The Meridian Idaho Temple was announced by President Thomas S. Monson during general conference in April of 2011.

Once completed, the temple will serve Church members living in the Treasure Valley and its surrounding region.

“We were surprised but excited to participate,” said Grant Francis, who serves as president of the Kuna Idaho East Stake. “We have lived here for 15 years and have seen the area grow. It is exciting to be a part of it. We desire to effectively utilize this temple as the Lord hastens His work.”

“It is a marvelous step forward every time we have either a groundbreaking or a dedication,” said Elder Kent F. Richards who serves as a Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department. “Another temple is underway … and immeasurable blessings will come to all who enter this sacred edifice.”

Located only 12 miles from the Boise Idaho Temple, the Meridian Idaho Temple will reduce current demands on the Boise Idaho Temple and accommodate the development and growth in surrounding areas.

Although Meridian has been on the map since the 1860s, it wasn’t until the 1920s that members of the Church moved to the area. For a few years members would travel to Boise or Nampa to attend church; it wasn’t until April of 1932 that the first organized meeting took place.

“In the beginning it was difficult to find a meeting place because none of the local residents wanted the Mormons holding meetings in Meridian,” said J. Craig Rowe, who serves as chairman of the groundbreaking committee. “Finally, the town undertaker agreed to let them use his building.”

As the number of members in the Meridian area continued to grow, it became necessary to create the Meridian Branch on June 1, 1934. After only five years the branch became a ward and outgrew the small, white schoolhouse in which they were meeting. Plans for a brick building began to materialize and years after it was built in June of 1972, the first Meridian Idaho Stake was organized.

More than eight decades later there are seven stakes in Meridian made up of more than 28,000 Church members.

During the groundbreaking service, Elder Bednar focused his remarks on gratitude.

“Your devotion is evidenced in your attendance and participation here today. But I want to look to the future,” Elder Bednar stressed. “Our true gratitude will be reflected in what takes place a year or two or three after the dedication of this temple,” he said.

“What I pray you will remember is to have gratitude not just today as we assemble here, but gratitude when the way is easy. When attending the temple becomes easy, when it no longer requires much travel to get to a temple, the natural man and the natural woman in each of us often forgets to be grateful.”

He praised the faithful Church members around the world who have contributed through tithes and offerings to the building up of the Church.

“I express gratitude to all who have prepared for this day,” he said. “I am grateful for ordinary Latter-day Saints from all over the world whose faithfulness in their tithes and offerings enables us to have houses of the Lord such as this. …

“I express gratitude to all of them. I express gratitude to those of you who live locally. The construction of a temple is not about the number of stakes or number of members or any of those other metrics. The decision to build a temple in a particular location is about the hearts of the people. … The Lord has inspired his servants to construct a temple here as a reflection of devotion and dedication and faithfulness and for that, on behalf of all the brethren, I love you and express gratitude.”

Elder Richards spoke of the importance of a temple becoming “self-sufficient” through members bringing their own family names to the temple.

“Temple work is for the young and the middle aged and for the aged,” he said. “[It is] for all.”

He spoke of the greater joy and happiness that is found as families search out their family names and bring them — together — to the temple.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if during the time this temple is under construction, the members in this area might increase in faith and engage diligently in family history work. This temple could be self-sufficient in doing member-produced family names,” Elder Richards said. “There is no reason it couldn’t happen.”

After the formal program, Elder Bednar expounded on Latter-day Saints’ responsibility to search out their ancestors and provide for them the saving gospel ordinances.

“The ultimate obligation is not simply to perform ordinances for the living as eternally important as that is. We also have the obligation to perform those ordinances for our dead,” he said.

Temples have always been a special place for Church members and Elder Richards hopes the Meridian temple will be a “center point” for the community.

“Nothing could be more important than to have a temple for these people in this area,” Elder Bednar emphasized. “For people in this community, this will be a beautiful place.”

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