Nearly five years ago, when President Thomas S. Monson announced that a temple would be built in Star Valley, Wyoming, there seemed to be a collective exclamation of joy here. There were celebrations and lots of tears.
One couple, however, as they hugged and jumped up and down with their young children, realized their oldest, an 8-year-old boy, had left the room. President Mark Taylor of the Afton Wyoming Stake recounted the following:
“They found him on the stairs, and he was kneeling in prayer. He was crying. His parents asked him what was wrong.”
“He said, ‘We all need to thank Heavenly Father for giving us a temple.’
“Rather than giving a high five and hooting, here was an 8-year-old whose first impulse was to thank his Father in Heaven for this gift.”
This story was just one of several tender accounts that President Taylor shared with representatives of the press on media day Sept. 20 at the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple — which is expected to receive up to 75,000 visitors in the coming weeks during the public open house.
Visiting the just-completed sacred edifice the week of Sept. 19-24 during special VIP tours, along with the media, were state and local dignitaries and religious leaders. On Thursday, Sept. 22, after press time for the Church News, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead was expected to fly into Star Valley to visit the temple, along with the Wyoming secretary of state and other elected officials out of the state capital in Cheyenne.
Greeting those dignitaries and others visiting the 18,000-plus-square-foot temple, situated on what was known as the Haderlie Farm just east of Highway 89 in Afton, will be more than 4,000 volunteers from the temple district, which includes western Wyoming and parts of Idaho, including Soda Springs and Montpelier. The Star Valley Wyoming Temple, when it is dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 30, will be the Church’s 154th operating temple.
Conducting the special tour for the media was President Taylor, who is also chairman of the temple open house and dedication committee. Joining the entourage at the conclusion of the tour was Elder Larry Y. Wilson, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Temple Department.
“I think this is an example of faith being rewarded,” Elder Wilson told the Church News, speaking of the first temple in Wyoming — a land known for its pioneer heritage.
“Members of the Church have been here for multiple generations going back to the 1800s. Some families have been here for three, four or five generations. They’ve been here for a long time, and now they have this magnificent new temple in Star Valley.”
Temples are the most sacred places on earth, Elder Wilson continued, encouraging the youth here to “participate in sacred ordinances on behalf of deceased ancestors. I can’t think of a finer experience a young person could have than that.”
Speaking of the temple workers who often traveled over storm-battered roads over the decades to serve in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple, Elder Wilson related: “I think we have people here who are so devoted to the Lord, and now they are rewarded with a temple right here in their own community, this beautiful valley with this beautiful mountain backdrop. What could be better?”
Among the many beautiful and unique characteristics of this temple is the pink, green, blue, brown and yellow exterior glass — in a fireweed flower design. Fireweed is a tall wildflower growing abundantly in the mountains of Wyoming.
And as visitors approach the recommend desk inside, they see a life-sized stained glass image of the Savior. The intricate work is at least 150 years old and was once in a Protestant church in New York, President Taylor said. It is backlit with about 1,000 LED lights.
“As soon as you turn those lights on, it’s breathtaking.”
For President Kirk H. Dana, chairman of the public relations sub-committee for the open house, and who will serve as second counselor in the new temple presidency, the temple is not only for members of the Church. He expressed the hope that the non-LDS residents of the valley come to appreciate a temple in their midst.
“To recognize that temples are in places like Rome and New York City and Hong Kong and large metropolitan areas — and [now] in a small community [like] Star Valley.”
And the influence of this new temple is being felt far beyond the temple district. “It’s on one of the busiest highways to travel to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks,” President Dana added.
“We have already seen many people stopping by the side of the road taking pictures and coming up to the building wanting to know what it’s for.”
One teenage visitor, Ryan Dunne of the Jackson 1st Ward, Driggs Idaho Stake, visited the temple with a group of about 40 youth. Afterward, he said, “You could definitely feel the Spirit when you walked in. You can definitely feel it’s the house of the Lord.”
Standing outside the back of the temple, near where it says “Erected 2016,” Alan Parks of the Cottonwood Ward, Afton Wyoming Stake, was serving as an usher for the open house.
He tried to put into words the feelings in Star Valley. “It’s just beyond comprehension. We’re living a dream every day.”
The public open house for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple is Sept. 23-Oct. 8 (except Sept. 24-25, and Oct. 1-2.). To reserve free tickets to tour the temple, see tickets.lds.org.
The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.