TWIN FALLS, Idaho The dedication of a new Mormon temple in this southern Idaho city in August may be just another sign the 180-year-old religion has arrived in southern Idaho, but local historians say there was an era when disciples couldn't vote, when grazing disputes were evidence of a bitter rift and when people marched the streets with signs urging church members to get out of town.
"There was a lot of fear about the political power of the LDS and that was part of the reason for the Test Oath Act," College of Southern Idaho history professor Jim Gentry told the Times-News. He was referring to an anti-Mormon law dating back to 1884 in the Idaho Territory that precluded members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from voting.
Though Mormons abandoned polygamy in 1890, it took at least another two years before their voting franchise in Idaho was restored.
The new structure, with a 159-foot spire, will be the LDS church's 126th operating temple when it's dedicated Aug. 24 along the Snake River canyon rim. Church members and observers say the contrast between past and present illustrates how far the church's image has evolved since its adherents first arrived in south-central Idaho's Oakley seeking good, flat farming ground and reasonably priced water.