TWIN FALLS, Idaho Standing outside the newly dedicated Twin Falls Idaho Temple with her family, 11-year-old Haley Ackerman tried to summarize her feelings: "It is pretty much unexplainable. I don't have any words for it. It is just awesome."
Haley's parents Jeffrey and Jolene Ackerman looked at their daughter: "What do you mean you don't have words?"
After all, the family has spent countless hours during recent months preparing for the new temple, the fourth in Idaho and the 128th worldwide for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Haley and younger brother Cade saved their pennies for the temple fund. They planted a tree on the temple grounds with their Primary. Older siblings Alexandria, 17, and Kyle, 14, practiced since spring for the cultural celebration. Her father, a stake president, prepared members of their stake to staff three days of the temple open house, an event that every member of the family invited friends to attend with them. Then the older children sat in the hot sun, placing plastic foot coverings on open house guests.
And that was all before the whirlwind weekend during which the temple was dedicated on Sunday, Aug. 24, by President Thomas S. Monson.
All in all, the entire process left Jolene Ackerman spiritually fortified and emotionally exhausted.
The dedication, she said, culminated the entire process, leaving the family and the 42,000 other Latter-day Saints in the temple district to feel ownership for the new building "our temple now."
"It has been a great experience," Jeffrey Ackerman said. "I really believe that something like this really is a beacon to the community. ... It has moved the church into the forefront."
His family's experience is similar to what families in the Salt Lake Valley will experience in the future dedication of the Draper Utah Temple and the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple.
After the dedication of the 31,500 square-foot Twin Falls temple, the Ackermans took a few minutes to reflect on the weekend and the growing LDS Church presence in Twin Falls.
Jeffrey Ackerman recalled visiting Twin Falls as a small child. Back then the area where the temple now stands was identified by the beautiful Snake River Canyon and Evel Knievel's 1974 ill-fated attempt to cross it.
But things have changed so much in the community that the local newspaper's editorial board all members of other faiths wrote a house editorial welcoming the new temple and explaining that President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Twin Falls in 2004 to select a site. "Collectively, we're proud that the church chose to build a temple here and that Hinckley personally picked the site. In so doing, he honored Twin Falls residents of every faith," wrote the editorial board.
Jeffrey Ackerman said the entire dedication experience has been an amazing thing.
"For our family, from a personal note, it has been unbelievable," he said.
The temple has also united local church members, living in 14 stakes in communities across south central Idaho, including Twin Falls, Jerome, Burley, Rupert, Ketchum and Hailey, he said.
Jolene Ackerman cried Saturday when 3,200 young performers filled the rodeo area of the Filer fair grounds. The simple thought that hundreds of teens from small communities across south central Idaho had come together to accomplish something huge made her emotional, she said.
"I knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity most people don't get to have," added Alexandria of the cultural celebration.
And that was just the beginning.
Alexandria and her younger siblings each placed mortar in the temple's cornerstone. "When you get married in the temple, you will know you set some of the mortar," their mother told them.
And, finally, the entire family attended the dedication. It would be many years before her children would be old enough to be together in the temple again, Jolene Ackerman said.Added Jeffrey Ackerman: "To be a convert to the church, to see my own family sealed in the temple, to marry in the temple and to have this opportunity (to attend a temple dedication) for my family is a rich blessing. It is deep and powerful and meaningful to the members of the church here."