John Power, Biltmore Photo
The new Mesa Arizona Temple presidency and their wives stand in front of the temple.

MESA, Ariz. — Elder Daryl H. Garn and his wife, Irene, have returned to their home state of Arizona, where they will serve as the new Mesa Arizona Temple president and matron.

This comes after his serving as a general authority for seven years — two of those years as a counselor in the Asia Area Presidency and three years as the Asia Area President.

President Garn's release from the Second Quorum of the Seventy and the announcement of his new call was made in general conference in October.

He recognizes that his call to serve as the Mesa Temple president comes at a unique time, a little more than a year after three new temples were announced for the state.

The announcement of plans to build the Gila Valley Arizona and Gilbert Arizona temples came on April 26, 2008, the first such announcement made by President Thomas S. Monson after becoming president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that February. "It is my personal priority to make sure members of the church have access to the blessings of the temple," President Monson said at that time. "Temples are sanctuaries from the storms of life."

Construction on the Gila Valley Temple, located in Central, Ariz. —between Pima and Thatcher — began after a height-restriction exception to allow for a 100-foot temple was unanimously approved by the Graham County Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors. The groundbreaking was Feb. 14, 2009, with Elder Neil L. Andersen dedicating the site. On Aug. 19, the Holiness to the Lord — The House of the Lord panel was installed above the main entrance and, as of Aug. 20, all the exterior panels had been attached. Landscaping of the grounds has begun, and the Gila Valley Temple president and matron were announced in October.

Keith Crockett, 75, of the Pima 1st Ward, Pima Arizona Stake, has been called as president of the Gila Valley Temple and his wife, Kathleen McBride Crockett, will serve as temple matron.

While construction on the Gila Valley Temple moves steadily forward, the other two temples announced for Arizona — one in Phoenix and the one in Gilbert — are still in the pre-construction phase.

Attorney Paul Gilbert, of Beus Gilbert PLLC, who has been retained by the church to handle all of the zoning and entitlement issues for the Gilbert and Phoenix temples, says both are proceeding.

The Phoenix Temple, announced less than a month after the Gilbert and Gila Valley temples, will be located in the northwest Phoenix metropolitan area, near West Pinnacle Peak Drive and 51st Avenue, where a meetinghouse already stands. The two-story, 25,800-square foot temple will have a single spire, topped by a statue of the Angel Moroni.

In response to the first rezoning request, submitted on April 29, Deer Valley Village Planner Kelly P. Walker asked for several wording changes and more detailed explanations. Beus Gilbert PLLC submitted a revised application on July 20. That submittal has been reviewed and, with some minor adjustments, signoff has been obtained. The application was then considered at a series of meetings, including Planning Commission and City Council meetings, and, on Dec. 2, the Phoenix City Council unanimously approved rezoning (with stipulations) for the site of the Phoenix Arizona Temple.

A group opposing the temple construction in Phoenix, called the Phoenix Property Rights Coalition, says it will not give up in bringing the issue directly to voters. City leaders say the group must gather 9,798 legitimate Phoenix-voter petition signatures by Jan. 2, 2010, to bring the issue to a vote.

Gilbert says every effort will be made to make peace with the neighbors, noting that several concessions have already been made including turning off the lighting at 10 p.m. and changing the color of the exterior.

On the other side of the Phoenix valley, in Gilbert, the major challenge during the pre-construction process was burying the adjacent power lines.

According to Gilbert, "The big challenge of burying the power lines has been resolved. It will be very expensive to do so, but the church is paying for the burial of all the lines."

As progress is made on these new Arizona temples, President Garn says he feels a great appreciation for the legacy of temples and temple attendance in Arizona.

"I consider the Mesa Temple one of the great pioneer temples. It was built in the time of their poverty and a time of difficult circumstances in Arizona," he says, "and it served such a large geographic area for so long. I hardly ever attend the temple without reflecting on the early Saints who built the temple and had the vision of what it would become."

He says the new temples in Arizona represent "recognition on the part of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve of the faithfulness of the Saints in Arizona."

The seventh operating temple and the first to be built outside of Utah within the continental United States, the Mesa Temple was announced in October 1919 and dedicated in October 1927 by President Heber J. Grant. It was closed in February 1974 for extensive remodeling and was rededicated by President Spencer W. Kimball in April 1975.

President Garn expresses his love for the temple and encourages the Arizona Mormons to attend regularly, saying: "President (Boyd K.) Packer taught us in the seminar for new temple presidents, 'These temples are the house of the Lord and he visits them.'

"There is no better place to understand our Savior and the great plan of happiness of our Father in Heaven than in the temple."