CENTRAL, Ariz. — The small communities of Thatcher, Pima and Safford are

nestled together near the base of the Gila Mountains in an area

settled largely by Mormon pioneers. And in the middle sits Central.It is here

in Central, in the midst of those communities, each of which has

its own LDS stake, that the Gila Valley Temple is under

construction. It will be dedicated on May 22.

Mormon settlers first came to the area in 1879, and the first branch was

organized into a ward in 1880. Historians say that two years later, in

1882, Jesse N. Smith stated that a temple would be built in the area.

__IMAGE__"It was prophesied years ago that there would be a temple in the Gila

Valley. Ever since the Saints came in 1879 to settle in Pima they have

looked forward to this," says Keith Crockett, 75, who was recently

called as the Gila Valley Arizona Temple president.

Though anticipated more than 125 years ago, it wasn't until April 2008,

in his first such announcement as the new president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,

that President Thomas S. Monson announced that a temple would be built

in Arizona's Gila Valley.

The Gila Valley Temple will bring the number in Arizona to three —

the Mesa Arizona Temple was dedicated in October 1927 and the Snowflake

Arizona Temple in March 2002. Two additional Arizona temples, one in

Gilbert and one in Phoenix, have been announced.

Viewing the new temple as a focal point and a unifying element for their

area, Latter-day Saints in the Gila Valley say it seems significant that

the new temple is located in Central, and it also seems appropriate that

each of the members of the new temple presidency is from one of the

three surrounding stakes.

President Crockett and his wife, Kathleen McBride Crockett, who will

serve as temple matron, are from the Pima Arizona Stake. Terry Joe

Bingham, of the Safford Arizona Stake, will serve as the first

counselor, with his wife, Connie, as assistant matron. Kent Woods, a

member of the Thatcher Arizona Stake, has been called as second

counselor, with his wife, Ann Lee Woods, as assistant matron.

President Crockett says he looks forward to serving with these men he

loves and admires.

"We've always worked together, quite closely together, in fact," says

President Crockett. "President Bingham and I were stake presidents at

the same time; President Woods replaced me as the stake president."

In addition to his service as a stake president, a counselor in a stake

presidency, and stake high councilor, President Crockett worked in the

Church Education System, including serving as institute director at

Eastern Arizona College for more than 15 years. He also served as

mission president of the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission between

1993 and 1996. In 2000, President Crockett was called to the Second

Quorum of the Seventy and served in the presidency of the South America

South Area. He was serving as a sealer in the Mesa Arizona Temple and

stake patriarch when he was called as the new temple president.

Along with serving as a missionary with her husband, Sister Crockett has

served as a counselor and board member in the stake Relief Society, ward

Young Women president and adviser, and temple ordinance worker and


President Crockett says he and Sister Crockett have felt tremendous

outpouring of excitement and support from the members in that area.

"We have felt 100 percent support, an amazing amount," he says, "and

people are just as excited as they can be. Even nonmembers in the area

have told us that they are thrilled that the temple is being built and

that they can come to the open house."

President Crockett says Latter-day Saints in the area are demonstrating

their excitement about having a temple in their midst by doing acts of

service and by preparing family names for temple work.

"People are calling all the time to see what they can do to help. One

sister has crocheted eight altar cloths for the temple," he says. "A

group of Mia Maids have made ribbon bows with flowers for young girls

who will be sealed to their parents."

President Bingham and President Woods say they, too, have seen the

anticipation mounting.

"The Gila Valley people are such a good, temple-going people. It's going

to be great to work with them right here in our own temple and to feel

the love for the temple that they have also," President Bingham says.

President Woods adds, "I hope with the temple closer now, more young

couples with children at home can take an hour and a half off to go to a

session, and older people who are not able to drive to Mesa can now do

the same."

In addition to the Pima, Thatcher and Safford stakes, the Gila Valley

Temple district encompasses four additional stakes: Duncan Arizona, St. David Arizona, Sierra Vista Arizona and Silver

City New Mexico, and will serve approximately 32,000 members.

A public open house with tours of the Gila Valley Temple will be Friday, April 23, through Saturday, May 15, 2010, excluding Sundays.

In conjunction with the temple dedication, a cultural celebration

featuring music and dance by youths throughout the temple district will

commemorate the heritage of the Gila Valley. The cultural event will be

May 22 at Mickelson Stadium at Eastern Arizona College.

The temple will be dedicated in three sessions (9 a.m., noon, and 3

p.m.) on Sunday, May 23. Tickets and instructions for attending the

dedication will be made available through local priesthood leaders.

The temple formally opens for ordinance work on Monday, May 24.