SALT LAKE CITY — "Thrilled" and "overjoyed" were the two most descriptive words Paul Challis could find to characterize his feelings Saturday morning after learning an LDS temple would be constructed in Cedar City, Utah.
"I am overjoyed to see my boyhood home, Cedar City, get a temple. I still have familly there and all of them are thrilled by the news," Challis said. "My daughter was born in Cedar and it is where both of my parents are buried. They would be totally thrilled by this announcement. They are smiling from above I am sure. Great news!"
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson opened the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints Saturday morning by announcing the construction of two new temples, one in Cedar City, Utah, and one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"Brothers and sisters," President Monson said, "temple building continues unabated."
The Cedar City Utah Temple will be the 17th such structure in Utah among Utah's 2 million Latter-day Saints, including two under construction — the Payson Utah and Provo City Center Temples — as well as the Ogden Utah Temple, which is currently under renovation.
The Rio de Janeiro Brazil temple will be Brazil's seventh temple, serving nearly 1.2 million church members in that South American country. There are currently 141 operating temples worldwide. With today’s announcement, 29 announced temples are under construction.
Church members in Cedar City were thrilled with the announcement.
For Chelsea Booth, a mother of five young children including one with special needs, attending the St. George Temple has been a challenge. She anticipates that will change with the new temple.
"When the announcement was made, a lot of hoopla went up in our home," Booth said. "I was overcome with a sense of the Lord's awareness of little ol' me in Cedar City. He knows how many of us need this blessing in our community. We have a great town. There are surrounding towns longing for a closer temple. He is so aware of us."
Jessica Wilkinson thought of her grandparents.
"I had chills as both of my grandparents on my mother's side were born and raised in Cedar," Wilkinson said. "They are also buried there and I couldn't help but feel their excitement from the other side."
Susan Jensen thought of the pioneers who settled the area.
"When we lived in Milford our closest temple was St. George, two hours away over two dangerous mountain passes in the winter time. The Saints in that area and the many small communities around it, which were founded by faithful pioneers, are so faithful themselves today," Jensen said. "What a wonderful blessing for them. I am sure their ancestors in heaven rejoice, as does our family who still resides there."
Jasen Asay, a graduate of Southern Utah University, expressed happiness for the people of area.
"The people in Cedar City and the neighboring cities will benefit from the new temple," Asay said. "While I enjoyed trips to the St. George temple when I was a student at SUU, it would have been great to have a temple right in Cedar City.”
Michael Don Bahr, an SUU employee, agreed.
"Actors, teachers, students at SUU, students from our Playmakers program, past Shakespearean Festival employees — my (Facebook) feed is filled with people so excited about the news," Bahr said.
Shawn Stevens, a California resident, has ties to Southern Utah and Brazil. He spent time in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1980s and used to admire the statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the city.
"Now there will be a magnificent temple to accompany it," Stevens said. "A temple will bless the poor people of Rio. I also think it is very timely that a temple will be there with the arrival of the Olympics in a few years."
Rio will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. One of the 25 largest cities in the world, Rio also will host soccer's 2014 World Cup.
Stevens said his family used to drive through Cedar City and play a game to see who could spot the most church building spires.
"There seemed to be so many," he said. "Now we will be able to point out the temple spire with our grandchildren."
Hikari Loftus served as a sister missionary in Brazil. She described Rio de Janeiro as "a rough city, known throughout Brazil for its crimes and ghettos." She admits many missionaries didn't anticipate seeing a temple there for a long time, but was pleased with the announcement.
"I used to say that my accent (while speaking Portuguese) is American, but my heart is Brazilian. Oh how I love those Brasileiros and rejoice with them as they receive another temple," Loftus said. "I look forward to seeing how a temple in Rio de Janeiro will sanctify that city."
Latter-day Saints believe temples are sacred buildings, "the House of the Lord," different from their regular meetinghouses, in which weekly worship services are held. After temples are dedicated, they are open only to active, practicing church members for the performance of sacred rites including baptism and marriage.