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Marianne Holman Prescott
Church members gather in Meridian, Idaho, for the temple groundbreaking ceremony held on Saturday, Aug. 23.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — On a breezy summer day in an open field just south of the Boise River, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others in the community gathered Saturday morning for the groundbreaking ceremony commemorating the start of construction on the Meridian Idaho Temple.

With the Boise River bottom and beautiful Idaho landscape as a backdrop, an excited crowd watched as Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles grabbed a shovel and joined other church leaders to break ground for the state’s fifth temple.

“Nothing could be more important than to have a temple for these people in this area,” Elder Bednar said. “For people in the community at large this will be a beautiful place — not exclusive to Latter-day Saints.”

Once completed, the temple — announced by President Thomas S. Monson during general conference in April 2011 — will serve Mormons living in the Treasure Valley and its surrounding region.

“It is a marvelous step forward every time we have either a groundbreaking or a dedication,” said Elder Kent F. Richards, who serves as a Seventy and executive director of the temple department for the LDS Church. “Another temple is underway … and immeasurable blessings will come to all, not only the saints in this area, but especially to those who come into the temple.”

Located only 12 miles from the Boise Idaho Temple, the Meridian temple will reduce current demands on the Boise temple and accommodate the development and growth in surrounding areas.

“We were surprised but excited,” said Grant Francis, who serves as president of the Kuna Idaho East Stake. “We have lived here for 15 years and have seen the area grow. It is exciting to be a part of it. Means we better utilize our temple as we participate in hastening the work.”

Although Meridian has been on the map since the 1860s, it wasn’t until the 1920s that members of the LDS Church moved to the area. For a few years members would travel to Boise or Nampa to attend church, and it wasn’t until April 1932 that the first organized meeting took place.

“In the beginning it was difficult to find a meeting place because none of the local residents wanted the Mormons holding meetings in Meridian,” said J. Craig Rowe, who serves as chairman of the groundbreaking committee. “Finally, the town undertaker agreed to let them use his building.”

More than eight decades later, more than 28,000 church members in Meridian make up a total of seven stakes.

"I've lived here since 1952, and have seen it change and now it is almost all built up," said Virginia Hawkins. "It is a glorious day."

During the groundbreaking service, Elder Bednar focused his remarks on gratitude.

“I’d like to look to the future and focus on gratitude,” the apostle said. “Your devotion is evidenced in your attendance and participation here today. But I want to look to the future.”

Mentioning the excitement that came with the announcement of the temple and then later with the announcement of the groundbreaking ceremony, Elder Bednar reminded listeners to take that excitement and gratitude with them to the future, past the dedication and the newness of the temple.

“Our true gratitude will be reflected in what takes place a year or two or three after that dedication,” he said. “The natural man and the natural women in each of us, when we find things are easy, are no longer grateful. I am not accusing, I am just saying that is the pattern we find among so many of us when things become easy ….

“What I pray you will remember is foretelling of gratitude not just today as we assemble here, but gratitude when it is easy; when it no longer requires much travel to get to a temple; when it is just around the corner. Could I simply suggest that’s when we’ll know how grateful we really are.”

Elder Richards spoke of the importance of a temple becoming "self-sufficient" through members bringing family names to the temple. "There is a great joy and happiness that comes as we serve in the temple." He added that temples have always been a special place for church members and that he hopes the Meridian Temple will be a "center point" for the people in the community.

Other participants on the program included Elder Blake R. Alder an Area Seventy, President H. David Christensen, who serves as president of the Caldwell Idaho Stake, Lori Henneman and a choir consisting of members of the Eagle Idaho Stake.

Email: mholman@desnews.com