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R. Scott Lloyd
Architects' renderings for the new St. George FamilySearch Library are displayed with the St. George Utah Temple seen in the background.

ST. GEORGE — In the block south of the 138-year-old St. George Utah LDS Temple, ground was broken Saturday for a first-of-its-kind stand-alone family history library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one that will combine family-friendly interactive dazzle with traditional genealogical research.

The 13,500-square-foot St. George Family History Center will open in late fall of next year and will be free to the public. The address is 250 E. 600 South.

The church operates 4,800 family history centers worldwide, but this one will be special, said Dennis Brimhall, CEO of the church’s FamilySearch International.

“Not only will it be one of our busiest family history centers, but we are building into it a concept that’s a bit different,” he said.

Many people are not interested in or ready to do research, he noted. “They need to just start a journey of discovery.”

Hence the new facility will incorporate a “museum of me,” Brimhall said, a “discovery center” where, through technological wizardry, patrons can learn more about themselves and then extend that out to their ancestors, who are likely documented in FamilySearch’s vast database of genealogical information.

A similar such FamilySearch Discovery Center, introduced last February, is currently operating at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.

“It’s by no coincidence that we’re this close to the temple,” Brimhall said. An earlier site was chosen a bit farther away, but there were delays.

“Every time it got delayed, this got closer to the temple,” he said. “Sometimes we say, ‘Why do things take so long?’ Well sometimes they take so long because the Lord is waiting for us to finally understand what he wants. He wanted it closer to the temple, and it couldn’t be a better location.”

Mormons do family history research consistent with their belief that ordinances of salvation can be performed vicariously in temples for their deceased progenitors.

A week from Saturday, the church will dedicate a similar family history discovery center in Seattle, within a stake center next to a temple, Brimhall said. In a year or so, one will be opened in the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, and later, one will be built in London Brimhall said.

“So this concept of having people come and discovery, then go from discovery to research and then building family trees is a concept that is beautiful and what I think Heavenly Father wants.”

Elder Allan F. Packer, an LDS general authority who oversees the church’s Family History Department, said St. George is an area of “firsts” in the church, as pertaining to family history research and temples. The St. George Utah Temple was the first to be built and dedicated after the Mormon pioneers’ exodus from the East and settlement of the Utah territory in 1847.

Church President Wilford Woodruff in the late 1800s had ordinances performed in the St. George Temple for the Founding Fathers of the United States, Elder Packer noted.

Thus it is fitting, he said, that this unique new building, designed from the ground up as a family history research and discovery center, would be built in St. George.

In the eternal scheme, the building is temporary, “but I would suggest that we build something in parallel with the building in our hearts and in our minds that will be permanent.”

He enjoined listeners to create family traditions of personal worship that include family history, “the preserving, the finding, the creating of past and future history. You can do it first; you can be the example for others. I can see it. You can do it.”

Currently, the St. George FamilySearch Library is located at 162 N. 400 East, Building B, Suite 200, and will remain open until the new facility is completed.