CEDAR CITY — Since the first Mormon pioneers settled the Cedar City area in the early 1850s, Latter-day Saints living there have dreamed of one day having a temple.
"That dream has now been realized," said Elder Larry Y. Wilson, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the LDS Church's Temple Department. "Cedar City and the surrounding area, of course, has a rich pioneer heritage, and the temple is really a tribute in many ways to previous generations and their faithful sacrifice, as well as to those who continue to pioneer in this area today."
The Cedar City Temple, which spans eight acres of land and is nestled on a hill overlooking Cedar City and the surrounding valley, will be the 159th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the 17th in Utah. It will serve 45,000 members in southern Utah and eastern Nevada.
Elder Wilson said the temple will not only serve as a landmark but will forever change the community because it becomes a symbol.
"Every time you drive by it you can't help but be inspired by the beauty of it, to have your thoughts drawn towards God and his purposes for this earth and for your life. Whether you are a member of the church or not, you can't help but respond to that kind of beauty," Elder Wilson said. "Striving to be a better person is what the temple is all about."
The public is invited to tour the new temple starting this Friday. The open house will go until Nov. 18, with the dedication taking place Dec. 10.
"The construction of a temple in our faith is a sign of spiritual maturity, strength and growth," Elder Wilson said. "We are so pleased that we are now at the point of having a temple now in this community that not only serves members of our faith, but we believe it benefits the entire community as they have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful grounds and see a magnificent structure of this type in the area."
Designers for the Cedar City Temple looked closely at the architecture of other pioneer temples in St. George and Manti. They also studied other historic buildings in southern Utah, including the Beaver County Courthouse, the St. George Tabernacle and the Fillmore Territory Capitol.
"It very much has a pioneer feel to it," Elder Wilson said. "You'll feel like you are stepping back in time. The effort was to give it a feel as though it has always been here, from the earliest days when those first settlers arrived."
Visitors walking into the Cedar City Temple will see colors that reflect rusty-red rock cliffs of southern Utah, with the columbine flower and juniper berries woven into walls and windows. The interior features rich African mahogany and sapele woodwork, along with marble and stone flooring from Iran, Turkey, Spain and Israel.
As with other temples, the walls are covered with large murals and elegantly framed paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ and landscape scenes of southern Utah, including Kolob Canyon and Bryce Canyon. Among the paintings are eight original pieces of artwork.
Additionally, at the entrances on the west and east sides, visitors will see two historic stained-glass windows with art depicting the Savior. The glass art was recovered from the Astoria Presbyterian Church in Queens, New York, before the building was razed in 2008. They were purchased by a member of the LDS Church, who donated them to the LDS Church. The other two pieces are found in the Provo City Center Temple and the Star Valley Wyoming Temple, Elder Wilson said.
"The stained-glass pieces are unique," Elder Wilson said. "We don't have stained glass in very many temples, and this has two beautiful pieces."
A highlight of the tour came in the sealing room, where Elder Wilson recalled being sealed to his parents and sisters in the Idaho Falls Temple.
"The sealing room is a place that has deep personal meaning for me," Elder Wilson said. "That is one of the most precious memories I have from an earlier time in my life and really one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had."
Harold Shirley has lived in Cedar City for 50 years and served as its mayor from 1990 to 2000. Seeing a temple built in his hometown is a "dream come true," he said.
"I'm just like everybody else in Cedar City; we're just thrilled to have it here," Shirley said. "It's just wonderful."
Becki Bronson descends from southern Utah pioneers. She was raised in Kanab and has lived in Cedar City for more than 20 years. With the new temple less than five minutes away, she will no longer need to get off work early, plan for a baby sitter and drive a multihour round trip to attend the St. George Temple.
From the moment the Cedar City Temple was announced, it has been on the minds, hearts and lips of nearly every member in the community, she said.
"I can't think of a day when it hasn't been talked about in some way — the planning, the preparation, what's happening, when it might open, when we can get tickets. People have come from all over to volunteer," Bronson said. "It has been the most beautiful community effort that I have ever seen."
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced construction of the Cedar City Temple in the April 2013 general conference. Ground was broken for the new temple at 280 S. Cove Drive on Aug. 8, 2015.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: tbtoone