CEDAR CITY, Utah — Cedar City, located in a high desert valley of southwestern Utah, was broken out of sagebrush by hardy Mormon pioneers sent by Brigham Young in the late 1850s.
“We come from pioneer stock and that pioneer spirit still exists,” said Cedar City-native Mindy Benson. Church members here subscribe to a “get in and get it done” attitude, she said.
That hardworking “can-do” spirit was manifest in the service of Church members throughout the public open house — which concluded Nov. 18 — for the soon-to-be dedicated Cedar City Utah Temple.
During the four weeks that the Church hosted visitors in what will be the 17th temple in Utah, tens of thousands of people descended on the city that — at the last census — retains a population of less than 30,000.
John Yardley, the local temple open house and dedication coordinator, said nearly 180,000 people toured the edifice during the open house, about 60,000 more than their highest estimate.
And yet, “it just worked,” Yardley said. “It’s a tribute to the wonderful people down here and those willing to sacrifice. I feel deeply grateful and think the hand of heaven was manifest. People worked very hard.”
There were experiences every day, sometimes every minute, that showed the Lord was in the details of the planning process, noted Benson, who served on the local coordinating committee. For example, the temple sits high atop a steep hill in a residential area. Because of traffic concerns, they decided to have visitors park at a nearby stake center and contracted buses from Bryce Canyon to shuttle visitors to the temple grounds.
During the open house a couple visiting the national parks, who were not familiar with the temple, followed signs for “event parking” from the interstate and then saw Bryce Canyon shuttles. Even though the shuttle didn’t drop them off where they thought it would, they decided to take a tour and the woman ended up having a powerful experience.
Many simple decisions, like choosing to charter buses from Bryce Canyon, down the road meant something to someone, Benson said.
About 15,000 members from throughout the temple district — which includes 17 stakes stretching from Escalante to Boulder to Elko, Nevada — volunteered their time and labor, from ushering to feeding the missionaries to serving as parking attendants.
Marty Larkin of the Cedar 20th Ward, Cedar City Utah West Stake, showed up almost every day to volunteer as a parking attendant. Serving at the temple, even before it was dedicated, allowed her to feel an increase of the Spirit, she said. “I thought a lot about my family. It just makes you feel closer to them and to your ancestors.”
Jean Truman and her husband, Scott Truman, were one of four couples that helped to coordinate the 9,000 volunteers who served as ushers and guides throughout the open house. “It could be a bit daunting at times,” Jean said. “But it’s all in the Lord’s hands so it all works out.”
Members were excited to be a part of the process, Yardley noted. “They would say, ‘I want to help.’ ”
One weekend various sports tournaments, a local bicycle activity and other events brought many out-of-towners to the area. That Saturday some 16,000 people converged on the temple hoping for a tour. Despite long lines, people reacted with warmth, acceptance and patience, Scott recalled.
“No one ever complained,” his wife added. “Everyone was very positive.”
What motivated members to serve was their faith and love of the Lord and their “complete excitement,” Yardley said. “This is our temple out here.”
Benson said in addition to strengthening volunteers’ testimonies, the open house also allowed members to “show what we do and what we know and what we believe” and generated many missionary opportunities.
“If I had my preference, I’d be a recluse,” Scott said. But the opportunity to engage with good people, both members and nonmembers, ended up being a highlight of his service.
One young man who was not a member told him after a tour, “I’ve never felt anything like this, such peace.”
Yardley said as he read the comment cards left by visitors every night, many expressed sentiments such as “I will be back” or “I will be worthy” or “This experience has changed my life.”
The Spirit of the Lord dwells in His house, and whether a person was serving on a tour or going through as a visitor, “it was a spiritual experience. People were changed,” Scott said.
The Cedar City Utah Temple was announced by President Thomas S. Monson on April 6, 2013. Ground was broken on Aug. 8, 2015. It will be dedicated on Dec. 10 in three sessions. A cultural celebration featuring music and dance from local youth will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9.