CEDAR CITY, Utah
Not long after leading the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley, the prophet Brigham Young called 100 men to what would be named the Iron County Mission to tap into the rich veins of ore found within Southern Utah. These stalwart Saints obediently traveled to the Cedar Valley, where they grappled with harsh conditions such as unreliable water sources, rocky soil and limited access to lumber.
But despite challenges, and with hard work, loyalty and conviction, these Saints persisted.
As President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the newest temple in the Church in the midst of the Cedar Valley on Sunday, Dec. 10, he called the edifice a tribute to the wonderful pioneers who came at Brigham’s call.
The Cedar City Utah Temple — the 159th in the Church and 17th in Utah — will accommodate 45,000 members throughout the communities carved out of rocks and ridges by those early Saints, including Parowan, Cedar City, Panguitch, Beaver, Escalante, Enoch and many others.
President Eyring told those gathered for the cornerstone ceremony he wasn’t sure if Brigham Young foresaw a second temple in Southern Utah. “But I know that he’s looking down on us right now, and I think we owe something to him and to the pioneers who must be so aware of this day. We honor them as we now seal the cornerstone.”
Tribute to pioneer heritage
By design, the newest temple in the Church looks reminiscent of other pioneer temples — such as Nauvoo, Manti or St. George — as it rises from a hilltop covered in cedar trees, juniper bushes and sagebrush.
President Eyring called it “one of the most beautiful temples I have seen.”
The new temple reflects the beauty, cleanliness and splendor of a contemporary temple and has the most modern technology, but “it looks like a pioneer temple,” noted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who accompanied President Eyring to the dedication. “It is very striking.”
Although the edifice has materials from around the world — including rugs from China; stones and tiles from Israel, Spain and Iran; and wood from Africa — the details — the mill work, inlays, moldings, embossing and hardware — all reflect pioneer-era sensibilities and local flora. Motifs of columbine flowers from high mountain meadows, juniper berries and patterns of feathers are enhanced in each ascending floor of the temple.
Members are greeted at each of the two entrances by large stained-glass panels from the Astorica Presbyterian Church in Queens, New York. Eight original paintings are found throughout the temple, some depicting scenes from the Savior’s life and others portraying the dramatic local red cliff landscapes.
As much as people connect with the beauty and craftsmanship of the temple, the real purpose is to help people connect to the Savior and to their families, said Elder John Yardley, a former Area Seventy and the local temple committee coordinator. “Beyond the brick and mortar is our love and connection with the Savior and that families can be forever. That’s really what this boils down to,” he said.
A temple-going people
For 140 years, the St. George temple — just 50 miles away — has served as the spiritual anchor for the region. Dedicated in 1877, it is the oldest operating temple in the Church.
For those early settlers and before the development of roads and the interstate in the 1930s, the trail between Cedar City and St. George was “deathly dangerous,” said Richard L. Saunders, dean of library services at Southern Utah University.
The Black Ridge — a deep, rough lava flow — disrupted the path with sheer vertical drops, jagged rock and/or deep sand. Going around required at least a two-day detour through Enterprise, Utah.
Settling Southern Utah was “beyond hard work,” Saunders said.
And yet, the legacy of sacrifice and faith exhibited by those early settlers continues in the new Cedar City temple district, Elder Holland said.
“What a tribute to the people of this district — Cedar City and Parawan and Panguitch and around — that for all these years, what 140 or so, they have gone to St. George, faithfully and devotedly, and served down there. The whole region is filled with devoted faithful people who are going to be blessed by this temple. It is their faithfulness that has justified building it.”
Alissa Crockett, who attended Sunday’s cornerstone ceremony with her husband, Mike Crockett, and six children, has already scheduled her appointment to do an endowment session the Thursday after the dedication.
The new temple has already been a blessing, she said, as her oldest children were able to participate in both the open house and youth cultural celebration and look forward to doing baptisms for the dead.
For herself, although serving in the temple is “always worth it,” attending the St. George temple in the past sometimes required her and her husband to hire two babysitters to care for their children, which include twins. Now it’s a simple 20-minute drive. “It’s definitely going to be a blessing.”
Kerry and Sue Jones have loved the opportunity to serve in the St. George temple as ordinance workers for many years. “Almost every facet of your life is positively impacted by working in the temple,” Kerry said.
Now the two look forward to even more opportunities to serve in the community where Kerry grew up, where they met and married, where they raised their children and where they have deep roots. “I feel so grateful,” Sue said. “It can’t come soon enough for us to serve.”
During the cornerstone ceremony on Sunday morning, President Eyring said that he knew this temple would be a blessing now and for generations.
“Always remember that you were here for the dedication. I know I will,” he said.
Leaders participating in the dedication of the Cedar City Utah Temple included:
• President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency.
• Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland.
• Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Debbie J. Christensen.
• Elder Larry Y. Wilson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the temple department, and his wife, Sister Lynda M. Wilson.
• Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Jane C. Curtis.
• Elder Joseph W. Sitati, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Gladys N. Sitati.