Announced in the October 2011 Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it’s been slow going for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple. But we can put all of that to rest. Today, the First Presidency announced that the temple’s groundbreaking will be held on Saturday, April 25.
Don’t remember this temple? It’s understandable. It was announced in the same session as the Provo City Center Temple, which pretty much took the air out of the room for other temple announcements. Additional temple locations included Paris France, Kinshasa DRC, Durban South Africa, and Barranquilla Colombia. Of those, construction has only started in Paris.
Star Valley is a rural area in far western, central Wyoming with a long history of Latter-day Saint colonizing. Elder Moses Thatcher originally arrived in the valley in 1870, naming it Star Valley “because it is the star of all valleys.”
Years later, in 1894, Church officer George Goddard referenced a prophecy given by Elder Thatcher regarding a temple in Star Valley. He said, “A fine tract of bench land on the eastern portion of Afton will afford a beautiful site for a Temple hererafter to be built…. This bench lies at the mouth of Swift Creek canyon, from whence flows a large stream of pure water, flanked on either side by a park of beautiful swamp pines, many of which are more than 100 feet high.”
Well it took over one hundred years, but the bench in east Afton is, indeed, where the Star Valley Wyoming Temple will be constructed.
Saints living in Star Valley currently need to drive to Rexburg or Idaho Falls, both about 1½ hours away. So why construct a temple for an isolated rural area with a relatively small population base that’s barely connected to the rest of its state? Simple: there are two stakes in Star Valley alone with seventeen wards between them. And those dutiful saints are often unable to make the trek out of the valley during winter to attend the temples nearby in Idaho. They pay their tithing in Star Valley.
The Evanston area, for example, is larger and has plenty of LDS membership, and also sits just about as far from any temples in Utah, but it doesn’t get its own temple. Why? This is just speculation, of course, but it’s likely that it sits smack on I-80 and residents of Evanston don’t experience as much difficulty getting into Ogden, Bountiful, Logan, or Salt Lake. (I’m leaving you out of this, Brigham City.)
Renderings and design specifics of the temple have yet to be released, but don’t expect a Rexburg here. Cracking 15,000 sq. ft. would be surprising.
This will be the first temple in Wyoming, but with any luck, not the last!