By Collin Anderson
First announced in April 2013, the Cedar City Temple is considered an answer to centuries-long prayers for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Iron County.
Now completed, the building’s open house and subsequent dedication also impacts Lincoln County’s Latter-Day Saint members in both the near and long term.
Since the St. George Temple was dedicated in 1877, it has been the closest temple for the county’s LDS population. For Cedar residents, the hope of a temple in their “Festival City” always existed. Some lifers have waited half a century or longer to see that blue-domed edifice rise over their city. That hope isn’t necessarily as strong in Lincoln County, as the new temple only shaves about 15 miles off a trip, and there is an affinity for the St. George temple, but local members are nevertheless excited to participate in the activities leading up to the dedication.
In the coming weeks, the church is expecting well over 100,000 people to come for the open house, which starts today and runs through Saturday, Nov. 18. That final day is when hundreds of Panaca Nevada Stake members will volunteer as guides and helpers for those touring the building. Services they will provide range from youth handing out protective covers for shoes to tour guides taking the groups through.
Then, on Dec. 9, young people from throughout the county will be part of 4,500 youth from Utah and Nevada to participate in a cultural celebration at Southern Utah University’s Centrum. The Centrum only seats about 4,000, meaning there are no tickets available to attend in person. However, the event will be broadcast to church buildings, including the ones in Panaca and Alamo. That begins at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Youth are already rehearsing and will be at the Centrum the entire day of the 9th, preparing for their big performance.
This past week, the first media tours and news conferences were held on temple grounds, giving members of the press an opportunity to enter and explore the temple with the help of Elder Larry Y. Wilson, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy (a general leadership body of the church) and executive director of the Temple Department.
The experience began with a news conference, where Wilson welcomed the press and began with an overview of Cedar’s history and how everyone involved in the project wanted to make this temple feel like it had always been there. He stated that this would be the 159th LDS temple in the world, and the 17th in Utah. He added it would serve 45,000 people in southern Utah and parts of eastern Nevada, which includes northern Lincoln County. While congregations in Pahranagat Valley are participating in the open house and dedication events, they will remain in the Las Vegas Temple District.
Wilson mentioned that building a temple in an area was a symbol of growth and beauty, and that having a temple benefits the entire community, not just members of the LDS faith. He concluded by saying that what is inside is sacred, but not a secret, and that he would try to answer any questions that the press might have.
With that, the tour began. As the group was led through the building, Wilson explained that many of the design choices were influenced by the local environment, with the juniper berry depicted on many of the temple’s fixtures, as well as the columbine flower. The juniper berries in particular are of great significance, as they are depicted as growing from a seed to a blossoming flower, representative of man’s blossoming into his divine potential.
Feathers were also a feature in honor of Native American tribes that originate from the area, and show reverence for their culture and also serve as a sign of gratitude for the help they gave early settlers. From the deeply stained mahogany that appeared on the bottom two floors of the temple (using only sustainable sapele wood from Africa, it was noted) to the pale olive green that adorned the walls, and onto the gold and white that featured prominently in what is considered the most sacred quarters of the temple, the church, according to Wilson, sought out the finest materials, using the finest craftsmen.
The final experience of the tour was in what’s considered the holiest of places within the temple, referred to as the Celestial room. Before entering, all those in attendance were invited to sit in silence, so as to better experience the spirit that filled that place.
Before the tour ended, Wilson mentioned that the two stained-glass windows that stood at both the east and west entrances of the temple had been bought from a Presbyterian church in Attica, New York. Four were purchased, and while the other two were sent to two separate temples, these last two stayed together.
All are invited to take the open house tour, including those who are not members of the faith. While admittance is free, the church asks that people acquire tickets on templeopenhouse.lds.org, so that the volunteers can better gauge how many people will be attending. Even so, there will be a standby line for anyone who needs to go on a certain day.