POCATELLO — An estimated 5,000 people turned out at the Portneuf Health Trust Amphitheatre in Pocatello on Wednesday during an event celebrating the upcoming open house for the Gate City’s new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple.

The title of the event was “Connect, Protect, Prepare,” which alludes to the protections that family gives, according to Troy Dye of the church who’s the chairman of the Pocatello Temple Open House Committee.

“We feel like we have family here that protects us and helps us and family passed away on the other side,” Dye said.

The purpose of the event was to promote the temple and to give all the Latter-day Saint youth in the Pocatello temple district a chance to reconnect after being separated for so long because of precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Food was plentiful at the event, with the Soda Barn alone donating 5,000 cookies.

The speaker for the event was Hank Smith, a professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He had the crowd laughing as he talked about family relationships.

Smith also encouraged the audience to seek to make strong families and reminded them of the miraculous faith experience that is associated with temple attendance.

Overall, it was a successful event.

“It turned out really nice,” said Larry Fisher, communications director for the church in Pocatello.

There was music from the Mercy River singing group and Nik Day, and a huge reader board provided good viewing for those attending the event.

“Everybody I talked to said the youth really seemed to like it, and enjoyed the music and being together with all the other youth,” Fisher said.

He said it was a great event with youth coming from all across the Pocatello temple district, which includes Pocatello, Chubbuck, Blackfoot, American Falls, Grace, Soda Springs, McCammon, Inkom, Malad and Arimo.

Fisher said it’s exciting to get to this point with the temple. He says it’s the first church temple open house planned since the COVID-19 pandemic hit about a year and a half ago.

“The church closed the temples and now they’re starting to reopen,” Fisher said.

The temple’s open houses — set for Sept. 18 to Oct. 23 — will allow those who aren’t members of the church to go through the building and learn more about it before the Nov. 7 temple dedication ceremony.

“We’d love to have as many people as possible for the open house,” Fisher said.

The dedication ceremony itself is a special invitation for members of the faith, but everybody’s invited and encouraged to come and see it beforehand during the open house, Fisher said.

He says they’re excited to show it off to members of the community, and they’re eager to explain what the temples are for and the difference between a temple and a regular worship meeting house.

“It’s a great opportunity for our community to come and see it and learn more about it,” Fisher said.

The temple tour will start with a video presentation and then visitors can walk through the temple and see the interior details of the building.

There will be an advance sign-up sheet for people who are interested in touring the temple to make sure everybody doesn’t show up at the same time.

Fisher said that more information will be available in the next two or three weeks on where to go online to sign up for a tour.

“We appreciate the community support and we’re excited to be able to go to the open house together as a community,” Fisher said. “And we think the temple is a wonderful addition to Pocatello and the surrounding areas.”

Wednesday’s event wound up with a brief message from Bruce H. Winegar, who will be the first president of the Pocatello temple.

In keeping with the event’s theme of connect, protect and prepare, he urged young people to connect with their ancestors, protect against negative influences by getting involved in family history work and preparing themselves for the temple when it opens.