Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad says it was the toughest secret he's ever had to keep.
Blad's referring to a meeting he had on Thursday with Mormon church officials. He said he wasn't sure why they wanted to meet with him and he wasn't expecting it when they told him of the church's plans to build a Pocatello Temple.
They also told him the news had to be kept secret until the Mormon church's announcement Sunday morning that the long-awaited Pocatello temple was going to be a reality.
Blad said he kept his promise not to tell anyone but it was incredibly difficult.
"I didn't even tell my wife or kids," Blad said. "I just tried to avoid people for a few days."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Prophet Thomas S. Monson made the historic announcement Sunday morning and Blad, a lifelong Mormon, says the city's LDS and non-LDS residents should be celebrating.
Blad said it's very likely the temple will be built on land east of Satterfield Drive near the city's northeast border. He said the LDS officials he met with Thursday told him that location was a strong possibility though a different location could still be chosen.
Blad said he expects the temple to open in about four years. He said the temple has not even been designed yet. The actual construction phase for the temple will take about a year, Blad said.
The mayor says Pocatellans of all faiths can appreciate that the temple will provide a boost to the city's economic development.
"The places that had temples were not hit as hard as places without temples during the recession," Blad said. "Idaho Falls has a temple and it was not hit as hard by the recession as Pocatello. Salt Lake City and Boise have temples and they weren't as hard hit as the rest of the country."
Blad said the news about the temple resonated most with Pocatello area Mormons, who have wanted a temple to be built in the Gate City for decades.
"To followers of the church, this means a lot. People felt like we were being left out," Blad said, referring to the LDS temple's that were constructed in other parts of Idaho and even in nearby Star Valley, Wyoming, during the past 10 years. "It wasn't the time for it, but now it is. A lot of people have been waiting for this for years and years. It's wonderful news."
Monson made the announcement during the church's general conference in Salt Lake City. He also announced new temples in Brasilia, Brazil; Greater Manilla, Philippines; Nairobi, Kenya and Saratoga Springs, Utah.
LDS officials said the Pocatello Temple will likely open in three to five years.
The construction of the Pocatello Temple means there will be six LDS temples in Idaho. The church built the Idaho Falls Temple in the 1940s dedicating it in 1945. Decades later came the Boise Temple, which was dedicated in 1984. That was followed by the Twin Falls and the Rexburg Temples both dedicated in 2008. The Meridian Temple is currently under construction and will be dedicated on Nov. 19. The Idaho Falls Temple is being remodeled and will be re-dedicated on June 4.
There are still many unanswered questions about the Pocatello Temple, such as when construction will start and where it will be built. LDS church officials said those questions will be answered soon.
The Pocatello Temple announcement comes after much speculation recently that a temple would be constructed in the Gate City.
The Journal reported last month that the LDS church wants to annex 74 acres of land — 10 of which the church has owned since 1997 — into the city. The Pocatello City Council will vote on the annexation on April 6.
The land is east of Pocatello's Satterfield Drive, and the 10 acres owned by the LDS church are right next to an already-existing Mormon church on Butte Street. If a temple were to be built on the 74 acres, the land would have to be annexed into the city first so city water service and other utilities could be provided to the property.
Talk about a Pocatello temple has been ongoing for decades but during the past 10 years speculation on building one has intensified as other temples were built in Idaho and surrounding states. The Star Valley, Wyoming, temple was dedicated last year while the Brigham City, Utah, temple was dedicated in 2012. According to Mormon Newsroom, there are 450,000 Mormons in Idaho.
Blad said he realizes not everyone is going to be happy about the Pocatello Temple and he said protests are likely.
But he hopes most local residents will see the temple as a huge positive for the community.
"It's awesome. This is a great day for Pocatello," Blad said.
The Rexburg Standard Journal contributed to this story.