Pocatello residents Gerald and Karen Mead became emotional on Sunday when Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced plans to build a temple in their community.
Karen said it was the fulfillment of a long-held dream for many people.
“To us, it seems like a miracle,” she said.
The couple, who served as the president and matron of the Idaho Falls Temple from 2011 to 2014, was recording the Church’s annual General Conference — as they typically do — when the announcement was made. Gerald said they, along with their daughter, watched the segment over and over.
“We cheered and shed tears,” Gerald said, adding that their excitement never diminished no matter how many times they heard Monson telling them that a temple would be constructed in Pocatello.
Many Mormons in the area have hoped for a temple for years.
“Latter-day Saints consider temples to be the ‘house of the Lord,’ the most sacred places on the earth,” according to a news release from the church, which adds that the buildings differ from the meetinghouses or chapels where Sunday worship services are held. “In the temple, the teachings of Jesus Christ are reaffirmed through marriage, baptism and other ceremonies that unite families for eternity.”
Karen said it will be a privilege to have the “house of the Lord” in their midst, and it will allow youth and other members of the church who may find it difficult to travel to surrounding communities a chance to attend the temple more often.
Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad, a lifelong Mormon, learned that the church wanted to build a temple in the area on Thursday.
He said he wasn’t sure why church officials wanted to meet with him and he wasn’t expecting it when they told him of the plans to build a temple here.
They told him the news needed to be kept quiet until the official announcement was made on Sunday. 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.”
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 temples 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.”
While many Mormons are excited about the historic announcement, Blad believes all residents — no matter what faith they are — should be celebrating. He says temples often 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.”
Larry Fisher, the church’s regional public affairs director, agrees. While temples are built for religious purposes, he said economic benefits often come with them.
“Temples are a destination for people who will come here and spend money at restaurants, gas stations and other establishments in the community,” he said, adding that the construction industry and real estate markets could benefit, too.
Fahim Rahim is a Muslim who has lived in Pocatello for 13 years, but he says he has interacted with many Mormons and has learned compassion, family values and empathy for their practices during that time.
“Anytime a house of worship of any religion is built, it is a blessing for the whole community,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Just as I was excited to hear about building a mosque in Pocatello few years ago, similarly I am excited and overjoyed to hear the news about LDS Temple in Pocatello.”
Local church officials said it could be three to five years before the temple opens in Pocatello.
Blad said the building has not even been designed yet.
He says it’s very likely the temple will be built on land east of Satterfield Drive near the city’s northeast border. The church officials he met with Thursday told him that location was a strong possibility, though a different location could still be chosen.
The Pocatello temple announcement comes after much speculation recently that a temple would be constructed in the Gate City.
The Journal reported recently that the 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 church are right next to an already-existing LDS building 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.
There are currently four operating temples in Idaho, including those in Boise, Idaho Falls, Rexburg and Twin Falls. A fifth is nearing completion in Meridian, according to the church news release, which adds that there are about 450,000 Mormons living in the state.
The temple in Pocatello will be the church’s sixth in Idaho.
Blad said he realizes not everyone is going to be happy about having a temple in Pocatello and he thinks some protests are likely. But he hopes most local residents will see the temple as a positive thing for the community.
“It’s awesome. This is a great day for Pocatello,” Blad said.
During Sunday’s conference, Monson also announced the construction of four other new temples that will be built in Brasilia, Brazil; Greater Manila, Philippines; Nairobi, Kenya and Saratoga Springs, Utah.
The Rexburg Standard Journal contributed to this story.