POCATELLO — The first day of the new Pocatello Idaho Temple’s public open house was fully booked on Saturday and attracted thousands of people from across Idaho and neighboring states.
The nearly 11-acre property was overflowing with volunteers to help tours run smoothly and community members who were waiting in line to enter the temple, taking photos with their families and walking the grounds.
The temple is expected to see roughly 300,000 visitors in the next several weeks through the end of the open house on Oct. 23.
Troy Dye, a coordinator for the Pocatello Idaho Temple open house and dedication, said nearly all of the Saturday temple tour times are either fully booked or almost fully booked, and many of the evening slots during the week are sold out.
Open house organizers had anticipated that a lot of people would want to come see the temple and arranged for three charter buses to transport people from satellite locations. Dye said people were even calling or showing up at the temple and asking to be placed on a standby list.
“People are excited to see the building,” Dye said. “It’s been two and a half years under construction, so everybody’s noticed as they’ve driven by it and there’s just been a lot of interest in the project.”
Many temple-goers made remarks after their tours about the celestial room, which is a grand room decorated with sparkling chandeliers and gold accent paint. People also commented on the gold-framed artwork that lines the temple’s walls.
Several of the paintings on display in the building are original works that were commissioned from local artists exclusively for the temple.
Ken Spencer, an artist from Blackfoot, created two paintings that are now on display in the building, “Haystack Mountain” and “For The Strength of the Hills.” The works depict Idaho scenery in the McCammon and Inkom areas.
Spencer told the Bingham News Chronicle that he approached the Pocatello temple’s designer about making some artwork for the new building and they worked together to come up with an idea that worked for both the artist and the temple.
“They’re a legacy type painting that will be in a public place, a very honored place,” Spencer told the News Chronicle. “Hopefully they should be in there for a very long time. It’s an honor for sure.”
Two other paintings in the temple, “Peaceful Morning” and “And the Evening, and the Morning Were the Fifth Day,” were created by Leon Parson, an artist who lives in East Idaho.
Parson is currently on the faculty at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg. The artist describes himself as someone who has an “appreciation for art and biology.” That appreciation is reflected in his work, which tends to depict wildlife and nature.
The temple’s other original artworks were commissioned from Utah artist Michael Coleman; Ken Stockton, a California artist who studied at BYU; and Minerva Teichert, a painter who was born in Utah and lived in Idaho.
Larry Fisher, a local spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he’s happy to see such a positive reaction to the temple from the community. Fisher is hopeful for the future of the church’s membership, specifically the younger generations that will grow up with this temple in their backyard.
“The youth these days are struggling everywhere. No matter what faith they are, the youth are struggling,” he said. “So this temple gives them something to focus on and gives them an eternal perspective of what their lives are about and why they’re here.”
The temple open house runs from Sept. 18 to Oct. 23, except for Sundays and Saturday, Oct. 2. Tours are offered from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the weekends and 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays.
“Tickets are going fast with a lot of people interested in coming and seeing the temple,” Fisher said. “But there are still plenty of openings for people who want to see it.”
Community members who want to tour the temple can reserve free tickets at www.pocatellotemple.org.