A-1 LDS clearing temple grounds 2

Over 3,000 people participated in Tuesday evening’s cleanup of the future site of the Pocatello LDS temple off Satterfield Drive.

POCATELLO — With shovels, rakes and other hand tools clinking on the pavement, 16-year-old Jane Jacobsmeyer joined several dozen members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Highland 10th Ward on Tuesday night as they marched up Satterfield Drive to the site of the future Pocatello temple.

Jacobsmeyer was one of more than 3,000 people, mostly youth ages 11 to 18, who were armed with everyday gardening tools and participated in a massive brush clearing at the future site of the 67,000-square-foot sacred building off of Satterfield Drive — an experience she said will live on for generations.

“Of course we’re excited,” Jacobsmeyer and two other members of the Highland 10th Ward, Hallie Welker and Isabel Johnson, said together in unison while walking to the future temple site.

Jacobsmeyer continued, “When we’re older, we’ll be able to take our kids or grandkids here and tell them we helped prepare this ground for the temple and were a part of this special experience clearing the area. Our contributions will also give our children more meaning anytime they visit or see the temple.”

Johnson added, “This shows that we’re willing to put in the effort and do something with our hands instead of using the technology or equipment that is available today. It gives us more meaning so that when the temple is finished we can say that we were a part of it.”

The sea of people participating in the temple pre-groundbreaking event on Tuesday night was seemingly endless. Vehicles quickly engulfed the parking lots of the Highland Stake Center on Satterfield Drive and soon not a parking spot could be found on Satterfield or its side streets.

Pocatello police confirmed that there were so many people attempting to access the future temple site that traffic was backed up on Interstate 15 near the Pocatello Creek Road exit. Others reported to the Journal that traffic on East Chubbuck Road was backed up from Olympus Drive to Yellowstone Avenue.

The new LDS Pocatello Temple District includes 22 stakes, stretching from American Falls east to Soda Springs and from Malad north to Blackfoot.

“We invited all the youth from age 11 to 18 from all 22 stakes to come and participate tonight,” said local LDS public affairs director Larry Fisher on Tuesday. “This group includes the youth, their leaders and I’m sure there are probably some that just decided to join them because this is an opportunity that they will never have again. Sure, we could get heavy equipment to come in here and do this work, but we wanted them to have an experience they’ll never forget.”

In a colossal group effort at the future temple site, participants hacked and chopped away stubborn sagebrush while others carried the severed brush to trucks for disposal.

The brush-clearing work, according to Bryce Anderson, a 15-year-old Highland 10th Ward member who was wielding a pickaxe, closely resembled that which was completed by the first LDS pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley in the 1800s.

“This goes back to our history and our ancestry,” Anderson said. “Many of our ancestors came to the Salt Lake Valley and actually had to do all of their groundbreaking work by hand. Today symbolizes what we stand for, which is hard work and trying to make the most out of our lives.”

Anderson continued, “This is really special because only a choice amount of people were able to participate today. We get to be a permanent part of this temple’s history. This will be something that I cherish for the rest of my life.”

Before letting the enormous crowd loose to clean up the sagebrush laden pasture, Scott Poulson, a member of the temple site preparation committee for the upcoming March 16 groundbreaking ceremony, gave an emotional speech from the back of a pickup truck.

“I’m struggling with my emotions,” Poulson said to the large crowd before him. “This is a sight that is simply unbelievable. When Moses went up on Mount Sinai the Lord instructed him to put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the ground upon which thou standeth is holy ground. You’ll feel that tonight when you are working on this property, I promise you that. You will remember this forever.”

After his speech, Poulson shared with the Journal what about the experience Tuesday night moved him almost to tears.

“For The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, building a temple is always the ultimate opportunity and experience,” Poulson said. “There is nothing else like it. As you can tell by the support, this is an occasion that these folks will remember forever.”

Poulson continued, “I got emotional because building a temple brings some special spiritual feelings and to see the turnout tonight, with all these kids, just overwhelmed me.”

Reporter Shelbie Harris can be reached at 208-239-3525. Follow him on Twitter: @shelbietharris.