Payson Temple Brings Surrounding Families and Community Together

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott and Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writers

  • 18 June 2015

Cally Grant, with three of her children, Aubrey, 9; Marty, 7; and Reagan, 2; and two of her nieces and a nephew, Jordyn, 13; Cort, 9; and Jerzy, 7; are among those attending the Payson Utah Temple’s cornerstone ceremony on June 7.  Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Article Highlights

  • Many of those living in Payson have a rich history with the area and are glad to have a temple nearby.
  • The temple serves as a reminder of how to be and act.
  • The open house was a great time for missionary work because the Spirit was so strong.

“We’ve seen the softening of the hearts and seen firsthand miracles in our own community.” —Brother Chris Shepherd


For Lynette Neff and other descendants of the original settlers of Payson, Utah, the dedication of the temple here feels very personal. Sister Neff’s great-grandfather planted the apple orchards blanketing the benches of the mountains cradling the mostly agricultural community.

“Our whole family grew up picking and pruning and spraying and sorting and packing apples our whole lives. The apples were such a legacy for us,” she said.

Which is why she was excited to see the apple blossom motif woven throughout the new temple’s design: “It became my temple,” she said.

One of the highlights of the dedicatory service for Sister Neff was thinking about how she was entering a nondedicated building but exiting a dedicated edifice. “I hope having sat through that process, I came out a different person. As the temple was dedicated, I think I rededicated myself.”

The most poignant part of the dedication for her, however, was thinking about her husband, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony and the raising of the angel Moroni statue atop the temple’s spire but did not live to see the completed temple. He passed away a year ago.

“President Eyring talked about how there are angels on the other side that are helping [with temple work]. That was very moving,” she said. “I thought about my husband.”

The temple “is right in our town”

For the Daniel and Kaylene Wells family, the temple is central to their everyday lives.

“As I’m driving to work, or taking the kids somewhere, or even from my own home, I can see the temple,” said Brother Wells, a Payson resident who sang in the choir at the cornerstone ceremony. “We have watched this temple from start to finish. Some of my children only know this area with a temple. In fact, for a few of my kids it has been here their entire life.”

Brother Wells, Sister Wells, and their five sons live in the Payson 20th Ward, whose boundaries are just a few blocks away from the temple. Their 11-year-old son, Thomas, likes that the temple “is right in our town” and is excited to enter to do baptisms in about a month, just after his 12th birthday. They all agreed they like being able to see the temple from their home and that it stands as a beacon of faith in the area.

“It is a good reminder of how we are supposed to be and act,” said Brother Wells. Since he and his family have lived in Payson, Brother Wells found out that two of his direct ancestors—Lyman Curtis and Elias Gardener—settled in Payson and the neighboring town of Salem.

Coming back again

Both Madilin Oldham, 13, and her sister, Elisabeth Oldham, 17, of Payson, agreed that their favorite part of touring the temple during the open house was the bride’s room. The temple presidency of the Payson Utah Temple arranged for special tours for the local young women during which they were able to enter the bride’s room with their mothers.

“That was really special to go there with my mom,” said Elisabeth. “I thought [the temples] were all beautiful and special, but when they announced the Payson Temple, I thought, ‘Yep, this is my temple. I’m going to get married there someday.’”

“I’m really looking forward to the day when I get to go back there,” said Madilin.

Amanda Holt, 16, also of Payson, said participating in the events leading up to the temple dedication enabled her to be able to explain what the temple means to her.

“I love it. I’m so happy,” she said. “Now when people ask, ‘What is that place down there?’ [I can explain] that’s where we can go to feel our Heavenly Father’s Spirit and to do those ordinances for our ancestors and those who want to make it to return to our Heavenly Father.”

“Miracles in our own community”

After Karen Shepherd’s granddaughter, Britney Shepherd, 8, went to the open house, she told her grandmother how much she loved the chandeliers in the temple. So when it was time for the temple dedication and cornerstone ceremony, Sister Shepherd and her husband, Chris, were happy to be there with their grandchildren while their parents attended the dedication inside the temple.

“I hope they get a deep sense of love for the temple in our area,” Sister Shepherd said. “I am so grateful Heavenly Father saw fit to put a temple in our area. And it has been neat to come here often as it was being built.”

The Shepherds and their grandchildren live in Lake Shore and have loved being a part of the newest temple. Not only has it been a memorable experience for his children and grandchildren, the new temple has had an impact on their community.

“We’ve seen the softening of the hearts and seen firsthand miracles in our own community,” Brother Shepherd said.

Tender mercies

“Missionaries bringing their investigators brought an element to the open house that was precious,” said Gordon Lowe, who, with his wife, Janice, volunteered and provided tours during the temple’s open house.

Brother Lowe’s favorite tour included a group of non-LDS college students to whom he felt prompted to share a personal experience.

“I just told them, ‘I’m here to tell you that Heavenly Father keeps His promises to those who keep their covenants.’ Those were the tender mercies when the Spirit could come in and you knew when you were connecting [with someone] and the Spirit was present bearing witness that what you were saying was true.”

Janice and Gordon Lowe are among the volunteers at the Payson Utah Temple dedication on June 7. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Daniel Wells, who sang in the cornerstone ceremony choir, stands with four of his five sons after the first dedicatory session for the Payson Utah Temple on June 7. From left, Jake, 10; Tyler, 6; Eric, 9; and Thomas, 11. Photo by Marianne Holman Prescott.

Elisabeth Oldham, 17, left, and Madilin Oldham, 13, right, pose with their mother, Melinda Oldham, at the cornerstone ceremony of the Payson Utah Temple on Sunday, June 7. Photo by Gordon Lowe.

Amanda Holt, 16, from Payson, Utah, attends the cornerstone ceremony of the dedication services of the Payson Utah Temple on Sunday, June 7. Photo by Gordon Lowe.