Star Valley Wyoming Temple Open House Begins with Media Tour

Contributed By Julie Dockstader Heaps, Church News contributor

  • AFTON, WYOMING

In the shadow of the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple, members of the media disembark from a horse-drawn wagon September 20 prior to touring what will be the Church’s 154th operating temple.  Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Article Highlights

  • Members of the media, state and local dignitaries, and religious leaders visited the just-completed Star Valley Wyoming Temple the week of September 19–24 during special VIP tours.

“I think we have people here who are so devoted to the Lord, and now they are rewarded with a temple right here in their own community, this beautiful valley with this beautiful mountain backdrop. What could be better?” —Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Seventy

Nearly five years ago, when President Thomas S. Monson announced that a temple would be built in Star Valley, Wyoming, there seemed to be a collective exclamation of joy here. There were celebrations and lots of tears.

One couple, however, as they hugged and jumped up and down with their young children, realized their oldest, an 8-year-old boy, had left the room. President Mark Taylor of the Afton Wyoming Stake recounted the following:

“They found him on the stairs, and he was kneeling in prayer. He was crying. His parents asked him what was wrong.”

“He said, ‘We all need to thank Heavenly Father for giving us a temple.’

“Rather than giving a high five and hooting, here was an 8-year-old whose first impulse was to thank his Father in Heaven for this gift.”

This story was just one of several tender accounts that President Taylor shared with representatives of the press on media day September 20 at the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple—which is expected to receive up to 75,000 visitors in the coming weeks during the public open house.

Members of the media step down from a horse-drawn wagon September 20 after a ride up Highway 89 to tour the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

President Mark Taylor of the Afton Wyoming Stake, who is chairman of the open house and dedication committee, is interviewed by the media September 20 on the grounds of the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Standing on the grounds of the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple is Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Seventy as he is interviewed by the press on media day, September 20. Elder Wilson is also Executive Director the Church’s Temple Department. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

 

Visiting the just-completed sacred edifice the week of September 19–24 during special VIP tours, along with the media, were state and local dignitaries and religious leaders. On Thursday, September 22, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead visited the temple, along with the Wyoming secretary of state and other elected officials out of the state capital in Cheyenne (see related story).

Greeting those dignitaries and others visiting the 18,000-plus-square-foot temple, situated on what was known as the Haderlie Farm just east of Highway 89 in Afton, will be more than 4,000 volunteers from the temple district, which includes western Wyoming and parts of Idaho, including Soda Springs and Montpelier. The Star Valley Wyoming Temple, when it is dedicated on Sunday, October 30, will be the Church’s 154th operating temple.

Conducting the special tour for the media was President Taylor, who is also chairman of the temple open house and dedication committee. Joining the entourage at the conclusion of the tour was Elder Larry Y. Wilson, General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Temple Department.

“I think this is an example of faith being rewarded,” Elder Wilson told the Church News, speaking of the first temple in Wyoming—a land known for its pioneer heritage.

“Members of the Church have been here for multiple generations going back to the 1800s. Some families have been here for three, four, or five generations. They’ve been here for a long time, and now they have this magnificent new temple in Star Valley.”

Temples are the most sacred places on earth, Elder Wilson continued, encouraging the youth here to “participate in sacred ordinances on behalf of deceased ancestors. I can’t think of a finer experience a young person could have than that.”

Speaking of the temple workers who often traveled over storm-battered roads over the decades to serve in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple, Elder Wilson related: “I think we have people here who are so devoted to the Lord, and now they are rewarded with a temple right here in their own community, this beautiful valley with this beautiful mountain backdrop. What could be better?”

Among the many beautiful and unique characteristics of this temple is the pink, green, blue, brown, and yellow exterior glass—in a fireweed flower design. Fireweed is a tall wildflower growing abundantly in the mountains of Wyoming.

The sun sets on the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple, with light gleaming from the iconic statue of the angel Moroni, on this warm fall evening in Afton. On the hill in the background is the symbol of the star, representing what is historically called “the star of all valleys.” The public open house for this sacred edifice began Friday, September 23, and goes through October 8. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

And as visitors approach the recommend desk inside, they see a life-sized stained glass image of the Savior. The intricate work is at least 150 years old and was once in a Protestant church in New York, President Taylor said. It is backlit with about 1,000 LED lights.

“As soon as you turn those lights on, it’s breathtaking.”

For President Kirk H. Dana, chairman of the public relations subcommittee for the open house, who will serve as second counselor in the new temple presidency, the temple is not only for members of the Church. He expressed the hope that the non-LDS residents of the valley come to appreciate a temple in their midst.

“To recognize that temples are in places like Rome and New York City and Hong Kong and large metropolitan areas—and [now] in a small community [like] Star Valley.”

And the influence of this new temple is being felt far beyond the temple district. “It’s on one of the busiest highways to travel to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks,” President Dana added.

The media was treated to a special horse and wagon ride on September 20 from the meetinghouse where open house visitors are first greeted prior to touring the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple. Press members were driven up Highway 89 to the new sacred edifice, where they were among several who received special tours the week of September 19. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

“We have already seen many people stopping by the side of the road taking pictures and coming up to the building wanting to know what it’s for.”

One teenage visitor, Ryan Dunne of the Jackson 1st Ward, Driggs Idaho Stake, visited the temple with a group of about 40 youth. Afterward, he said, “You could definitely feel the Spirit when you walked in. You can definitely feel it’s the house of the Lord.”

Standing outside the back of the temple, near where it says “Erected 2016,” Alan Parks of the Cottonwood Ward, Afton Wyoming Stake, was serving as an usher for the open house.

He tried to put into words the feelings in Star Valley. “It’s just beyond comprehension. We’re living a dream every day.”

The public open house for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple is September 23–October 8 (except September 24–25 and October 1–2). To reserve free tickets to tour the temple, see tickets.lds.org.

President Mark Taylor of the Afton Wyoming Stake greets members of the press on media day, September 20, prior to their tour of the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple. Media from Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah were among the first to tour what will be the Church’s 154th operating temple. The public open house was set to begin Friday, September 23. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Some 40 youth from the Jackson 1st and 2nd Wards of the Driggs Idaho Stake visited the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple during the first week of special tours for what will be the Church’s 154th operating temple. Escorting the youth to the temple was King Husein of Span Construction and Engineering, at left. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Children with family members leave the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple after being among the first to walk through the new sacred edifice during special open house tours the week of September 19. The public open house is scheduled to begin Friday, September 23. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Unseasonably warm fall days in Star Valley, Wyoming, have made it appear to be spring in this western Wyoming community of Afton. A young tree planted earlier this year is blossoming just as visitors begin to tour the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple, with its stained glass windows showing above. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Enjoying the warmth of a September day on the grounds of the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple are, from left, Bentley Hyde, 5; Hudson Hyde, 7; Sawyer Hyde, 17 months; and Nash Hyde, 3. Bentley and Sawyer are brothers from the Victor (Idaho) 2nd Ward. Hudson and Nash are with the Meadows Ward, Thayne Wyoming Stake. The cousins had just toured the new sacred edifice with family members. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Nestled in the mountains of western Wyoming, Star Valley is home to some 11 small communities running along the Wyoming/Idaho border. The new Star Valley Wyoming Temple, seen in the backdrop of a field of newly rolled hay, will also serve members of the Church in parts of southeast Idaho. The new sacred edifice will serve some 16,000 members in the temple district. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.