A seven-acre site, nestled against the Catalina Foothills and with a striking view overlooking the north Tucson area, was dedicated on October 17 by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, as part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Tucson Arizona Temple.
President Uchtdorf told the nearly 500 people gathered at the site and the many others listening in via the live broadcast to local stake centers that he had readily volunteered for the assignment.
“We have a very personal relationship to Arizona,” he said, explaining he received his training and certification to fly the 727 aircraft in Tucson in 1965 and, from 1975 to 1978, he and his family lived in Phoenix.
He said the temple in Tucson is “a symbol of the focus we have as Church members.”
“Throughout history, the Lord has commanded his people to build temples. The temple is literally the house of God,” President Uchtdorf said. Temples are “holy places where we make sacred promises to God and receive sacred promises from God.”
“In temples,” he continued, “eternal questions are answered, holy truths are taught.” Temples are “where earth and heaven meet” and “where we can feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
President Thomas S. Monson announced plans for a temple to be built in Tucson during his opening remarks in the October 2012 Semiannual General Conference. The Tucson temple will be the sixth in the state, with temples currently operating in Mesa, Snowflake, the Gila Valley, Gilbert and Phoenix.
The plans call for a two-story, 34,000-square-foot temple and renderings show that, rather than a steeple, it will have a dome-shaped cupola, similar to that of the San Xavier Mission in south Tucson.
President Uchtdorf referred to the “beautiful vegetation” in the area and the saguaro and other cactus plants that have been transplanted to an on-site nursery during construction, but will become part of the landscaping around the temple. “Be ready to come and grow and be close to Heavenly Father,” he said, “and that starts by being grateful … everything we now do can and should be a symbol of gratitude.”
He also counseled, with the breaking of ground for a new temple, “This is a time to break ground in our own hearts and souls as individuals, as families and as a community,” and to “rededicate ourselves” to being “temple ready when the day of dedication comes.”
Also speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Elder Kent F. Richards, of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department.
“There is always a certain amount of sacrifice in building” the kingdom of God, Elder Richards said. “He always expects and requires that we give of ourselves. … What is our sacrifice?”
Elder Richards continued, “Tucson will no longer be a place where people go from to attend the temple. Begin now to build your own temple of faith and devotion.”
He also suggested that the members in that area begin working to find names to take to the temple, “So you will be able to fill it and keep it busy.”
Lynn G. Robbins, of the Presidency of the Seventy, said, while Latter-day Saints in the Tucson area have looked to the groundbreaking with eager anticipation, the neighbors may not be so enthusiastic. “Several are worried, skeptical and suspicious,” he said, adding Church members can help change those perceptions from negative to positive and even to awe.
“I testify that temples are the house of the Lord,” Elder Robbins said. “This is a special time for us to prepare for its consecration and dedication.”
Gary Rasmussen, chairman of the groundbreaking committee and a member of the Tucson Stake, also spoke as part of the ceremony, saying, “The groundbreaking is a symbolic event, a type. It’s an opportunity to evaluate the soil in our own lives and hearts … and to take some of the stones out and cast them away, to knock down the hills of pride…” and to otherwise prepare to be called a Zion people.
Members in the Tucson area look forward to the temple’s completion and dedication, but already they have seen the good that can come even while the temple is under construction.
“We have been counseled to hasten the work, and we have seen significant growth in this area,” said Todd Polley, Tucson North Stake president.
Evidence of that, perhaps, was the creation of the new Marana Arizona Stake from the Tucson West Stake on October 25, just over a week after the groundbreaking.* That brings the total to six stakes in the city of Tucson, with three additional stakes—the Sahuarita Arizona Stake, Sierra Vista Arizona Stake, and St. David Arizona Stake—in the surrounding area. While it has not yet been officially announced, it is anticipated that the Tucson Arizona Temple district will serve these nine stakes and the more than 30,000 Church members that make up those stakes.
“The temple is evidence of the many faithful members in Tucson that have make it possible and of Heavenly Father’s love and mindfulness of us,” President Polley said.
“I personally am so excited that my children get to grow up having this temple close by. It’s wonderful,” said Tammy Whitker, of the La Canada Ward, whose husband, Bradley, is first counselor in the Tucson North Stake presidency.
Their 26-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, said, “I attended the Gilbert Temple Open House and had promptings that it was time for me to go to the temple.
“Now I have my endowments and I am so excited that we will have a temple in Tucson,” Kaitlyn said.
Caleb Haymore, 12, whose father, Michael, is bishop of the La Canada Ward, Tucson North Stake, said he, too, is excited about having a temple in Tucson, “especially now that I can go to the temple. Going to the temple to do baptisms for the dead can bring the spirit into our lives. It has strengthened and developed my testimony of temples.”
Caleb’s mom, Jenny, said, “There are a lot of temple-loving members here. It will be a treat to have one so close. For a lot of people it is a bit of a sacrifice to go now, and it will be extra special to have a temple so easily accessible in our community.”
Speaking to members of the media and others after the groundbreaking ceremony, Elder Uchtdorf spoke in behalf of the prophet, saying, “President Monson loves all people and feels very close to the members. He would like us to keep the commandments and to trust the Lord. It’s complicated, and, at the same time, it’s very simple. Keep the commandments and trust the Lord.”
In that regard, he said, the temple can be a new beginning.
“The temple offers a big contrast to the world. It can help us with every situation. It will bless all of your lives, whatever you do.”
His wife agreed. “This is a joyful gospel we have,” said Sister Harriett Uchtdorf, “and the temple is like coming home.”
*Please note that because of the creation of the new Marana Arizona Stake, some of the references to callings or to the stake or ward where individuals reside may have changed since the groundbreaking.