By Ceciy Markland
Former Mesa Temple Presidents Visit the Phoenix Temple
Kim Allen, a member of the Sierra Vista Ward, Glendale North Stake, calls it a “happy accident” when, during the Phoenix Temple Open House she captured a rare and historic moment.
“I happened to be at the temple with my camera when six of the former Mesa Temple presidents where completing their special invitation temple tour,” Kim says.
“I was actually just there to snap a quick photo of my husband’s grandparents [Marjorie and Nephi Allen] who were included in that bunch,” she says.
Also in the group with the Allens that day were R. Gordon Porter and his wife, Susan, who served as the Mesa Temple president and matron beginning in 2011 and were just released Nov. 1. Shortly after he was called as temple president, in an interview with The Beehive, President Porter said he considered it “a sacred and trusted calling.”
“Temple work is vital work. It’s wonderful work,” he says.
The two who served just prior to President Porter were also in the group. A former General Authority (member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy), President Daryl H. Garn served as temple president from 2009 to 2011, with his late wife, Irene, who died in July 2013. President Russell S. Gilliland and his wife, Karen, now serving as the first president and matron of the Phoenix Temple, served with the Garns, President Gilliland as second counselor in the Mesa Temple presidency and Sister Gilliland as assistant to the matron.
President Ezra T. Clark, Jr., and his wife, Virginia, served before that, from 2006 to 2009.
President Clark was the Mesa Temple president when President Thomas S. Monson announced three new temples would be built in Arizona, one in southeast Gilbert, one in the Gila Valley and one in Phoenix. President Clark was quoted at that time, saying he was confident great blessings would come to the people of Arizona as those temples were built.
“Bringing temples closer to the people allows more of them to participate in the magnificent blessings that are there,” he said. “Many very sacred and spiritual things will occur.”
Also part of the group was Janette Toolson, accompanying her father, John R. Peterson. President Peterson and his wife, Marcia Jorgensen Peterson, served as temple president and matron from 2000 to 2003. Sister Peterson passed away in Mesa in February 2008.
In addition, participating in the Phoenix Temple tour was Bertha “Bobbie” Tanner. Sister Tanner served as matron of the Mesa Temple with her husband, President John Henry Tanner from 1991 to 1994. President Tanner passed away in October 2009.
The remaining two members of the group, and the ones Kim Allen actually intended to photograph, are Marjorie and Nephi S. Allen. Nephi, now 97, served as temple president and Sister Allen as matron from 1988 to 1991. The Allens and their families have witnessed and have been a big part of the growth of the Church in the Phoenix area.
President Allen’s son, Jim, is currently serving as stake president of the Paradise Valley Stake and his grandson, Daniel, is first counselor in the bishopric of the Sierra Verde Ward, Glendale North Stake.
Sister Marjorie Allen is the daughter of James Robert “JR” Price, who served as the first bishop in Phoenix and was called as the first stake president when the Phoenix Stake was organized in 1938.
Granddaughter-in-law, Kim Allen, says it was President and Sister Allen who instilled in her a love for the temple. “When I got married, he sealed my husband [Daniel] and I. It was a special day and I have fond memories of him sealing us together.”