Groundbreaking held for Heber Valley Utah Temple
On a bright sunny Saturday afternoon in autumn, the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dedicated the site of the religion’s next temple. The 18-acre site is on Center Street, just over the Heber City line in Wasatch County, across from the Red Ledges development.
Many elected leaders in Wasatch County and Summit County attended the groundbreaking. President Russell Nelson welcomed them. “Gratefully we recognize the presence of Church, educational, state, county, city, officials,” he said. “We thank each of you for attending this groundbreaking ceremony today. I wish I could shake hand and hear your name and your place and get to know and love you. But we will have to do it vicariously, COVID style.”
Nelson told the crowd of around six hundred people that Mormon settlers came to the Heber Valley in the late 1850’s. They named the area after President Heber C. Kimball, a church leader who was believed to have converted many of those settlers during his mission in England in the 1840’s. More Mormons came to the valley over the next 20-30 years and the Heber Valley Tabernacle on Main Street was completed in May 1889.
Nelson said he believed the number of Mormons will keep growing in Wasatch County. “There are presently 8 stakes in the Heber City Area Coordinating Council and more will come,” he said. “This valley will continue to be a fruitful seedbed for devoted and dedicated members of the church.”
The Heber Valley Temple will be the 28th in Utah. In a church video, a leader says temples are a great metaphor on earth for what heaven will be like. It is a place where Mormons make covenants with Go to live a virtuous life. It is also where they perform marriage ceremonies and offer sacraments on behalf of their deceased ancestors.
Nelson said the new temple in the Heber Valley will be a holy place for many in the surrounding area. “The neighboring communities of Charleston, Wallsburg, Kamas, Oakley, Peoa, Park City, Coalville and parts of Wyoming will likely be included in the population base to be served by this temple,” he told the crowd.
The LDS church said it plans to build an 88,000 square foot, three-story temple.
Wasatch County Planning Director Doug Smith attended Saturday’s ceremony, which was billed as a groundbreaking even though the church cannot start building yet because no one has submitted plans to the county planning commission.
“I struggled with it when they announced it,” Smith said when asked about the timing of the ceremony. “But obviously all I can say is it is only ceremonial. There are no, there are no approvals, and it is their property, they can do what they want within the confines of the code.”
Smith said he had no idea when the church would submit site plans. He’s received about 150 emails since the temple site was announced last month. He said most of those emails express support for the building, but a large number are opposed. Some residents are worried about the height of the temple. Smith said the county code does not specify height limits for a church or temple.
Smith said he has met twice with church representatives about their plans, and a recent meeting focused on another concern, lighting. “Our code anticipates everything is downlit,” Smith explained. “And obviously that’s kind of opposite of how they want to light a temple. So, we talked about that substantially and they’re going to take our code and see if they can work within its confines. If they cannot, we’re going to have to discuss what options they have after that.”
By law, neighbors within five hundred feet of the proposed temple’s property boundaries will be notified when public hearings are held on the matter. That includes the entire Red Ledges HOA. But Smith said those hearings could be months from now.