County officials and local leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined with others from around eastern Nevada and southern Utah to break ground on the Cedar City Utah Temple Saturday morning.

Paul Mathews carried duel distinctions as both a Lincoln County commissioner and president of the Panaca, Nevada Stake, which is made up of LDS congregations throughout Lincoln County. Mathews moved the hillside dirt with a gold-plated shovel alongside his wife Teresa and fellow stake presidents from 16 other stakes throughout the region.

“I think it was a great day,” he said, reflecting on the history of the pioneers that settled the various areas in the new temple district. “This is a significant chapter of that history.”

Commissioner Adam Katschke represented the county and helped break ground alongside local government leaders from the other areas.

Another dual invitee from the county was commission chair Kevin Phillips, who is originally from Cedar City. The former president of the Panaca stake participated in the groundbreaking with his wife Terry.

“It was a gorgeous, beautiful day and a beautiful site, beautiful location, beautiful purpose,” he said. “Our ancestors would be, and are, quite pleased, I think, having a beautiful temple here.”

Several others from the county attended the event, which saw plenty of sunshine and a bit of a breeze. More viewed the event via satellite at the stake center in Panaca as well as the other LDS buildings in Alamo, Caliente and Pioche.

The temple site is on South Cove Drive on a hill overlooking the valley. The new edifice will shorten the travel distance for LDS members in the north part of the county by about 15 miles. Currently, these members go to the temple in St. George. The Las Vegas temple will remain the nearest one to members in Pahranagat Valley.

Other Nevadans affected by the new temple reside in the Ely, Nevada Stake, which includes eight congregations in White Pine County and Garrison, Utah. The new temple cuts their drive time down by about 15 miles as well, but it’s still about a 200-mile trip.

Though not much shorter of a drive, leaders are still excited about opportunities the new temple will bring, namely a chance for the community to participate in events leading up to the completion of the building, which will take from 24 to 48 months.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton, the church’s general authority who gave the dedicatory prayer at the groundbreaking, mentioned non-members will have the opportunity to take a tour of the new temple when it’s completed. After construction, an open house will commence where all are invited to our of the temple. He said he has seen new temples have positive impacts in the various communities in which they are built. “Temples unite people, in and out of the church,” he said.

Mathews expressed excitement that locals, including young people, will be able to participate in large events in conjunction with the dedication of the temple. Particularly, there will be a cultural celebration where youth from throughout the new temple district will perform in front of thousands.

Clayton said the open house and celebration “will have the effect of uniting all of these various faith traditions in a way that’s never been possible before.”

Once dedicated, the temple will be reserved for members in good standing for the church’s most sacred ceremonies, including baptism in behalf of deceased ancestors, marriage, the “sealing” of families for eternity and other rites.

There are currently 173 temples throughout the world either in operation, under construction or announced.

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