The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expects the Farmington temple to be a boon to the region and a blessing to its members.
At a recent Four Corners Economic Development Breakfast Briefing, officials from The Church of the Latter-day Saints presented an update on the progress of the Farmington Temple. The event, held Jan. 10 at Farmington Civic Center, drew about 90 attendees. The prominent location, 4400 College Blvd., across from San Juan College, allows easy access for visitors and members alike.
Scott Bird, 4CED board member serving as moderator, thanked Perry Webb of Webb Automotive and Kirby Mortenson of Floor Traders for their contributions to put on the Breakfast Briefing “pitching in a nice chunk” and Kirby Mortenson with Floor Traders for their contribution.
Bird, filling in for CEO Arvin Trujillo, who was attending the Navajo presidential inauguration, said 4CED is “highly robust” in its current activities. He asked attendees to fill out a questionnaire, especially about how they knew of the event and said 4CED is always looking for increased membership and financial support.
Perry Webb, representing Church of the Latter-day Saints, said he contacted church headquarters in Salt Lake for input on updating the community about the progress of the Farmington temple. He said he was instructed to assume the task.
Webb defined the meaning of the temple as, “the highest form of worship in our religion – it’s a symbol of our membership. Other than our worshipping of our Heavenly Father and our savior Jesus Christ and the importance of families, there really isn’t anything much more important than being able to worship in a temple.”
The first temple was built in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836 after the church was organized in April 1830. Webb said it was “required by political and other pressures that they flee from Ohio and they had to abandon the temple.” The second temple was built in Illinois, but members fled to the Salt Lake Valley. Within two years, that temple was burned and destroyed, but has been rebuilt.
The iconic Salt Lake temple, which took 40 years to construct, is undergoing a major renovation. In 73 countries, there are 168 temples, with 53 under construction, 54 in stages of preconstruction, and four closed for renovation, Webb said.
“To put that in perspective, when I was born in 1949, there were eight temples, with only one outside the United States, and that was in Canada,” he said. The Albuquerque temple, dedicated in 2000, was the nearest to this region.
Webb said they “didn’t know exactly” how Farmington was selected for a temple site. He then presented a video of the president/prophet making the formal announcement.
“In 2019, our president and prophet assigned the presiding bishop of our church to come to Farmington … to look at three preselected sites,” said Webb, who grew up and raised a family in Farmington. Nobody knew about this except for one local couple. Norman Finch and his wife were assigned to escort him, but they were told to keep it confidential … because “one may come or may not come,” Webb said.
The selection remains somewhat of a mystery, as there is no petitioning or application process.
“Our president and prophet through inspiration is guided when and where a temple will be located,” Webb said.
Porter Brothers Construction of Phoenix was chosen as the lead contractor and was tasked with the demolition of the meeting house that was on the site.
On big screens, Webb showed photos of temples around the world, and said the Farmington temple will be about 30,000 square feet, just a bit smaller than the Albuquerque temple.
Herb McClean said when the demolition was done, usable items went to other churches in the Farmington area and on the reservation. Parking lot lights, water fountains, pews, pianos, TVs, kitchen equipment, chairs, tables and doors were shared. A lift now helps a local preacher get to his lectern.
“Every temple is unique to the area that it’s built in,” Lynette McLean said as she pointed out the linking design inscribed below the roof line on the temple rendering. “Often times we used the linking design because that’s what we do, we link families together,” she said. One design represents the pinon trees; another, the pine cones. The design, called “desert rose,” also is in stained glass windows.
The McCleans’ duties as missionaries will be to document construction of the sacred site and minister to the crew, but not to proselytize. All workers and contractors are informed that they will be expected to perform a “level of craftsmanship that they may not have done anywhere else.”
“We have a very high standard – we call it ‘Temple standards,’” Herb McClean said.
Church members express their appreciation with cookies, notes and occasional lunches, including a lunch and open house a couple of weeks before Christmas. They were shown the family history center where families are linked through the generations.
During an orientation, Herb McClean said, workers are asked to forgo substance abuse, alcohol, tobacco, profanity or music on-site. No markings are allowed on the building during construction.
“This construction site has the best camaraderie of any construction site I’ve been a part of,” said Chance Porter, a fourth generation superintendent. He said their family tradition of building temples has linked generations and been a big part of his life. Porter said this was his fifth, and his company is building the temple in Grand Junction.
He said his work and other work on temples is funded by church members – an estimated 16.8 million worldwide – who are asked to tithe 10% of their wealth to the church. Cost of the temple is not disclosed, Porter said.
Contractors are selected by invitation from a group of previous associates using a request for proposal process, Porter said.
The temple’s Southwestern motif, which touches the inscriptions, glass, metal work and stonework, is all custom work, Porter said, alluding to the countless hours and meetings required of architect and project manager Johnny Hutchings.
Stone came from Portugal, and windows from Italy and elsewhere.
Porter said the demolition process began in January 2022, when he arrived in Farmington. New infrastructure including water and sewer lines were installed before the site was prepped for new construction.
A separate Meeting House will house about three wards, Porter said. Five neighboring houses received backyard walls after a retaining wall was built. Curbs, gutters and sidewalks will be installed, and landscaping will feature a wide variety of trees, shrubs and plants.
“It will be lush, very much like a garden,” Porter said, adding that the public will be welcome to enjoy the grounds. Scarlet globemallow, Concorde Japanese barberry, mesa glow maple, pinon pine and moonglow juniper will highlight the botanical features.
The temple’s foundation sits on 109 piers adopted because the sandstone-rich soil and shale composition expands when wet. Cardboard beneath the grade beam acts as a shock absorber in case the shale lifts or heaves.
Standing 226 feet tall from floor to spire, the temple required 126 yards (250 concrete trucks) of concrete for the foundation.
Eleven local contractors were hired, with Jaynes Corp. serving as a subcontractor and key player, Porter said. He estimated that about 200 people were part of the workforce, along with out-of-state contractors who employ local personnel.
According to Webb, “economic impact can be measured in dollars and in the quality of life that attracts individuals and families to our community,” adding that church members consider retiring in communities that have temples and a comfortable climate and cost of living. Some families have already come, he said, and he anticipates many more, as well as tourists.
An open house and guided tours will be announced before the dedication by calling (505) 412-2608). “We can show you things there that we can’t show anywhere else,” McClean said.
After it is dedicated, entrance will be reserved for members.