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AFTON, WYOMING

Latter-day Saints living in this long green valley nestled along Wyoming’s border with Idaho often speak of a pioneer prophecy – that the spires of a temple would one day rise up below the peaks of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.

That day, foreseen by early Church apostle Moses Thatcher as he looked out over what he named “the star of all valleys,” has arrived.

The new Star Valley Wyoming Temple, the 154th operating temple of the Church, was dedicated Sunday, Oct. 30, in three sessions by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The first temple in Wyoming – a state known for pioneer heritage – will serve thousands of members in six stakes in western Wyoming and parts of southeastern Idaho.

“We can never live off of the faithfulness of our forefathers. Each generation has to stand on its own holy ground,” Elder Bednar told the Church News the day before the dedication. “But there is a continuation, a blessing of that faithfulness for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.”

Continuing, he related that in meetings with members in this valley, “you can just feel a spiritual sturdiness and a strength that has continued across the generations. Successive generations of faithful Latter-day Saints have grown stronger.

“And I think personally the temple here in this valley is just a symbol of those generations of devotion and faith.”

Elder Bednar presided over dedicatory events Saturday, Oct. 29, and Sunday, Oct. 30, that included a temple cultural celebration. During the first dedicatory session on Sunday, he led an entourage of Church leaders out of the temple for the ceremonial sealing of the cornerstone.

Church authorities joining Elder Bednar were Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy, General Authority Seventies Elder Wilford W. Andersen, Elder C. Scott Grow and Elder Larry Y. Wilson, who is executive director of the Temple Department.

Wives of the Church leaders included Sister Susan R. Bednar, Sister Rosana Soares, Sister Kathleen B. Andersen, Sister Rhonda Grow and Sister Lynda Wilson.

“It seems appropriate that the choir can see their breath in Star Valley,” Elder Bednar quipped upon reaching the platform for the cornerstone ceremony, bringing laughter from the 65-person cornerstone choir from Montpelier, Idaho.

Then, explaining that the ceremony is just symbolic, he said it’s a “good reminder that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of your faith.”

Along the leaders, Elder Bednar invited children to place some mortar and then he invited two daughters of Wyoming to take a turn with the trowels – his wife, Sister Bednar, who was raised in Afton, and Sister Barbara D. Perry, wife of the late Elder L. Tom Perry. Sister Perry, who was raised in Cokeville, south of Star Valley over a mountain pass and part of the temple district, participated in the dedication and cornerstone events.

“This is just like an amazing dream,’ Sister Bednar said during the interview with her husband the day before the dedication. “I guess you could say I’m amazed and thrilled, I’m excited, and I’m just full of appreciation to a loving Heavenly Father who has seen fit to bless these people.”

Then Sister Bednar, the daughter of Kay and Nyla Robinson, who are pioneer descendants, shared a “tender mercy” for her family. When the Star Valley temple was announced in 2011, Sister Bednar’s father, who was celebrating his 85th birthday, called his daughter and told her he had a birthday wish.

“He said, ‘I wished that I would live long enough that I would see the Star Valley temple dedicated,’” Sister Bednar related.

Continuing, she said, “Well, tomorrow, the day of the dedication is my father’s 90th birthday and he’ll be here. My mom and dad will both be here, 88 and 90 years old and still doing good things.”

Also speaking of the legacy her parents instilled in her was Sister Perry, the daughter of S. Reed and Lois Taylor Dayton. Her father was a bishop in Cokeville for 23 years and a stake president for 14 years. He was also a Wyoming state legislator serving the Star Valley area.

With tenderness, Sister Perry spoke of her father. “He’s done a lot of building toward this [dedication] indirectly and directly – and Mother is right there beside him.”

Also pondering his heritage – both recent and as a descendant of the Hale family that originally homesteaded the land upon which the temple now stands – was Neil Hoopes of the Afton 4th Ward. Brother Hoopes doesn’t recall when temple worship wasn’t central in his family – no matter the cost.

He was only 6 years old in March 1969 but vividly remembers when his grandfather, Vernon Hoopes and his wife, Jane, attended the temple in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with two other couples from Star Valley. Until the dedication of the new temple in Star Valley, members, including ordinance workers, traveled over sometimes treacherous winter roads to Idaho Falls.

In that day 47 years ago, the car in which the three Star Valley couples were riding in missed a turn and plunged down a 300-foot embankment. No one survived.

The peace and importance of the temple, Brother Hoopes said, have always been “at the forefront of our lives.”

On the day of the dedication, he attended a session with his wife, Chereon, and some of their seven children in the meetinghouse just south of the new temple. Earlier in the day, he was ushering in the same meetinghouse and could see the sacred edifice through the window as he listened to live proceedings broadcast from the temple.

“In my mind’s eye, I pictured this whole field right up to the mountain full of people in white.”

He said he felt the presence of the original pioneers who settled this valley in the late 1870s, as well as his parents and grandparents. He said he pictured them giving “the hosanna shout to this temple.”

In her remarks to the Church News, Sister Bednar had a tender message for the youth of the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple: “I hope that the youth of this valley will always protect it by the way they live, that they will stand for truth and righteousness and be dedicated to the Lord and do their part to preserve the legacy of faith that has been established in this mountain home.”

Julie Dockstader Heaps is a freelance journalist living in Syracuse, Utah, where she enjoys writing, running, gardening, being involved in her community and, most important, spending time with her husband, David, and their daughter, Hannah Mae.



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