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As soon as Thompson Coles heard there would be an LDS temple built in Star Valley, Wyoming, he felt drawn to make something about it. Coles is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but his wife is and at the time, in 2011, Coles and his family lived in Wyoming. He saw firsthand the importance of the first LDS temple in Wyoming to the people of Wyoming.
“I can still fondly remember the very loud and very excited phone conversation that my wife had with her father,” Coles, who was working for the PBS affiliate in Wyoming at the time, said. “She is from Star Valley and her parents still lived there. I didn’t have the concept completely fleshed out at that time, but I knew that I wanted to make something surrounding it.”
Fast-forward two years and Coles was working for Deseret Digital Media in Salt Lake City when he decided to pitch his idea. Executives at Deseret Digital Media were quick to support him in the endeavor and Coles recently debuted a 20-minute documentary about the construction of the Star Valley Wyoming Temple. The documentary was produced by Deseret News and was shown on KSL in between sessions of general conference.
Coles is employed by a company owned by the LDS Church and is married to a Mormon, which he says has resulted in some interesting experiences with members of the LDS Church, both good and bad.
“What I came to realize is that people are people no matter their religious viewpoint,” Coles said. “The most important thing I learned is that the church does its best to provide the best opportunities for its members to have a closer relationship with the Savior.”
Coles explains that the people of Star Valley have “a unique history in a very hard place to live.”
“While it is the most beautiful place on earth in the summer, it can be absolutely brutal in the winter,” Coles said. “No place I’ve been has had people who were so genuinely grateful and humbled by the opportunity of the temple. The people were touched, and it will be an interesting progression to see the future of the valley with the temple.”
This is not the first documentary Coles has shot and edited, but it is the first one he has shot, edited and produced in its entirety. He remembers quickly feeling that he had bitten off more than he could chew and being tempted to give up multiple times. He knew he wanted the documentary to be something that was sincere and that not only resonated with Star Valley locals but also with all members of the LDS Church throughout the world. In the end, he feels that it is what he intended it to be.
“In the end, I feel like I accomplished my goal and it is a relief to have it finished,” Coles said.
But even more than the satisfaction that came from seeing his idea become a reality, Coles, who was given unprecedented access to the temple during the making of the documentary, says he will remember the responses of viewers upon learning that he was not a member of the LDS Church.
“I think it is outside the scope of reality for members to have a documentary made about something as sacred as a temple by a nonmember,” Coles said. “I considered it a great compliment in a way, the shock that is. While I cannot say I blame them, it still makes me smile a little.”
Still, he says the memory of the people of Star Valley will be what he cherishes most when he looks back on this experience.
“My dearest memory will be the humble gratefulness that they expressed about the upcoming temple,” Coles said. “It touched them deeply and you could feel that coming from them.”
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