“Boise Saints Prepare for Temple Dedication,” Ensign, May 1984, 108–9
The Boise Temple has already brought many blessings to the lives of the Saints in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon, even before its scheduled dedication May 25.
Local Church leaders have observed an increase in spirituality among the members, increased missionary activity, and heightened interest in genealogy. But there has also been a certain excitement and anticipation of the blessings of having a temple close by.
“I’ve been in this area since 1939. I’ve been in most positions in the Church, and I have never yet seen the excitement that there is at the present time among the LDS population,” says President Seth D. Redford, who served in the presidency of the Idaho Falls Temple before being called to preside over the Boise Temple. The Saints are “very anxious for the temple to open.”
It was not always so. When the first LDS missionaries came into the Northwest in the 1850s, missionary work went slowly. The Northwestern States Mission was formally organized in 1897. It included Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; Montana was added later. On 31 December 1900, the mission, not including the Cassia Stake, counted only 935 baptized members.
LDS settlers had originally been sent to north-central Utah and south-central Idaho from areas in western Utah. The settlers had found southern Idaho to their liking, the Church had grown there, and the Cassia Stake had been organized in 1887. This stake—which originally included the Oakley, Marion, Spring Basin, Albion, Elba, and Almo wards—was the forerunner of all the others in south-central Idaho.
Missionaries first began their work in Boise in 1897, distributing 8,000 tracts there that year. The Manuscript History of the Boise Ward notes that in 1899 “every house in Boise was tracted twice.”
The need for a permanent Church organizational structure in Boise developed as LDS legislators from other areas of the state came to the capital city because of state government service. A group of these men sent a letter to Church headquarters in January of 1903 to ask that missionaries be sent to Boise. In response, Elder Joshua H. Paul, a professor of botany at the University of Utah, and Elder Melvin J. Ballard, then president of the Northwestern States Mission, were sent to Boise.
In February 1903, a branch was organized. Ten years later, growth of the Church warranted creation of the Boise Stake, including the Boise, Bramwell, Carey, Emmett, Heyburn, Manard, Nampa, Rupert, and Weiser wards, and the Bliss Branch. Stake boundaries extended some three hundred fifty miles, from Oregon to Minidoka; it included 3,000 Saints in twelve counties.
Church membership in the area continued to grow, but the boundaries of the original Boise Stake were pared down through the years as other stakes sprang from it. There were many milestones, but at least one of those historical footnotes has Church-wide interest. In 1938, an agricultural economist in his late thirties became president of the Boise Stake. But he was released in 1939 when he moved to Washington, D.C., as executive secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. He was ordained an Apostle on 7 October 1943, the same day as Spencer W. Kimball, and is now President of the Council of the Twelve—President Ezra Taft Benson.
Growth of the Church in south-central and southwestern Idaho and in eastern Oregon continued through the years. Consequently, the new Boise Temple will serve over one hundred thousand members in thirty-three stakes and one mission. Some four hundred members have been called as ordinance workers. The temple district ranges from Lewiston on the north to the Twin Falls, Burley, and Jerome regions on the south, from the LaGrande and Nyssa, Oregon, stakes on the west to the Carey and Declo, Idaho, stakes on the east.
Church leaders in the area have found that many members are putting their lives in order so they can qualify for recommends and enjoy the ordinances available in the temple. Interest in genealogical research has also increased. “Since the announcement of the temple, we have seen a larger number of people coming into the library. I have had a number of people who have called and asked how soon they can reserve names for the Boise Temple,” reports Freida March, genealogical librarian for the Boise Region.
Missionary work has benefited too. “The temple is opening many doors. There is a lot of interest, a lot of curiosity,” says Elder John K. Carmack, president of the Idaho Boise Mission.
Brother Steven S. Mortensen, Regional Representative for the two Boise regions, says the temple open house (which began May 1 for the general public) furnishes a golden opportunity for missionary work. “It’s difficult many times to engage our nonmember friends and neighbors in gospel conversation, but if we can take them to the temple open house, I think that activity will open the door for us to talk to them about what we believe, why we believe it, and what our goals are in life. I think it’s going to be a great missionary tool.”
President Redford says he foresees not only an increase in temple work when the temple is opened, but also an increase in Church attendance and other measures of spirituality.
The presence of the temple will not only benefit the members, but it will also demand more of them, says President Dale Dunn of the Meridian East Stake. It is highly visible, and it has increased awareness of the Church and its standards among nonmembers. “I think this awareness is going to require that members of the Church represent themselves on a higher level of living than they ever have before.”