POCATELLO — It took just over two years to construct the Pocatello Idaho Temple, and Elder Roger Prewitt and Sister Glenda Prewitt had front-row seats.
The Prewitts were called as service missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and were tasked with watching over the construction of the temple.
“Knowing the purpose of this sacred building made it more special than a typical construction build,” Roger, who has 47 years of experience in the construction field, wrote in an email response to the Idaho State Journal.
“It was a very humbling experience to watch a house of the Lord be built from the ground up to completion,” she wrote.
The Prewitts were able to watch the nearly 11-acre site transform from a brush-covered hill in March of 2019 to a formally landscaped area with thousands of shrubs and flowers and hundreds of trees.
They serve as a backdrop for the completed 182-foot temple (194 feet, 6 inches if you count the Angel Moroni statue at the top) that stands there today.
The building, nestled in the eastern foothills of Pocatello, can be seen from miles away. It will begin holding its open house from Sept. 18 until Oct. 23.
“We don’t think it could be any better,” the Prewitts wrote.
While they had a significant role in the process, the Prewitts certainly didn’t act alone. Many people, including several with Pocatello ties, have contributed to the temple’s construction over the past two years.
Bill Williams, director of design for the church’s temples, was raised in Pocatello and was able to use his knowledge of the area in his work.
“Whenever we build a temple in the community, we want to make sure it feels a part of that community,” Williams told the Journal in March 2019. “Having grown up here, we recognized what’s great about Pocatello is it has this great historic aura. They built some great old buildings.”
The temple’s design incorporates some of the decorative elements of local buildings, including Pocatello High School and the Administration Building at Idaho State University.
“If you look at Pocatello High School and the way they developed the exterior, which is this transition between classicism and modernism, that’s what we used as the design motif for the temple,” Williams said at that time.
They were also able to incorporate native flowers including syringa, the state’s flower; bitterroot, a pink flower significant to Native American tribes; and Indian paintbrush in the temple’s design.
The plants are featured in the art glass, flooring, decorative painting, light fixtures and other areas of the temple.
Pocatello native Brooklynn Smith, assistant project manager at Okland Construction, the contractor on the project, was also able to contribute a lot to the temple’s construction. One of her responsibilities was procurement.
“So anything that you see inside or on the temple, I played a role in making sure it got approved by the architect. And then I told the contractor ‘(OK), this is approved or needed on site by this date,’” Smith said while speaking at a Gate City Rotary Club luncheon on Sept. 1.
The temple’s exterior cladding is made of granite supplied by Best View in Fuzhou, China, according to church officials.
“From the very beginning stages until it gets shipped/delivered to Pocatello is a nine-month process,” Smith said, adding that they had to determine exactly what they needed, how much it would weigh and ensure the pieces they got would look well together — some of which required trips to China.
The temple is composed of materials that came from all over the world, including Israel, Pakistan, Iran, Spain, Turkey, Namibia and the U.S.
The Prewitts say several other companies and workers from Pocatello and surrounding areas were involved in the construction project.
“We found that local talent was excellent and very much able to produce the quality required for the temple. There were also workers and companies from outside of the area that worked well with our team,” the Prewitts wrote.
They say the artists that produced the windows from Holdman Studios were from Pocatello, Mexico and Utah.
“They did an excellent job producing the art glass,” the Prewitts wrote. “We also really appreciated all of the woodworkers from Boswell Wasatch (Architectural Woodwork) who installed all of the interior woodworking.”
They continued: “As you look at the temple, you will see ‘works of art’ displayed in the interior finishes and even in the carpet. We were blessed to have excellent craftsmen in every phase of the construction. We did have workers from international locations who supplied their talents to building the temple. In particular, we had as many as 10 workers from Brazil who spoke Portuguese. They were mostly workers with experience working in stone who had worked on other temples as well.”
Most of the work went smoothly and as scheduled, but the Prewitts said there were some difficulties along the way.
They noted that early on, they had to remove nearly 12,000 dump truck loads of dirt from the area without causing too much disruption to local residents.
“We challenged our contractors to do the best job they could and individual issues were addressed as they came up,” the Prewitts wrote.
In addition, they had to build the temple amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Construction of a temple is difficult enough without all of the protocols required dealing with a pandemic,” the Prewitts wrote. “One of our biggest blessings was that construction continued with very little disruption.”
While there were challenges, the construction of the temple also brought economic benefits to the community.
Matt Hunter, president and CEO of the Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce, says workers stayed in local hotels and ate at restaurants for an extended period of time during the construction process.
And he expects the now-completed temple to continue to draw visitors to the area in the future.
“Once the temple is open, it will continue to have an impact on hotel occupancy, restaurant usage and entertainment facilities,” Hunter said, adding that there will be long-term benefits to having a temple in Pocatello. “There will always be people coming from outside of the area to use it.”
Pocatello officials agree the temple will likely be a boon to tourism-related industries in the area.
City officials have considered extending Venture Way, formerly Chubbuck Road, to improve access to the temple, but say they aren’t making any plans to do so right now due to hurdles related to funding and property acquisition.
“However, it is something that the city is looking into and will continue to explore as opportunities present themselves,” said Jeff Mansfield, the city’s Public Works director.
The Pocatello Idaho Temple is the church’s first to hold an open house since the start of the pandemic and will be among the first to be dedicated.
And the Prewitts believe the temple, which church members consider to be a sacred “house of the Lord,” will be a blessing to those living in the area.
“The community will be blessed for years to come as sacred work is performed within the walls,” Roger wrote. “Knowing that we had a part in that process is something that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.”
The church is inviting the public to come and tour the Pocatello Idaho Temple during the open house set to take place Sept. 18 through Oct. 23. Complimentary tickets are available online at pocatellotemple.org/open-house.