The May 15 groundbreaking ceremony for the Deseret Peak Utah temple had just ended, and the 220 leaders and guests gathered were being summoned by groups to remove soil at the temple site in northwest Tooele, Utah.
With all the attention directed to the front, a lanky older man walked quickly to the rear of where some of the media representatives had gathered and continued towards the cars parked a short distance away. The man and I made eye contact and exchanged nods.
Wait – it looks familiar to me, I thought, though I don’t personally know many people from the Tooele area.
A glance at the empty chair on the podium where the speakers had sat during the show confirmed my suspicions. The man walking away from the shovel and the celebrating congregation was Kim A. Halladay, who had been one of the people who made formal comments at the event.
A former stake president who had presided over two Tooele stakes and a physician by trade, Halladay spoke about the impact of temples and temple attendance on his life. He recalled learning at a young age that his parents attended the Salt Lake Temple monthly, and he recalled the temple shifts on Saturday mornings that began with getting up at 3 a.m. and hitting the road at 4.
He stopped when I called him and expressed appreciation for the message he had shared. He thanked me and added an explanation for his hasty departure: “I have to run – I have to fulfill an assignment at the temple.”
Instead of shaking hands with friends or turning the earth with a commemorative shovel to celebrate the start of a new temple, Halladay went to serve an existing one.
The faithfulness of temple service and attendance of those in the Tooele Valley for decades is well documented, regardless of whether Tooele and the surrounding communities were assigned to the Salt Lake Temple district – as has traditionally been the case – or to the Jordan River, Bountiful, or Oquirrh Mountain temple districts due to closures or redistricting.
Elder Brook P. Hales, General Authority Seventy who presided over the groundbreaking for the Deseret Peak temple, said Latter-day Saints from the Tooele area have at times represented nearly one-third of the Salt Lake temple workers and volunteers. .
Recognizing that many Church members around the world face greater distances to get to the temple, Elder Hales said he hopes a temple in Tooele will help temple attendance and further serve local Latter-day Saints. .
Richard Droubay, former stake president who chaired the groundbreaking ceremony committee for the Deseret Peak Utah Temple, said: “President Halladay ran away today for a temple assignment – that’s what characterizes many of the saints that we have in this valley who would do exactly the same thing ”.
And indeed they have – even in the inclement weather on the Wasatch Front, making the journey between Farnsworth Peak and the southern tip of the Great Salt Lake.
Droubay shared the perspective of the half-dozen Salt Lake Temple presidents he has met and their experiences witnessing the faithfulness of the Tooele-area Saints in the temple.
“Whenever there was bad weather – the roads were icy or snowy, the people of Tooele Valley were there to fulfill their assignments,” he said. “It didn’t matter that they had to get up an hour or two early to be there. They were always there ”.
For Droubay, the only disappointment of the Deseret Peak Utah Temple groundbreaking ceremony on May 15 was the fact that on-site attendance was limited to about 220 people, due to COVID-pandemic guidelines. 19 in progress.
“The saddest part of all this is that we couldn’t have all the people who wanted to be here, because there is great faith and great personal integrity among the people here. And President Halladay is a good representation of the people of the valley. …
“But soon we will have our own temple,” he added, “and we are absolutely delighted with that.”
In his comments during the groundbreaking ceremony, Halladay noted that he and his wife had just submitted the documents for the mission. Depending on the length of the mission assignment and the total duration of the temple construction, which is projected to be around 23-24 months, Halladay may not see the temple construction and may even miss the open house and dedication.
But losing the pomp and circumstance of a temple event in order to serve would be nothing new to him.