Brigham City's Main Street is shaded by dozens of huge sycamore trees that are close to a century old. But as you approach 300 South and Main, the trees suddenly open up to reveal a spectacular three-story white building with towers on either end -- and a statue of Moroni on the tallest one.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will conduct public tours of the building starting this Saturday. So far, more than 300,000 people have signed up for the tours online. The building visitors will see is completely modern, but it includes many design elements meant to recognize Brigham City's pioneer past.
Elder William Walker, a member of the Church's First Quorum of the Seventy, led reporters on a tour of the building. He told a news conference following the tour, "Many characteristics, architectural and design characteristics, that would be common to Manti or St. George or the Salt Lake temple are incorporated into this temple. So it's very much architecturally a pioneer historic-type temple."
Brigham City has been known since Utah's pioneer times for its peach orchards, and Elder Walker says the building's designers honored the community with a peach blossom motif all through the building.
"So it's included in the art glass," Walker said. "It's included in the ceiling painting. It's included in the carpet carvings, so the peach blossom is repeated throughout the temple. It's beautiful and elegant. It doesn't have any religious significance in particular. It's more a homage to the beautiful community in which this temple is located."
The temple was built on the site of a hundred-year-old school that was torn down a few years ago. The community was generally enthusiastic about its construction -- until the church asked to take out four of the big sycamore trees in front of the building.
Mayor Dennis Fife says that sparked some opposition. "We have what's called a Shade Tree Commission that makes those decisions, and ironically, on that, there's seven members and six of them were not LDS. And they're pretty restrictive on removing trees," the mayor told KUER.
The commission did give its permission, but there was opposition in the community and even some threats, the mayor says. In the end, the four trees were taken out. More than 160 new trees have been planted as part of the landscaping for the new temple.
The city of Provo is also looking at what the construction of a new LDS temple can bring to its downtown area. It's been almost two years since the historic Provo Tabernacle was all but destroyed by a fire. It's now being rebuilt as a temple. Paul Glauser, the director of Provo's redevelopment agency, says a FrontRunner commuter rail station and a new office building for the NuSkin Corporation are helping to bring new life to the older part of town where the temple will be located.
Glauser says the church sets a high bar. He tells KUER, "The church was visiting with another city official a few months ago about their plans and what they had in mind to do, including improving the landscaping on the grounds around the old tabernacle. And the city official made the comment that they were going to raise the standard downtown and make the city look bad if it didn't improve its property."
In other communities such as Draper and Bountiful, the church has built new temples on hillsides in upscale residential areas -- areas where the property became instantly more valuable when the project was announced. But DeAnna Dipo, a realtor who works in the Draper area, says some of those homeowners were hit hard when the bottom fell out of the real estate market.
"It also hit right at a time, as it was being built," she says, "our market shifted and turned down. I don't think they got the premiums in the end that they thought they would reap."
Back in Brigham City, hundreds of volunteers are getting ready to host hundreds of thousands of visitors who will tour the new temple before its dedication on September 23rd. After that, only church members in good standing will be allowed inside. But anybody will be able to look up at the peach blossoms cast into the white concrete exterior and think about what makes this temple -- and this town -- unique.