Photo from Gila Valley Temple: Fulfillment of a Prophecy by Marleen Taylor Mott, Meridian Magazine
The Gila Valley Temple is in the Gila Valley.
But more specifically, it is in Central.
Central, Arizona is in southeastern Arizona.
Here, this will help:
Now, Central doesn't seem to me an obvious spot for a temple. Safford or Thatcher, just a few minutes down the road, have many more people. There isn't much in Central: Farms. Livestock. An old post office. Lots and lots of my relatives. Many of them are in the cemetery.
No stop light. No Circle K. If you grow parched while cruising Highway 70 between the Taylor Freeze in Pima and the Sonic in Thatcher, you might need to stop at my Grandma Layton's house. Or maybe at Aunt Lona or Jody's. They are a mite closer to the highway.
When the temple was announced, I asked Grandma:
Wow. Can you believe it? Did you ever think you'd have a temple in your backyard?
Well, sure, she answered. But I always expected they'd put it up on the hill, near the cemetery. A temple, down there, practically on the highway? Very disappointing.
Come again, Grandma?
Honestly, it didn't seem very disappointing to me, but I didn't say so.
So I decided to look it up. And do as much historical sleuthing as I could do from my desk chair, in the five minutes of spare time I have each day. I didn't actually go to a library. Archivists don't like newborns in their reading rooms. (I know cuz I used to be one. An archivist, not a reading room. I know my rear has spread, but golly, that's rude).
So it turns out, as early as 1882, Jesse N. Smith predicted a temple would be built in The Valley, and depending on which vastly reliable source you believe (and one of them is Wikipedia, but both were supposedly quoting Mormon Settlement in Arizona), he predicted it would be built in Thatcher or Pima. That was just a couple of years after the first Mormons arrived, and most of them were still in Pima. And then on
None of this fully explains why Grandma envisioned a temple on the hill behind her house. So she elucidated: her Grandpa had told her. Her Grandfather, Edsil Myron Allred (my great great grandpa) was the Bishop in Central for 18 years and also served as Patriarch. During his tenure as Patriarch, he gave a talk in Church (this I gathered from my Dad), in which he predicted that a temple would be built in Central.
And it was.
We went to see it.
It really is beautiful. The architecture is similar to other small-but-not-too-tiny temples being built lately, but the interior art is sort of unbelievable. In volume, but also in quality. The mural of the Gila River in the ordinance room is amazing.
I whispered to Sam: look, this whole room is painted by hand!
Oh, he replied. I know what that is called. Graffiti.
No, I told him. Not if it is commissioned.
My Dad couldn't get enough of the original oils. The painting of Ash Creek Falls on Mt. Graham was his favorite (in the assembly room). Does anyone know the artist? Let me know.
After our tour, we headed over to Grandma's (Grandma was walking along the road, she'd been watering Uncle Jake's horses) to change, then to Uncle Chuck's to ride his horses. Chuck and my cousin Brandon rope. I think they are good at it. Maybe a little famous, even. But I don't know. I'm from Los Angeles. When you are a little famous in LA, you have your own sitcom.
Tom, who saw some kids with cookies outside the temple, and asked them: Did Jesus give you those?
Grandpa Ross (my Dad) and little Ross, riding Lloyd and Hidalgo, respectively. That's Mt. Graham behind them. We've got a cabin up there. Here are Dad and the kids on the mountain at the Ladybug Saddle trailhead last summer:
Cousin Jack and Chuck.
Ryan and Uncle Rick
Looking east and north from Chuck and Lona's place.
The Temple was dedicated this Sunday, and was broadcast all over the state. Did you attend? Do you have any Gila Valley relations? Are they the same as mine? In addition to the Laytons and the Allreds, I've got Norton, Porter, Reay, and Webster peeps.