Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Gila Valley Temple

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.

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 Sunday, January 30, 1898, when Apostles John W. Taylor and John Henry Smith came to reorganize the St. Joseph Stake (where, btw, they released my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Christopher Layton (didya know my maiden name is Layton?), who had been sent by Brigham Young from Utah (Layton, Utah) to be the first Stake President in 1883.)

The new President, Andrew Kimball (President Spencer Kimball's Father) wrote in his journal: “During his visit, Apostle John W. Taylor prophesied that one of the most beautiful temples ever built among the Saints in the Rocky Mountains would be built here in the Gila Valley”.

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

Grandma. And me.

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.


acte gratuit said...

I sorta want to move to Arizona and be your relative. And also have kids with curly golden locks. But then I would be a "Zoni" (Zony? Zonie?) and my Carlsbad relations (who can't ever get a camping spot on the beach there...'cause of the Zoni's) might disown me.

But on a completely unrelated topic, that's a beautiful temple!

LisAway said...

Wow, that's pretty literally in the backyard! What a neat story and a great family history you have! Awesome.

jennie w. said...

I like hearing all those details. Our temple (San Antonio) is one of those small but beautiful ones. I love how they incorporate lots of local topography and beauty into the art. We have murals of the Texas Hill Country and stained glass featuring our native flowers and plants.

That's totally funny about Jesus and the cookies!

Heidi Ashworth said...

How lucky and blessed are you? (I say that rhetorically.) (It sounded rhetorical, right?)

heather said...

Edsil Allred is my great great something too!! I'll have to go check the family book to figure out what exactly.
:) Thanks for doing the research on that. :)

tarable said...

Great post & history. My mom's family is from the Gila Valley and were some of the original settlers too. She grew up in Pima and my grandpa is still there. When we went to see the temple it was just an excuse to go see him for a few days. We don't have a cabin on Mt. Graham but I spent my childhood summers there where my great-grandparents were hosts at the Shannon campground all season. I love that place! I'll look for you next time we're up there. ;)

Jolene said...

I loved the artwork in there too! Last weekend Alan and I did a session in the Newport Beach Temple and I loved that the art in there was of the local area. The session room was like being in the middle of Crystal Cove.

All of my Goodman relatives were from Safford and St. Johns. My brother lives in Pima and he and his wife own the Taylor Freeze! My nieces and nephews work there - they have made a bundle as of late - with all the Mormons coming to town to see the temple!

Barbaloot said...

Makes me wonder how those people who were there to settle Gila Valley felt when they finally got their temple. I gotta say, I think it's nicer to be on the completed end of a prophecy than the beginning where you won't actually live to see it:)

Amber said...

Awesome Mormon family history! I forget how AZ is so much like UT in terms of Mormons everywhere! Well, maybe some places more than others. I hope you have been nominated to write your family history...good reading it would be!

kt said...

Most murals in the temples are painted by an amazing artist, Linda Curley Christensen (sp?). I can't confirm that the Gila Valley murals were done by her, but I would say it's an excellent guess.

LeAnn said...

When you die, go to heaven, then meet your relatives who settled in Arizona back in the olden days, please ask them how they did it with all those petticoats, cooking at the wood burning stove and no AC! I'd really like to know. Thanks!

P.S. Thanks for sharing your what you learned about the Gila Valley Temple. I love hearing these kinds of stories!

The Damsel In Dis Dress said...

This post reminds me so much of when they announced the Columbia River temple (in southeastern Washington.) I grew up there and never, never, never imagined there would be a temple anywhere near.

My nonmember nephew lives there and asked me why Mormons like bowling so much. Bowling? Finally we figured out he thought the ball Angel Moroni stands on was a bowling ball. Haw Haw!

Nicki said...

This is my first time on your blog, and I'm already sad about all the fun I've been missing! You absolutely crack me it!!

Carolyn said...

Just found your blog. I'm a Christopher Layton descendant also - wife 6, child 11. What a treat to see that your family loves temples and your family history like I do!

UnseasonablyWarm said...

Thank you for this post! I hope you don't mind, but I referenced this post (added a link to your entry) in my latest blog entry where I was talking about this temple and adding my latest artwork featuring this temple.