(Photo credit: Tina Wood Photography)
FORT COLLINS - Against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, about 700 people gathered Saturday in an empty field in southeast Fort Collins to break ground on what will be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' second temple in Colorado.
State senators, community leaders and representatives from other religions were among the people gathered in the invitation-only crowd.
Although plans for the temple's construction drew concerns from neighbors - mostly related to traffic and the height of the temple's 112-foot spire - Fort Collins City Councilman Wade Troxell said the temple will be a welcome addition to the Fort Collins community.
"I think we're a bigger family by joining them in this kind of ceremony," he said. "It brings us together as a community."
The temple will serve approximately 44,000 Mormons in Northern Colorado and Wyoming. Construction is expected to be finished late 2015, with members in the region saying they will be able to visit the sacred site more often, as they will no longer have to trek to Denver to gain access to what is the most sacred and holy place in their faith.
The 30,389-square-foot temple will have a steeple topped by the angel Moroni, the heavenly messenger LDS members believe first visited the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1823. The angel brings the height of the building to 112 feet.
One member who plans to visit the temple in Fort Collins more often than the Denver temple is Nathan Hunt, who said his wife and five kids will probably go "at least once a month, " if not more.
"We're really excited about the new property." Hunt said. "... It just gives the opportunity to demonstrate what temple worship is about - giving service and drawing closer to God."
While there are 290 congregations in Colorado that worship weekly in chapel buildings, temples in the LDS community are unique in that they are used specifically for marriage ceremonies, teaching and spiritual advancement. There are 141 temples across the globe, with the Fort Collins temple expected to be the 155th when it is complete. Members gain access to the temple on a recommendation-only basis, and the temples are not open to the general public.
Nonetheless, the well-manicured grounds will be open to the public, said Elder William Walker, who encouraged the community and members of different faiths to take a stroll around the 16-acre property.
"It's part of our desire to be good neighbors and to build a beautiful building that's compatible to the community and adds to the serenity and dignity of the community," Walker said.
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