Many hours of planning, a three-mile trek, and a large group of dedicated youth and adults resulted in a beautiful replica of the Payson Utah Temple.
No praying or worshiping took place inside this temple replica, but the Spanish Fork youth involved learned just what it might take to build a temple, and how important it is to attend the temple.
The youth, along with their adult leaders, built the replica in Diamond Fork Canyon. Once the temple replica was built, a staged mob on horseback came to threaten to tear it down, replicating similar circumstances around pioneer temples.
Their theme throughout this experience was ‘Press Forward’ from 2 Nephi 31:20. The Stake Young Men’s President, Shane Lawrence said, “We felt it went great with the ‘trek’ objective. We took it a step further implying that we can press forward with steadfastness in Christ by making a goal to attend the temple one day.”
To build a real LDS temple takes years of work and planning. The temple replica itself also took many hours of planning, beginning in November 2015. Bruce Fallon, a professional architect, drew up the plans for the temple replica. Then a professional builder named Blake Barrett converted the plans into a lumber package that was split up into kits.
This allowed the participants of the trek to split off into ‘families’ and individually help build the temple replica. Each trek ‘family’ used handcarts to transport their kits to the temple replica site in Diamond Fork Canyon.
Lawrence said, “When they arrived at the material location, a bishop was there to teach a lesson on sacrifice and what it took to build temples and what it might take for them to ‘get to the temple one day.’ It was another great spiritual experience. The kits were built by the youth and put together in one day. I believe that was a miracle. Seeing how well it turned out.”
The temple was approximately 25 feet by 25 feet and 30 feet high. Its door was 8 feet tall. Its frame was made of 2x4s, covered with muslin cloth.
“A stencil was used to spray paint the windows on the muslin,” Lawrence said. “The crown molding and steeple was foam. The effect was exactly what we wanted. It looked like stone from a distance.”
One of the Pa’s on the trek, and 2nd Counselor in the Stake Presidency, David Ahrens said, “To see it at the end of the day was amazing and everyone felt great about what was accomplished. Then when the temple replica was lit up at dusk and remained lit throughout the night, it was simply a beautiful sight.”
However, although building and entering the temple replica was meant to be a spiritual experience, it was not meant to lessen the importance of the real LDS temples.
“I want to stress that there were no prayers or anything like that in the replica,” Lawrence said. “It was a simple walk through where feelings were shared. It was huge concern for our stake leaders and was stressed that this was a replica and in no way was to detract from the sacredness of our temples today.”
Lawrence was responsible for coming up with the idea of building a replica temple on their trek. Ahrens said that Lawrence “put much thought and prayer into this youth conference and was guided by the spirit to this inspiring idea.”
Ahrens stressed the reasoning behind the temple replica: “Everyone understood clearly it was a temple replica. In reality, it was a huge object lesson that effectively helped the kids better understand the sacrifice of the pioneers, their own heritage, the importance of temples, staying on the path and simply pressing forward with hard work and obedience.”
“The youth were encouraged to bring a picture of someone who has influenced them to go to the temple or someone that they would like to see in the temple one day,” Lawrence said. “They then took turns as families going inside and talking about the picture they brought and why. It was a great spiritual experience and the thoughts that were shared were amazing.”
The temple replica was taken down at the end of the trek, but it is an experience the youth will probably never forget.
“The spirit was present there and testimonies were strengthened,” Ahrens said. “It also gave me the amazing opportunity to get to know more kids in our stake and build a close relationship with those kids in our family.”
As for the youth, Ahrens said, “All reports were that they [the youth] loved the experience.”