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Payson • Cold, wet weather did not deter thousands from attending the ground-breaking ceremonies for the Payson Utah Temple on Saturday morning.

Approximately 8,000 people braved the intermittent rain and brisk temperature to attend the ceremony, crowding onto the former wheat field that will become the site of Utah's 15th Mormon temple.

"I think for many of these people, they wouldn't have missed it if it were snowing," said Elder William R. Walker, executive director of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple department.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said the temple will become a prominent landmark seen by millions passing by on Interstate 15.

"We pray that this temple will be much more than a beautiful symbol and a source of pride to the saints in this part of Utah County," Oaks said. "Every member of the stakes it serves should be temple-worthy and temple-attending so the blessings of the House of the Lord will be a personal experience to all."

Oaks, who spent part of his youth in Payson, said he was "thrilled" by Church President Thomas S. Monson's announcement in January 2010 that a temple would be built in Payson.

The Payson Temple will be Utah County's third, in addition to ones already operating in Provo and American Fork. A week earlier, Monson announced that the burned-out Provo Tabernacle would be restored and turned into a temple, which will be Utah County's fourth.

Temples are where faithful Mormons participate in the highest sacraments of their faith.

Oaks invited local church leaders, government officials and 12-year-old boys who were ordained as deacons to turn soil in the symbolic start of construction.

"It was pretty cool," said Isaac Leavitt, one of the boys asked to participate.

The weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of those who attended.

"This is a glorious day, really,"said Janette Hales Beckham, former LDS General Young Women's president. "Even the earth has been washed."

While countless church members watched the proceedings from stake centers from Spanish Fork to Delta, others crowded the temple site to watch the ceremony.

Amie Leavitt, a Payson resident, headed out at 6:30 a.m. to make sure she had a good seat for the event. "We never pictured we would have a temple in our area, or even on the street that I grew up on," Leavitt said.

Walker said the Payson Temple will take pressure off the Provo Temple, which he said is the busiest temple in the church.

Rod Newman, president of the Mount Nebo stake in Payson, said having a temple close by will be a blessing for the people in his area, especially older residents, who use golf carts to get around the neighborhood.

Newman also anticipates that more people will come to the temple with it being closer.

Bonnie Curtis said having a temple within walking distance will be exciting.

"It's like a dream come true," Curtis said.

Payson Mayor Rick Moore was among the dignitaries invited to participate in the ceremonies. Others included U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and state Reps. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, and Patrick Painter, R-Nephi.

Moore said it is a historic moment for the community.

"It will be something our kids, grandkids and all down the line will remember. It will be a building that will be here for hundreds of years, hopefully," Moore said.

Walker said formal construction will begin in the spring; construction will take two-and-a-half years.

At 96,630 square feet, the temple will be one of the largest built in recent years, Walker said.

Twitter: @donaldwmeyers —

Payson Temple

The Payson Temple will be 96,630 square feet, making it 11/2 times the size of the Draper and Oquirrh Mountain temples.

The temple district covers 26 stakes, from Spanish Fork to Delta.

The temple will sit on 15 acres overlooking Interstate 15.

The temple's design contains classical architectural elements and art glass.

Wadman Corporation of Ogden will be the general contractor.