Beth Worthen said she cried tears of joy when she heard the news.
The executive director of the Natrona County Public Library Foundation, Worthen also serves as chairperson of the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation board and volunteers with the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt. And she is the communications director for the Casper stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The news that had Worthen crying: Casper will be the site of the church’s second temple in the state, following a surprise announcement Sunday by church president Russell M. Nelson.
Wyoming’s only existing temple, known as the Star Valley Wyoming Temple, is in Afton, dedicated in 2016.
Although there are many meetinghouses (or chapels) throughout Casper and Wyoming, temples are different.
According to the church website, meetinghouses are used for Sabbath day worship services and weekday activities such as youth groups, socials, service projects, and sporting events. They are open to the general public, and visitors are welcome to observe or respectfully participate. As examples, the public is welcome at funerals held in meetinghouses and to work on genealogy at the Family History Center in Wolf Creek.
Temples are special places of worship where members learn more about the gospel and participate in sacred ceremonies. Temples are not open on the Sabbath, so that members may attend their local congregations. When a temple is first built, it is briefly open for public tours. Once dedicated, attendance is reserved for faithful members of the church who are ready to participate in additional gospel ordinances, though the grounds around the temple remain open to the public.
Casper is among 20 new temples announced by Nelson at the conclusion of the April 2021 General Conference. All of the United States sites — nine in all — are in the western part of the country.
Doug Andersen, director of media relations for the church, would not offer any details such as location, groundbreaking or construction timeline.
Other United States locations will be in Helena, Montana; Grand Junction, Colorado; Farmington, New Mexico; Burley, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; Elko, Nevada; Yorba Linda, California, and Smithfield, Utah.
According to a church release, Nelson’s announcement is historic because of the number and specific locations being announced at once. He has now announced 69 new temples in the three years he has served as president.
The church now has 251 temples announced, under construction or operating throughout the world.
In the official church announcement, it included a brief sketch of each community. For Casper, it notes that approximately 68,000 Wyomingites claim membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or about one in every nine state residents.
The announcement further notes the significance of Wyoming in the history of the church, as pioneers traveled across the state in their westward migration to Utah, primarily from the 1840s to the 1860s.
The Martin’s Cove Mormon Handcart Visitors Center, set on the Sun Ranch, is approximately 55 miles southwest of Casper on Highway 220. It is a popular destination for the public and church members alike, and offers a glimpse into the place where 500 some Mormons from the British Isles waited out a storm in November 1856 on their way to Utah.
While unable to provide specifics such as timeline, groundbreaking and location, Andersen did say the church will keep the public informed as construction plans progress.
Follow Sally Ann Shurmur on Twitter @wyosas.