BRIGHAM CITY -- Under a canopy of leafy maple trees hundreds of enthusiastic children and adults clamored Saturday morning for a chance to scoop up shovels of dirt following a groundbreaking ceremony for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' temple in Brigham City.
Dressed in their Sunday best, spectators sat in a sea of metal chairs, on the grass and along the curb of the adjacent Brigham City Tabernacle to watch church leaders dedicate property at 250 South Main St. as the hallowed spot for the 35,000 square-foot edifice.
"We are so excited," Pat Cowley, a church member from Brigham City, said summing up the feelings of many of those in attendance. "It's huge for us."
Those sentiments were echoed by Kyle Duncan, another Mormon who traveled from his home in Mantua to watch the groundbreaking. "To have the temple in the community sure is a blessing," he said.
Sheila Kafton, also a church member from Brigham City, is looking forward to the temple being built about three blocks from her home.
"It's going to be a wonderful thing," she said. "I don't drive so I can walk (to the temple)."
Ron Frandsen, president of the Box Elder stake, estimated there were about 7,000 people at the temple site and the nearby tabernacle and another 3,000 watched at area LDS meeting houses.
Those who couldn't watch the ceremony in person listened to a live broadcast in the tabernacle and at a dozen participating LDS stake centers in the Brigham City area.
President Boyd K. Packer of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a Brigham City native, said attending the ceremony brought back nostalgic memories for him and his wife Donna.
"I am home," he told to the crowd.
Packer recalled he attended what was known as the old Central School located on the vacant lot where the temple will be built. The school burned down in 1949 and another school built in its place was eventually demolished, he said.
Packer said while church responsibilities spanning more than 50 years have taken him and his wife around the world they always enjoy returning to Brigham City. "Everywhere we go there is Brigham City," he said. "That's what draws us here."
The temple will serve as a spiritual landmark for the area, said Packer, who promised to return for the building's dedication after construction is completed.
"It will be a beacon from all over the valley," he said.
Elder Allan F. Packer, who is a member of the church's Quorum of the Seventy and President Packer's son, said homes are the most important buildings in the church. "They are a place for fathers and mothers to come together to prepare the family for eternity," he said.
Elder Steven E. Snow, a member of the presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy, said Brigham City qualifies for a temple because of the faithfulness of church members in the area.
Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained to spectators what he described as the "A, B, C's" of temples.
Letter A stands for ancestors and the importance of having sacred ordinances performed for them in the temple, he said.
Letter B represents brides and bridegrooms who should prepare to be married in the temple for time and eternity, he said,
Letter C stands for children who should be taught the importance and significance of participating in temple ordinances, said Russell.
Construction of the Brigham City Temple will begin within a month and should be completed in the fall of 2012, said Elder William R. Walker , executive director of the church's Temple Department.
The temple will be designed to compeiment the historical architecture of the Brigham City tabernacle across the street.
It will be about the same size as the Twin Falls, Idaho, Temple but will not have a visitors center, said Walker.
The Brigham City Temple will be the church's 14th in Utah.
The church currently has 133 operating temples across the globe with another 19 announced or under construction.
Story can end here
LDS temples differ from the church's meetinghouses or chapels where members meet for Sunday worship services.
Temples are considered houses of the Lord where Christ's teachings are reaffirmed through marriage, baptism and other ordinances that unite families for eternity. In the temple, church members learn more about the purpose of life and strengthen their commitment to serve Jesus Christ and those around them, according to a fact sheet provided by the church.