HELENA — A new temple is getting closer to completion in the Helena Valley, and for the thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the area, it’s a longtime wish come true.
“Since probably the early- to mid-1960s when a church leader came here and made a comment about a temple being here,” Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Helena Stake President Bret Romney said.
“The members have talked about this possibility and looked forward to the potential for it happening for a long time. I don’t think many thought it would happen this quickly.”
The Lee family remembers when they first heard about it.
“We were watching a General Conference broadcast from our church headquarters,” Brian Lee recalled. “We had to rewind it—we almost didn’t believe it, did they really say Helena, Montana?”
Brian and Joni Lee, and their six sons, are part of the about 3,300 Latter-day Saints in the Helena stake, which covers from Boulder up to Lincoln, and over to White Sulphur Springs and Townsend. Before the Helena temple was announced, the closest one to the Helena stake was in Billings—a 3-hour drive or more away.
With the Lee’s six kids, that meant planning ahead, making hotel reservations and hoping the weather and roads were safe for travel.
“We’d make the trek down and just make a trip out of it,” Joni said.
There are Latter-day Saints meeting houses in the Helena area, but a temple is very different.
“The temple is the most sacred place on earth,” Romney explained. “We believe those buildings, once dedicated, are truly houses of the Lord.”
There are certain rituals that can only happen in the temple, like marriage and the eternal sealing of families. Romney said it’s a place Latter-day Saints can go to seek guidance and be closer to God.
Joni grew up close to a temple, and she remembers her father going twice a week before work. Now, her family will have that kind of access to a temple in Helena.
“Having this opportunity with a temple being built right here is amazing,” Joni said. “We’ll be able to gather and go more frequently.”
Joni and Brian say they’re excited for their sons to have a temple so close to home.
“It’s hard for kids these days growing up in the world that we have with a lot of challenges and difficulties,” Brian said. “For them, they can go to the temple to receive spiritual strength, to learn, to grow and to have that source of connection with heaven.”
The Lees aren’t the only ones excited for the new temple’s completion — Romney said it’s a big deal for the Helena stake, and those nearby.
“The access to the experiences that we have there can happen pretty much any time now,” Romney said. “It’s a great blessing our lives.”