[Photo: Guest speaker Duke Dewit]
The Morgan Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers held its monthly luncheon on February 19th at Larry’s Spring Chicken Inn. Chapter President Brent Rasmussen called the luncheon to order. After an opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, the group sang America the Beautiful. Gerald Betournay announced the next trek would be a visit to the Jonathan Browning Museum in April or May. Howard Hansen then presented the Pioneer/Member of the Month report. Hansen told about Lars Hansen, his great-great grandfather who emigrated from Denmark. Lars Hansen was born in 1861, the youngest of four children. In 1863, the family sailed to New York, and then came to Utah. His mother died in route, so Lars was given to a family named Anderson to be raised. They settled near Sevier, Utah. Later, Lars was returned to his birth family in exchange for a single cow. The family then settled in Fountain Green, but Lars, who by then was 17 years old, left to venture out on his own. At age 23 he married Laura Lund. They moved to the Snake River Valley in Idaho and settled in what was know as Eagle Rock, Idaho (now Idaho Falls). As part of the agreement to settle their 100 acres of land, they had to clear the land of tremendous amounts of sagebrush. Lars Hansen eventually left the church and changed his name from Hansen to Hanson. Together, he and his wife raised 9 children. Lars passed away in 1945 at the age of 85.
Guest speaker for the luncheon was Duke Dewit. Dewit was born in Illinois, served a mission from 1992-1996. When he returned, he married his wife, Kathy. They have a family of 8 children. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 2000 and is currently serving as the Ward Mission Leader in his Ward in Morgan. He is employed by the Temple Facility Services Division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. His employment has taken him to places such as Australia in 2012, where he managed 32 buildings/church houses. He then served in the Boston Temple. The Special Projects Department is over the running of the temples and employs over 1400 people. Under the Special Projects Department are the Design, Maintenance, and Construction Departments. In 2016, Dewit was advanced to a supervisory position with maintenance serving in the Temple Facilities Service Division as manager of the Temple Facility Services Department, with 6 employees managing 16 temples in the North West America Area. All temples fall under the direct supervision of the Prophet, who makes the final determinations on all temple questions.
Dewitt cited many statistics that most people are not aware of. Currently, there are 150 temples in operation with 11 additional temples under construction. Twelve additional temples have been identified for future construction. The Salt Lake Temple is the largest with 253,000 square feet. The smallest temple is in Mexico with 6800 square feet. There are 6.3 million square feet total in all temples. Many of the temples are considered to be stand-alone temples. Many other temples provide a house for the temple present.
Temple construction costs are staggering because they have to add the costs of maintaining them. The cost for maintaining the temples is between $4.50 to $6.50/square foot/ per month. Temple departments concentrate heavily on preventative maintenance, which minimizes replacement costs. The temples are kept in such a remarkable condition that patrons visiting the temple never see areas in need of repair. Salaries for employees come from various church funds, supplemented by tithing funds. Tithing funds covers most of the operating expenses of the temples. Members who have past professional experience who volunteer their time and talents to keep temples running do most of the maintenance. If necessary, commercial businesses are used, but the have to have a Temple Recommend. The number of volunteers in Utah results in a significant reduction of maintenance costs.
President Gordon B. Hinckley initiated the building of smaller temples. Many people have asked “Why”? Smaller temples were built so areas with smaller numbers of temple worthy church members could also enjoy the benefits of a temple close to where they live.
Dewit expressed how much he loves working with the temples and hopes he can finish his career in this area.