Freedom of faith follows Constitution
I have frequently been asked about the location and progress of the new Heber Valley Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a member of the Wasatch County Council, which is overseeing the process, I hope to address questions and provide a little background.
Most of the work that comes to the Wasatch County Council concerns public works, zoning and other issues that most people consider ordinary. However, in order to officially join the council, I took an oath that I would preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The First Amendment to the Constitution explicitly states the following: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Of course this extends to the current or considered laws here in Wasatch County. The founders made it very clear that we shall do nothing to attempt to stop believers from exercising their freedom.
Regardless of which faith you adhere to, or whether you do not affiliate with any religion, we are all entitled to this freedom. Having sworn this oath, I appreciate that this temple will help many members of our community practice the most important parts of their religion.
Earlier this year, there were concerns regarding the building’s lighting and its potential impact on dark skies. Some expressed worry that it could negatively affect our ability to appreciate our beautiful dark skies.
In response to these concerns, the Wasatch County Council held several public hearings and consulted with experts on the matter, all in an honest effort to understand the issue. Decades-old laws have been updated so that the Heber Valley temple and large buildings in general could complement our county without significantly detracting from its natural beauty. Further, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints voluntarily modified the lighting of this structure to adhere to these new standards.
After the dark skies issue was addressed, new concerns began to surface. Throughout this entire process, I have heard concerns on many different components related to the Heber Valley temple, including the design of the spire, the number of and types of rooms, the parking lot, and more.
At this point, I would not be surprised if I were to hear grievances about choices surrounding the building’s landscape. To be honest, I have been startled by the number of contentious comments and emails I have received. I’m shocked that some of our neighbors who share our schools, parks, and public places have been so divisive in their commentary. This project is not the result of corruption or incompetence. The council has an obligation to hear from any citizen or organization that brings business before us.
To be transparent, I fear some of these concerns are being manufactured by individuals who just don’t want a temple in the area. I am confident that these voices do not represent the majority of Wasatch County citizens, but I want to make my intentions clear: I will never break my oath to the Constitution as I fulfill my duties as a County Council member. I will listen to and consider the wishes of the applicant, as well as the community, and proceed without bias as we consider the temple construction.
I welcome all Wasatch County citizens to have their voices heard, and my hope is that we can do it with civility in mind. Please know that you can always share your thoughts, concerns, and support for this or any other issues.
Luke J. Searle is a Wasatch County councilman.
Emotion permeated the air last Friday night as snow drifted down from the heavens around Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, reflecting in the orange glow of the Olympic and Paralympic cauldron. On stage were three generations of athletes. Some of them basked in the glow of memories from the days they won their gold, silver or bronze medals, while younger future stars had big eyes from sharing moments with their heroes.
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