The Fresno California Temple was the fourth temple built in the state of California and the first built in the Central Valley of California.
The Fresno California Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley in 1999, but plans for the temple originated in 1997 when President Hinckley announced small temples.
When smaller temples were announced the presidency of Fresno California West Stake wrote to President Hinckley and suggested the location when the Fresno Temple now stands. The letter to President Hinckley explained how the people of Fresno were ready for a temple. The Fresno area had a reputation for having the highest temple attendance in the Oakland California district even through they were two hundred miles away from the Oakland Temple.
They temple committee went to work. The director of the Churches temple construction department said this was the fastest approval of a temple from conception to obtain a building permit in the history of the Church! Much of that had to do with the support from city and local residents. Years before the same area had struggled to get a stake center built, there was so much opposition. They expected the same for the Temple and it didn’t happen!
The Church started a door-to-door approach to answer any questions about the new temple being built and of ninety-one residents contacts, eighty five people said they supported the building of the Temple! Pretty cool!
The groundbreaking ceremony was on March 20, 1999 by John B. Dickson. It was dedicated on April 9, 2000 by President Hinckley.
Celebrating the Temple groundbreaking the members did community service. 1,066 Church members donated time to helping the Fresno Chafee Zoo. At the time is was the largest volunteer effort ever undertaken in Fresno. Seven months of maintenance items were done in one day!
The Fresno Temple is on property that was part of twelve thousand acres of fig orchards. In the early 1900’s the area was known as Fig Garden and was one of the largest concentrations of figs in the whole world!
Fresno is one of the largest food-producing regions in the United States.
Beautiful mature olive trees were chosen to landscape the approach to the Fresno Temple. The olive tree was chosen both for the symbolism and because it is a local crop.
There are two original paintings by local artist in the Fresno Temple. One is done by Mark Gundmundsen, who was in the bishopric of his ward when the Temple was announced. He said this of his experience:
”At that very moment a thought came into my mind that I was suppose to do a painting to hang in it. I could even see the complete painting in my mind- it was an overview of Yosemite Valley from near the Tunnel View.” Directly after the meeting, a member of the stake presidency informed him that the temple committee had requested that he create a new painting for the temple. Once competed, the scenic original painting was placed behind the recommended desk.
The second original painting in the Fresno Temple was done by David Dalton. The painting depicts San Joaquin Valley. Brother Dalton’s great-grandfather had worked in the Cardston Alberta Temple and he said he always he would carry on the traditions to donate his talents to the temple!
The temple was dedicated on April 9, 2000 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Other Blog Posts:
“Temples of the New Millennium” by Chad S. Hawkins (p.158-159)