Rapid growth in San Antonio's Mormon community has prompted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build a temple in San Antonio.
Groundbreaking for the fourth temple to be built in Texas will be at 11 a.m. today at the corner of Hardy Oaks Drive and Stone Oak Parkway. It's an invitation-only event.
The number of Mormon adherents in the San Antonio area grew from 9,038 to 12,084, or 33.7 percent, from 1990 to 2000, according to the American Religion Data Archive.
"Members in Central and South Texas have been waiting for years for this," said Lawrence M. Neuberger, president of the San Antonio East Stake. "They've been traveling to Houston or Dallas while anxiously awaiting the day when this temple would be completed and dedicated."
Local church spokesman Gary Gomm said construction is expected to take about 15 months. When construction is complete, a monthlong open house will allow the general public to tour the building and learn about the church rites that will be conducted there.
After the open house, the temple will be dedicated and it will no longer be open to the general public.
Temples are used for proxy baptisms of the dead, in which especially devout church members stand in for deceased relatives or ancestors who have not been baptized, and for the sealing of marriages and family units for time and eternity.
These special rites may not be done in ward chapels, where LDS members worship each Sunday. Marriages performed in ward chapels are not for eternity under LDS doctrine.
The new temple is to serve approximately 45,250 church members in 69 counties in a district stretching from Waco to Brownsville. The district includes 11 stakes, which are analogous to Catholic dioceses. Four of those stakes are in San Antonio, which has 15,000 LDS members. Texas has 212,000 members, Gomm said.
The other temples in Texas, in order of their construction, are in Dallas (1984), Houston (2000) and Lubbock (2002).
Jim Bratt, bishop of the Stone Oak ward, said the current president of the LDS Church, Gordon B. Hinckley, has authorized more new temples than all previous presidents combined to make the temples more accessible to rank-and-file members.
The seven oldest temples still in use today were built between 1877 and 1927 - a span of 50 years. The San Antonio temple will be the 125th worldwide, and the 77th since Hinckley became the 15th president in 1995.
"A visit to the temple is a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage," Bratt said. "Often in the past, people had to make great sacrifices in order to go. President Hinckley wanted to make it easier for people to get to them."