Cody Residents Ask Questions and Get Answers at LDS Temple Open House
Written by Andrew-Rossi on June 6, 2023
Correction: In the original article, it was said that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints anticipates traffic will only increase “by 32 vehicles per day” on Skyline Drive. A review of official documents provided by the Church shows an anticipated traffic increase of 32 vehicles per hour.
Hundreds of people met and mingled on the carpeted floor of the gymnasium at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Cody stake center on Tuesday, June 6. Normally reserved for Sunday services, northwest Wyoming residents of all faiths gathered for a significant event – a look inside the much-discussed and anticipated Cody Wyoming Temple.
The excitement is palpable. Church member Noma Walton was amongst those gathered around renderings of the finished structure, depicting it at its intended location (a plot of private land donated by the Nielsen Family) from several perspectives on Skyline Drive. For her, and many others, the temple is already a life-changing addition to the community.
“(The Cody Wyoming Temple) is the most exciting thing to happen to me and my family in the 26 years we’ve lived in Cody,” she enthusiastically shared.
The renderings were accompanied by representatives of the L.D.S. church – “big wigs,” as Walton called them – who came from Salt Lake City to meet and greet with the Cody community.
Doug Anderson is the Director of Media Relations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a position he’s held for fourteen years. While he shares the same excitement for the temple at what it could bring to northwest Wyoming, he’s also aware of the discourse occurring on social media.
Several residents oppose the temple’s construction on the Skyline Drive property. They are petitioning for the Cody Planning, Zoning, and Adjustment Board to deny a Special Use Permit and height exemption for the temple.
Anderson acknowledged that there isn’t much specific information on the Cody Wyoming Temple. For him, the “bigger challenge” now is that many people in the Cody community don’t understand what the temple is – and what it isn’t.
“And that’s on us,” Anderson said. “We need to help them understand the importance and the value of this particular building in this particular location at this particular time.”
Walton explained that church members gather at the stake house and Cody Mural Chapel for traditional Sunday services and holiday ceremonies. A temple is not a traditional house of worship – it serves a specific purpose that doesn’t include hundreds of churchgoers and their vehicles (the Church claims the Cody Wyoming Temple will only increase traffic on Skyline Drive by 32 vehicles per hour, on average.)
Providing much sought-after information was a primary purpose of the open house. Glancing around the crowded room, Anderson was happy so many people attended.
“It looks like people in Cody care about Cody. That’s great,” he said.
At the same time, Anderson knows there are many unanswered questions. When asked about a tentative timeline for construction, he said many specifics will come as the process moves forward – something he knows can be frustrating for community members seeking answers.
“For members of the Church, it seems to take longer than what they would hope. For other people that are not members of the faith, they think it’s coming too fast.”
The primary concerns raised by groups like Preserve Our Cody Neighborhoods are the construction of the temple in a residential neighborhood, the increase in traffic on Skyline Drive, and the potential light pollution (many temples are brightly lit at night.)
Anderson did not specifically address these concerns but assured the Cody community that those answers will come as the process progresses. Furthermore, the temple’s construction will “follow the guidance” provided by the Cody Planning, Zoning, and Adjustment Board and other community leaders.
Walton – who lives in a house off Skyline Drive – said the road is already busier than many people believe but didn’t belittle the feedback circulating on social media.
“People have real concerns,” she said, “and we need to respect that.”
Two Cody residents – who identified as Methodists – took a more personal view of the situation. One considered how disappointed and upset she would feel if the construction of a Methodist church was denied because other community members said, “we don’t like it.”
“Religion is personal,” she said in her support of the temple. “It’s a beautiful building. It’s on private land. Let’s move forward and not go backward.”
Many of the representatives who attended the open house from Salt Lake City will likely attend the public hearing of the Cody Planning, Zoning, and Adjustment Board at the Cody Auditorium at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. This will be the first opportunity to voice their opinions on the Cody Wyoming Temple publicly.
Anderson’s message to the Cody community is to reach out with their questions. Questions are how “we come to better understand one another, but also . . . understand the temple and what role it will play here in the community,” he said.
“(The temple) is what helps create better people, which creates better neighborhoods, which creates better communities. That’s our hope – to help people be kinder toward one another, to understand one another better. That’s what we’re taught inside the temple. It will make us better neighbors, not worse.”