Rexburg homeowners honored to have their property become site for new temple - East Idaho News

Rexburg homeowners honored to have their property become site for new temple

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REXBURG — Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were surprised over the weekend to hear about the announcement of a second temple to be built in Rexburg.

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Shelley Hegsted, who owns the property with her husband, John, and his three sisters and their spouses, Marcia and Don Heinz, Marilyn and Larry Evans, and Diane and Lewis Clements, says the Church purchased the 100-acre parcel of land in July after several months of negotiation.

“We closed on it on July 15,” Shelley says.

Shelley and John’s 3,200-square-foot home occupies about an acre in the southeast corner of the property. The rest of it is farmland. She doesn’t know any specifics about the project or when it’s slated to begin, but she says they have until July 2022 to move out.

“Our family has been in that home since 1914 when it was built,” Shelley says. “It’s been a wonderful place to raise our family, but since town moved out that way and Walmart came, it’s been so busy. It’s not a fun corner to live on anymore.”

Still, Shelley says the thought of giving up a piece of land that’s been in her family for three generations is sad. They’ve been trying to sell it since 2005. Around 2008, Home Depot and Fred Meyer were planning to build a store at that location but later backed out when the economy tanked.

Other offers over the years never seemed to work out and the Hegsteds eventually thought selling the land just wasn’t meant to be.

The couple finally sold a portion of it to Kurt Harmon, a local business owner, this spring and it wasn’t too long after that when a church representative reached out to both parties expressing interest in purchasing the entire property.

Knowing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is taking it over makes Shelley, a lifelong church member, happy. She’s confident it’s in good hands.

“It’s humbled us a lot to think that this is a spot for a temple. We really can’t even believe it,” she says. “Whatever they do, it will be done right and nice. We just couldn’t be happier. It will be beautiful.”

hegsted property
A view of the Hegsted’s 100-acre field from North Second East. | Courtesy Shelley Hegsted

An exciting prospect

Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill says the Church is planning some additional commercial development next to the temple. He is not privy to the details, but he’s excited about the prospect of the additional income and appeal the project will bring to the area.

“There are very few places in the world that have two temples within the same city limits and we’re going to be one of them,” Merrill says. “Having a temple in town lends to a nice feel for the area. It gives a certain sense of reverence and spirituality that helps to keep crime down. Anything that helps in those aspects is always an exciting thing for us.”

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Rexburg’s current temple was dedicated in 2008.

Rexburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Chris Mann says he’d heard rumors about another temple coming to Rexburg prior to Sunday’s announcement but never dreamed it would actually be true.

“This is exciting for Rexburg. It’s always great to know that the LDS church has great trust in the city of Rexburg. We have amazing students and amazing citizens. I look forward to seeing just how they develop the property they bought,” Mann says.

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Once complete, the Rexburg temple will be open to the public during an open house. Once it is dedicated, only members who are endorsed by their ecclesiastical leader will be allowed inside.

The Rexburg Temple is one of 13 temples that was announced during the Church’s semiannual general conference. Other temples were announced in Cody, Wyoming and Heber Valley, Utah. One of the most recently completed temples is in Pocatello. It will be dedicated on Nov. 7.

The history of the property

John Hegsted’s grandfather, whose name is also John, was the property’s original owner. His father, Hans Christian Sorenson, emigrated to the United States from Denmark in the late 1800s. (He changed his name to Hegsted after coming to America, which referenced Hogsted, Denmark, where he grew up.)

At that time, the Church practiced polygamy and Hans had 28 children from three different wives. John was the 15th child and his mother was Hans’ second wife, Ane Christena Iverson.

“Hans and his family joined the church (in Denmark) and Hans was a mission president (the leader of a group of missionaries in a geographical area) over there,” Shelley says. “He was a very stalwart member to stay and help people emigrate.”

When Sorenson and his family finally left to come to America, it was 1865. As they passed another ship on its way to Europe, they heard about the end of the Civil War from some of the passengers on board.

“The people were shouting with their oars up, yelling, ‘The North just defeated the South in the Civil War,'” the passengers said, according to Shelley.

Sorenson and his family eventually docked in New York before walking across the plains and arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in November 1865.

“During our journey over the plains we encountered much trouble with Indians,” Sorenson writes in his history. “They bore away one of our company … and they wounded badly three of our brethren.”

hans sorenson and ane iverson
Hans Christian Sorenson and his second wife, Ane Christena Iverson | Shelley Hegsted

The following year, they moved to Huntsville, Utah and their crops were destroyed by grasshoppers. John was born in Huntsville on Feb. 9, 1875.

Sorenson’s polygamous lifestyle caused him some grief many years later. In his life history, he says he spent some time in the Utah State Penitentiary in 1887 for “unlawful cohabitation.”

The Church ultimately abolished the practice of polygamy in 1890.

In 1892, Sorenson finally settled in Salem and purchased 160 acres of land. His son, John, purchased the 100-acre property where the Hegsted home is now located in the early 1900s.

John Hegsted married Edna Porter in 1909 and lived in St. Anthony for several years. They built the home on North Second East in 1914. After his death in 1930, Edna lived there as a widow for about six years, until her son, Jack, and his wife, Dorothy, moved there in 1936. Jack and Dorothy had six children together, including Shelley’s husband, John.

john and edna
John Hegsted and Edna Porter were married in 1909. | Shelley Hegsted

“These are cool histories for our family (that remind us) of the sacrifices that were made for (our) faith,” Shelley says.

John and Shelley have lived in the home since 1977. They raised four children together. They remodeled it in 1992, adding an additional 1,000-square-feet that included two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a family room, a mudroom and a renovated kitchen. The couple still has some furniture from John and Edna’s days in the house.

The Hegsteds are planning to move across town before the Church takes over the property next summer.

Despite the legacy they’re leaving behind, Shelley says they’re looking forward to the next chapter of life and are eager to see the development of the new temple.

“It truly is a legacy for the Hegsted family to have had the opportunity to put such deep roots into their heritage,” LDS Living wrote in 2014 for the home’s 100th anniversary.

property aerial view
An aerial view of the Hegsted farm in 1963. | Shelley Hegsted