No outcry as Gilbert sets to raze first LDS church

by | Aug. 20, 2007

LDS Life

The building, on the northwest corner of Gilbert and Elliot roads, will come down within the next month, and stories and photos are being recorded and saved for future generations. The Gilbert Historical Society is working with an author to write a book on its history, and the town has hired a consultant to document the history of the church before it is razed. But few residents have called the town to offer their memories or photos about the church. One person who has is Wally Burgess, the first seminary teacher in Gilbert, who taught inside the building between 1968 and 1970. "There are a lot of fond memories," said Burgess, 82, who now lives in Mesa. "We had some real good bishops, a lot of good people. It's a very important piece of history." Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were among the first residents in town, he said. The church was a vital part of their lives, where they met spouses, and formed strong friendship bonds. "It was a part of Gilbert," he said. "Part of what makes up Gilbert." The church was built in 1918, but since then several additions have been built. In 1993, it was closed as a church and became a Boys and Girls Club, until 2003 when a new building opened. At that point, the building was temporarily used for art shows. Van Dunham, a long-time Gilbert resident and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church, said there is no outcry over the church being razed because the people -- and their connection with God -- were important during the church's service to the community, not the building itself. "The church chose to not continue holding services there, because asbestos and all kinds of problems with the building," he said. "And they moved to another facility. When they let the facility go, you'll find that most of the people in the LDS church become attached to the people in the building. That's what holds people together -- their relationship with one another." To share stories about the church, contact the town at (480) 503-6766.
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