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LDS congregation prepares to occupy new building

WORTHINGTON -- It may be a long, long time from May to December, but local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) might not have to wait quite as many months to enjoy their new building at the intersection of First Avenue and Knollwood Drive.

"Our groundbreaking ceremony was in May, and site work started in late May, but they're actually way ahead of schedule," recounted Dr. Christian Morgan, Worthington LDS Branch president. "They originally thought it might be early December before we could occupy it, but now we plan to be moved in by November."

The Worthington LDS congregation got its start about 10 years ago with only a handful of members, and after initially meeting at what is now the Travelodge, the church bought the building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 13th Street five years later. That structure was built a little more than 50 years ago by the Assemblies of God church, and after that housed the Dingmann Funeral Home for a number of years.

"We felt it was important to construct a new building, one that would better fit our needs and be more specific to our meetings and congregation," explained Morgan. "We wanted something a little more childfriendly, plus we needed a baptismal font.

"Also, we have a wheelchair-bound member, and with the new building all on one level, it will be much more accommodating."

The Worthington LDS Branch is a sub-group of the LDS Sioux Falls Stake and has roughly 120 members on its membership rolls, with an average of 60-plus people regularly attending. Members come from Worthington, Windom, Lakefield, Westbrook and Jackson, among other communities.

Members are looking forward to stretching out a bit in their new place of worship, which has 4,700 square feet of versatile space. Ten teaching spaces are included, as is a nursery and a kitchen adjacent to the chapel/multi-purpose room.

"The chapel has a breakdown podium and folding chairs so it can be used for other events, like an evening social," said Morgan. It can seat 76 people and, with an overflow area, accommodates up to 90.

While those numbers may not sound all that impressive to some, it's important to keep the big picture in mind.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over 13 million members worldwide and is considered the second fastest-growing church in the United States," detailed Leann Morgan, wife of Worthington Branch president Christian Morgan and the first counselor of the church's primary program, which serves children 3 to 12 years old. "The model of church being built here is actually the smallest building put up by the LDS church.

"This is the first church of this particular design to be constructed in the U.S., though there is one like it in Canada."

Annually, the LDS church erects more than 500 chapels for local congregations across the world; the church also oversees additional construction of family history centers and temples. To maintain such a pace, an economy of effort is required, with church authorities in Salt Lake City, Utah, passing instruction down to regional representatives.

For the Worthington LDS congregation, LDS regional representatives and architects from Chicago, Ill., and Omaha, Neb., assisted with the building project.

"They chose from among four or five potential properties and decided the best site for us was at First Avenue and Knollwood," said Morgan. "The exterior will be brick on the lower section and tan stucco from the mid-level to the roofline.

"The interior will be decorated in blue tones with maple wood trim. We had a choice of blue, mauve or green, which are the same choices offered to new LDS churches around the world. You can walk into an LDS chapel in Africa, South America or Russia and see the same colors and the same pieces of artwork."

Boson Construction of Sioux City, Iowa, is the LDS building's main contractor, but Morgan said several of the sub-contractors are either local or from the surrounding area.

An initial cost estimate of the Worthington LDS church is $1 million, but Morgan stressed the money is not all from local members.

"Our church members send their tithing funds to Salt Lake, where church authorities divide it back to the Stakes and Branches," explained Morgan. "The church's resources are shared, which allows for growth in locations like this that couldn't otherwise afford it on their own."

Excitement is spreading among the members as the building enters its final stages of construction, and Morgan assures that a dedication ceremony and public open house will be scheduled for late November or early December, depending on the ultimate occupancy date.

"We hope the building will serve us well as our local congregation continues to grow, and we're eager to be in our own church home," expressed Morgan. "We also want people to know that those of us commonly known as Mormons are Christians like those of many other faiths, and that visitors are always welcome."