Blessed. That’s how Brad Hurst felt when he and his family moved to Italy to help finish building the Rome Italy Temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hurst has worked on more than a dozen temples in his career as a construction management consultant. Rome is the 13th temple he helped build.
Each experience was special, but Rome’s historical significance made it unique.
“Italy is such an amazing place,” Hurst said. “You’ve got the Roman civilization that influenced so much of our western civilization in art, theater, science, music, our highway system, most of our sports arenas. … Not to mention the fact that Peter and Paul themselves brought the gospel to Rome and it cost them their lives.”
President Thomas S. Monson of the church first announced plans to build the temple in October 2008. The church held a groundbreaking ceremony in October 2010 and construction began the following June.
Hurst began traveling to Italy four and a half years later. In January 2016, he moved from his home in Grantsville to an apartment in Rome. His wife and children joined him a few months later after their visas went through.
As a member of the construction management team, Hurst was tasked with seeing the temple site to completion.
“My main responsibility was trying to get the site buildings and the site done, so the fountain and piazza [plaza] and landscaping and all the cobblestones,” he said. “It was [an] enormous [job].”
One of Hurst’s biggest challenges was keeping the construction process moving. According to the Mormon Newsroom, it typically takes 2-4 years to build a new temple once the Church has chosen a construction company.
In contrast, the construction of the Rome Italy Temple and its surrounding buildings took nearly eight years.
“The craftsmen were really good but they … needed management help,” Hurst said. “We provided structure on schedule and process and approvals. We were just pushing to get the project done because the Italians are very fun-loving people; they’re very awesome in so many ways, but they do not connect hardly at all with emotion of urgency.”
He added, “Everything takes longer in Italy for some reason. It’s like they have these processes that are super long; it’s hard to get things done in the timeframes we’re used to here. Everything from grocery shopping to driving around to baking or anything is a lot slower.”
Not long after Hurst moved to Rome, his oldest daughter Natalie received her mission call.
“Surprisingly, she got called to Italy,” Hurst said. “When she opened her call I didn’t believe her at first. I was like, ‘Let me see that!’ … On her papers we had filled out what we were doing and where we were, and we thought, ‘She won’t go to Utah because that’s where she’s from and she won’t go to Italy (because that’s where our family is going) but everywhere else a possibility.’”
Natalie was called to the Italy Milan Mission, located north of Rome. Her first area, Montevarchi, was only two or three train stops away from the family’s apartment.
Although it was a little odd to live so close to their missionary in a foreign country, Hurst found that Natalie’s weekly letters had an added meaning.
“It kind of felt like we all had a shared Italy experience,” he said. “When she would write letters telling us about the things she was going through, like the language and the food; all the sights, sounds and smells of Italy, we knew what she was talking about because we were going through the same thing but in a different way. It made it kind of special.”
Another special thing about living in Italy was the opportunity the Hurst family got to visit some of their ancestors’ hometowns.
“I have relatives from Italy on both sides, and Brad also has an ancestor who was one of the early converts from Italy,” Hurst’s wife Laurie said. “We were able to visit the places where they lived, which was a highlight.”
Hurst thought often of early converts as he worked on the temple grounds and buildings. He reflected not only on the first Christians in the 1st century A.D., but also the first Italian Latter-day Saints in the 19th century and Jesus Christ himself.
“When you think of all the early Christian martyrs who were killed because of their belief in Christ, … and building the temple which to us is a culmination of all that, you think about those people — all the missionaries, young couples, mission presidents, all the people who helped get to this point — you realize that they’re the real heroes, and you realize that the Savior is the ultimate hero,” he said.
Guiding the temple to completion was no easy task. Hurst made numerous trips around Italy to locate the stone for the exteriors of the temple and visitors center and cobblestones for the plaza. He also helped choose plants for the gardens — with help from Laurie, who has a master’s degree in landscape architecture.
“Every inch of it (the grounds) was manicured,” Hurst said. “I can’t remember how many cobblestones we put in, but it was in the millions.”
In addition to the temple, the 15-acre complex includes a visitors center, a church meetinghouse, and patron housing.
“The temple has been described in the Church News as kind of Europe’s new Temple Square,” Hurst said.
The square in the center of the complex, or piazza in Italian, is particularly important for the natives.
“The piazza is very central to the Italian culture,” Hurst said. “The piazzas throughout small towns and throughout Italy are super important because they’re kind of a gathering place. After the hot day and the sun goes down, everyone comes out to the piazza. The kids play and the adults visit and everybody eats gelato.”
The piazza at the temple site is rich with symbolism from the New Testament. Water runs from the temple to a fountain in the middle of the square, landing at the feet of a statue of Christ. Landscapers transplanted four olive trees, each one hundreds of years old, to decorate the square.
In addition to statues of Christ with his 12 apostles, the visitors center holds a stained glass mural depicting all the parables taught in the New Testament.
The temple, which was dedicated on March 10, will serve approximately 25,000 Church members in Italy and surrounding countries.
“It’s really a blessing to members because now they can go to the Rome Temple, where before they would have to travel all the way to Switzerland to go to the temple,” Hurst said. “That (Switzerland) was their closest one, which is a 12- or 13-hour bus ride one way.”
Reflecting on his family’s two-year experience, Hurst said if given a choice, they would choose to do it all again.
“It was a very difficult, hard project,” he said. “There were a lot of things that were a challenge to overcome and we were just a small part, but we are grateful to have been a small part. We feel really blessed to have had the experience.”