SENNETT | A year ago, the only sign of the new Auburn ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a patch of soil, split and sifted by shovels.
But by Thursday evening, the newly finished chapel — complete with lush grass lawns and verdant, cone-shaped shrubbery — sat ready for worshipers, its brick facade and white steeple attracting inquisitive looks from passing Grant Avenue drivers.
Inside, the church was bustling with men, women and children preparing for Saturday's open house, decorating classrooms and practicing different legs of the chapel tour.
In a chalkboard-fitted room off of one of the church's hallways, 13-year-old twins Jonathan and Gabriel Ammerman prepare to explain the role of the church's group for young men ages 12 to 18. In the group, Jonathan said he and his peers learn about what it means to be a responsible young man.
With much more space available to members in the new chapel compared to its old location in a former nunnery on Kearney Avenue, the brothers said they were happy the group for young men now has room to spread out.
"We're more split. We're not together as much," Gabriel said. "We have our our separate quorums."
Sheepishly, the boys both admitted having an "awesome" indoor basketball court to shoot hoops in year-round was definitely one of the new building's best features.
Having more space — along with having all offices and necessary equipment on one floor, rather than three — was also a plus for members of each of the Auburn LDS church's groups for young women and elders, its relief society and its Sunday school class teachers.
Pointing out a chain of of multicolored cardboard circles representing students' progress reading chapters and verses of scriptures, primary president Alice Bradley explained to young members what kind of activities they would work on in the new building.
Bradley said she was excited about many of the building's new features, and the opportunities it presented.
"We're all on one floor, and we're all down here together," she said.
Bishop David Larsen said giving the church's 140 congregants opportunities and space to become self-sufficient, wholesome people who are capable of helping others and themselves is part of what the LDS church is all about.
"In our church, we believe the church supports the family," he said. "In our church, you learn by doing."
Along with a beautiful, wood-filled chapel to receive the sacrament in each week, the Auburn LDS church's new building has a more accessible room for Mormon brothers and sisters to get baptized in.
In the church's former building, Larsen said members had to climb up and down many stairs to get to the baptismal apparatus. In the new building, the baptismal apparatus is wheelchair-accessible, making it easier for folks to become fully immersed in water, making them members of the church.
"We try to make it very friendly for people of all abilities," Larsen said.
And, along with being physically accessible for everyone, the atmosphere in the new church was comfortable, as warm as a family get-together.
"It's so new, clean," Bradley agreed. "It's just really neat."