After many years of curiosity and speculation as to what lies inside the confinements of a Mormon Temple, my guessing has ended. On Jan. 15, being a freelance community columnist, I was invited to participate in the pre-opening tour reserved for the media by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My wife, Micki, and I were filled with excitement and anticipation upon entering that “Crown Jewel in the Desert” as I referred to the Gilbert Tempe that sits among the vast beauty of natural desert as we watched it’s construction progression from our neighborhood less than 3 miles away. The media specialists, Cindy Packard and Jennifer Wheeler, along with other members of the Temple tour group were phenomenal. As we were about to enter the temple I noticed engraved words above the entrance, “Holiness To The Lord” and “The House of The Lord.” Seconds later we were asked to slip on foot booties over our shoes? I immediately raised my hands giving a loud warning that I’m wearing a size 15 pair of cowboy boots, which brought laughter to our group as a church member responded with a smile; “We accommodate everyone. We’ve got you covered.” And yes, I was covered.
Suddenly, a spiritual feeling took hold of me and brought the moment into perspective as I again looked up at the “Holiness To The Lord.” In my heart I asked that I enter with an open heart and mind not looking for a story but as one seeking understanding as to what and why this temple means so much to its members. As we entered a question my wife asked just a day before was answered. She asked how would they know who’s a member in good standing? We both received that answer, the Recommend Desk. Members present ID cards and pertinent information is received in seconds from a computer. I’m sure you’ve read or heard about the surreal beauty inside the 85,000-square-foot Gilbert Temple, which is the largest temple the church has constructed in 17 years. The highly detailed ivory exterior features beautifully crafted art glass windows. Within the walls adorned with several eye-popping 18-foot, 1,500-pound crystal chandeliers you’ll find repeated artistic motif of agave plants, native to the deserts of the Southwest.
I found myself relived after that tour remembering some negative rumors heard in years past from several non-Mormons, etc. about certain primitive rituals that took place inside temple walls. The temple is reserved for the highest sacraments, like The Sealing Room, where couples through marriage are sealed here on earth and throughout eternity. I found out that many young LDS girls keep a photo of that sealing room in their bedrooms, waiting for that special day. The Baptistry, where sacred ceremonies are performed by proxy to baptize those who’ve died and never received that sacrament. To that I say, “How indeed honorable and noble.”
Finally, the Celestial Room. If you could vision a place in Heaven, this is it. A beautiful dwelling beyond words is the only way I can describe it. Peaceful, quietness, total serenity where one escapes the outside world to sit, think, mediate and reflect. I sat in silence for three minutes and felt the comfort and presents of my mother and others who I miss so dearly. Please permit me to give a heartfelt “Amen Brother” to Elder William R. Walker from Sandy, Utah, a handsome senior Elder, to which I can only contribute to a healthy and clean lifestyle, was compelling and masterful with a smile as he answered a few hardball questions about the temple cost and other un-easy questions from the media. I got to chat with him personally. He shared with me that he met Martin Luther King, III, at a temple dedication in Atlanta, Ga.
Driving in the past on the Loop 202 many nights heading home towards my Santan/Greenfield exit, and as a member of the Catholic Church, I’m always beaming with pride seeing the golden glow from the beautiful cross that sits on top Gilbert Mercy Hospital. Now seeing the same beautiful golden lights from the temple’s Angel Moroni one mile away, I asked? “Would anyone be offended if I declared that one-mile strip of land ‘Gilbert’s Holy Land?’”
• John Goodie is a Mesa park ranger and volunteer football coach. He lives in Gilbert. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.