More than five years after announcing its intent to build another temple, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has opened the doors to its newest house of worship in Gilbert, and people from across the Valley can tour it until mid-February.
The Gilbert Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an 85,000-square-foot facility that reaches up to 195 feet, which makes it the largest building in Gilbert. It will be the fourth temple the church has opened in Arizona — it joins Mesa, Snowflake and Gila Valley — and the 142nd of its kind in the world.
Elder William Walker said the new church will have approximately 200 wards assigned to it, giving it a total membership of 100,000 Latter-day Saints, which should reduce the burden of the other local Latter-day Saints’ temple.
“The Mesa temple was, frankly, overwhelmed,” he said.
The result of those five years of work is a temple that’s nearly impossible to miss while driving along the Loop 202 in Gilbert, especially given the gold statue of the Angel Moroni. According to Mormon belief, Moroni visited Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith and directed him toward a hill containing metal plates that would become the Book of Mormon.
Also featured on the outside, which consists of ivory exteriors, of the temple are several stained-glass windows with an agave flower upon them. The flower is a motif that appears throughout the temple, although Walker said the plant has no religious symbolism attached to it.
“It’s a beautiful representation of this part of the country,” he said.
Joining the frequent agave images are paintings done by local artists and a few reprints of European art, all of which feature what Walker called traditional images of Jesus Christ. They are part of a general aesthetic that features limestone walls and wooden portions made of eucalyptus and white oak.
Crystal is also all over the place, especially in the Celestial room that has a Swarovski chandelier that’s 18 feet tall, 8 feet wide and weighs approximately 1,500 pounds. The Celestial room is considered the heart of the temple, a place where Walker said Latter-day Saints can sit in silence for a few minutes to think and pray. It’s one of the reasons why Walker said temples are considered refuges for members to escape the worries of the world.
The facility is quite pretty and probably cost a rather sizable amount to complete. Walker said the church won’t divulge the cost — he used the word “a lot” to describe it — but said the expense was well worth it.
“We think nothing is too good to honor our god,” he said.
After the opening, the temple will offer Latter-day Saints a place to receive baptisms for their ancestors and marriages for Mormons who meet the standards and has a recommendation from their ecclesiastical leader. Walker said the wedding option has already proven to be a popular one for members, as the temple has already scheduled 30 weddings.
Weddings are ordained in the sealing room, although brides prepare for the ceremony in the bride’s dressing room, which also features several aesthetically pleasing pieces.
“For a young woman, her wedding day is one of the best days of her life, so we want to make it special for her,” Walker said.
Access to the temple is restricted for people who are not Latter-day Saints — there is a meeting house outside the temple that is open for any visitor — but Valley residents can take a tour of it prior to its dedication in March. The tours are every day except Sundays through Feb. 15, and Walker said the temple expects to host an estimated 400,000 to 450,000 people during that stretch.
The visitors, Walker said, will get a chance to see the inside of a building he said will be a prominent part of Gilbert’s skyline and heart.
“There’s no question in my mind it will become a symbol for Gilbert, and not just the church in Gilbert,” he said.
Visit gilbertmormontemple.org to reserve a temple tour.
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