By, Rick Beitman
Just a short drive north of Thunderbird School of Global Management on 59th Avenue is the new Phoenix Temple, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more popularly known as the Mormon Church. – Located at 5220 West Pinnacle Peak Road, the Phoenix Temple will become the 144th temple in operation globally following its projected November 16 dedication.
The opening of the Phoenix Temple is significant for Arizona Mormons, as it becomes the third such structure in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area (and the fifth in Arizona). The arrival of the Phoenix Temple closely follows that of the Gilbert Temple (also in the same metro area), which was dedicated on March 2 in the East Valley suburb.
As is the current trend for undedicated temples, the Phoenix Temple offers an open house to the public, which debuted on October 10 and will wrap up on November 1. Tours are complimentary and reservations can be made on a church website. – The open house offers a glimpse of the rarely seen interior of a Mormon temple.
Once dedicated, temples are not open to the public or even the general Mormon membership. Only church members possessing a “temple recommend” are permitted entry. – Temples hold a special status within Mormonism and serve a different purpose than “chapels”, the more common church buildings used for regular Sunday worship.
Temple ceremonies, viewed as sacred by the Mormon faithful, include a number of “ordinances” in Mormon parlance. The closest equivalent of ordinances would be the “sacraments” of other Christian religions such as the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. – Since temple ordinances are private, in years past, temple practices created an air of secrecy, mystery, or even controversy with some outsiders.
Holding open houses at undedicated temples and general outreach has dispelled much of the secrecy. – On the Phoenix Temple tour, visitors will see chambers common to all Mormon temples: the baptismal font, the celestial room, ordinance rooms, and sealing rooms. – Each room is devoted to a particular ordinance such as “baptism for the dead” or the “sealing” of a newly wed couple (a marriage intended to last beyond death, for “time and eternity”). – Further explanations can be found on the church website.
The Phoenix Temple is locally significant as there are approximately 400,000 Mormons in Arizona, comprising over 6 percent of the population. Mormons also have a cultural and historical legacy in the American Southwest; locally, they helped develop Phoenix, and the East Valley suburbs of Mesa and Gilbert in particular.
T-Bird Ammon Taylor, a Mormon and native of Bennington, Nebraska, plans on visiting the Phoenix Temple this week with his wife. Of other temples he has visited, Taylor said:
“The temple always brings me peace. It is a spiritual refuge from the stress and fast-paced lifestyle of second-year MBA student.”
Taylor is pleased to have a temple in the area, noting that some Mormons “travel thousands of miles to access temples and temple blessings”.
The Phoenix Temple is much smaller than its recently opened counterpart in Gilbert. Like other temples, the steeple is adorned with Moroni, an angelic figure from the Book of Mormon, a text used alongside the Bible. However, the Phoenix Temple has been individualized with some local flair, such as desert aloe, an indigenous plant species, being depicted on the temple exterior and throughout the interior. Inside can also be found paintings of lovely desert landscapes.
Of construction, Taylor stated, “While every temple is unique in its physical structure, they are all beautiful and built with the highest standards of construction material and care. – Construction workers are required under contract to not swear or smoke on the construction site of a temple.”
Taylor hopes other T-Birds will visit the Phoenix Temple before the open house ends on November 1. – It is a rare opportunity for outsiders to see inside a Mormon temple. While Mormon temple practices may have been mysterious in the past, a free tour of the Phoenix Temple is sure to be culturally informative and will also lift the veil on things previously unknown.