As we planned our travel from the east to the west, we realized that we would be passing near Gilbert, Arizona during the LDS Temple Open House.
LDS is an acronym for Latter-day Saints, short for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Also known as the Mormons. Why LDS? Probably because I’m lazy. LDS Temples are special buildings that are different from regular Sunday meetinghouses. When we go to church on a Sunday, we attend a meetinghouse. Temples are places where we learn of, covenant with, and worship Christ.
When a Temple is built, it is opened for public tours before it is dedicated and enters normal operation. After dedication, only devout members of the LDS church may enter, so an open house is the only time for anybody curious to walk through the inside and see what it’s like.
Temple Open Houses draw large numbers of people, and so there is a ticket system set up to help coordinate things. If you can plan in advance, get tickets to help things run smoothly. If you can’t plan that far ahead and get tickets before they run out, go anyway. Mid-day, mid-week is best for those without tickets. After finding some parking in an overflow lot, we entered the Guests Without Tickets line and shortly made it into a tour group. The tour is open to all ages, and is free.
The tour starts inside the adjacent LDS meetinghouse with a brief, introductory video about why the LDS church builds temples in general, and specifically about the history and building of the Gilbert Temple.
Each Temple is designed to complement the local area: The Mesa Temple has some design influence from southwestern buildings. The Gilbert Temple uses the Agave plant as a design motif, and the result is beautiful. Patterns in stained glass, etched glass, carpet, and woodwork drew from the shape of the Agave plant. During the tour, we learned that the Agave plant was chosen partially because of the impression that the leaves of the plant make on each other, symbolizing the impressions we have on each other through generations of people.
After the video we were escorted with our group outside. Don’t let the long line scare you. It moved quickly, and we enjoyed the beautiful, Arizona, sunny afternoon while we waited. The line basically snakes through different areas of the temple with signs that indicate what each room is used for. We talked to our kids in reverent whispers, expounding on the signs and explaining a bit more what mom and dad do when we visit the temple.
The inside is beautiful. They have some pictures online, but it doesn’t do it justice. It really is worth the visit to see it in person.
The temple grounds are almost as lovely as the inside. Beautiful gardens and waterfalls add to the amazing architecture and peaceful atmosphere that permeates the area. We enjoyed a few more minutes of sunshine outdoors walking around before heading back to the parking lot.
The temple will be open for the next few weeks for tours if you are in the area, or check out the LDS website for other possible temple open houses near you. It is definitely worth an afternoon to visit one!