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World looks at New York temple

Soundproof shell protects inner temple from city's bustle

The ripple effect of a temple dedication in a major news capital like New York is reaching across the world. It's hard for a tree to fall in this forest of international activity and not be noticed by most major media.

Since doors opened in early May for the open house, members of the media and leaders in the community have lined up to view the Manhattan New York Temple. In this city strung high with excitement and noise, the temple open house — in a very peaceful and soothing way — is creating its own spiritual fervor, a contrast of solemnity to the horn honking of the big city.

Something "unusual" is happening, said President Brent Belnap of the New York New York Stake and coordinator of the local temple committee who has watched the dynamic growth of the Church in the past few years. "There has never been so much interest in the Church, as broadly and as favorably, as there has been during the open house. People say the temple is exceeding expectations.

"It has captured the attention of the local press, as well as the national and international press," he said. "It's so interesting, the media doesn't cover the open house once, but repeatedly. It's not a one-time story."

He told how a news crew from CNN spent the morning touring the temple and interviewing members and other visitors for their reaction, then returned that afternoon to gather more material. Many news crews from the major networks and newspapers, as well as reporters from German, Australian and Chinese newspapers, attended the media open house that began May 3. Several newspaper accounts spoke of the open house as an opportunity to "demystify" the Church.

President Belnap told of a seasoned, Jewish newspaper reporter who covered crime stories for a major West Coast newspaper. During his personal tour, the man sat down in the celestial room. "He sat for a long time, showing no interest in leaving, even with the next tour group coming. After he stood and walked into the hallway, he said he hadn't felt such peace in 20 years, and that he didn't want to leave.

Foyer art glass depicts the Savior conversing with two disciples on road to Emmaus.
Foyer art glass depicts the Savior conversing with two disciples on road to Emmaus. | Copyright Intellectual Reserve

"Without exception," continued President Belnap, "everyone is touched; some are touched with strong impressions."

He spoke of another tour he conducted that included a woman from the neighborhood. She told how she had walked by the Church property since 1975 when it was dedicated as a meetinghouse by President Spencer W. Kimball. She began the tour, President Belnap said, a little "hard-edged." But she soon warmed to the feelings of the temple and by the end of the tour, "she was effusive in her appreciation and gratitude."

The highlight of the first week of the open house came during the VIP reception May 7. Held in the cultural hall of the meetinghouse, "where a basketball court was transformed into a spring garden," major political leaders such as U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer from New York and other leaders of industry were greeted by U.S. Sens. Harry Reid from Nevada, Gordon Smith from Oregon and Rep. Eni FH Faleomavaega from American Samoa, who are members of the Church, as well as Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy.

Mike Wallace, the famed CBS news broadcaster who kindled a friendship with President Gordon B. Hinckley in the mid-1990s after an extensive interview for a 60 Minutes segment on the Church, was greeted by Sheri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book Co.

Celestial room, located within soundproof shell of temple, offers sense of peace and tranquility nea
Celestial room, located within soundproof shell of temple, offers sense of peace and tranquility near center of one of the world's busiest cities. | Copyright Intellectual Reserve

Mr. Wallace expressed his pleasure in the evening and seemed in no hurry to leave, according to President Belnap.

Located in midtown Manhattan, the temple is situated in a predominately Jewish area. Many rabbis have attended the open house. Most, said President Belnap, were intrigued with the similarities in the symbolism. They recognized the baptismal font as a place of purification and parallels of 12 oxen.

Comment cards filled out by visitors following their tours are "uniformly favorable," said President Belnap. "They almost read alike. They speak of a tangible feeling of peace and are appreciative of the opportunity to see such a beautiful building."

The temple, located at 125 Columbus Avenue across from Lincoln Center, is the first in the New York metro region. It will serve more than 42,000 members in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The Manhattan temple was built in an existing building owned by the Church. It is six stories high in an urban setting one block west of Central Park. The temple occupies four of the building's levels. The other two levels house a chapel, classrooms and Church offices.

An estimated 56,000 people are expected to attend the open house before it closes June 5.

Sen. Gordon Smith, left, and Sen. Harry Reid, accompany Congressman Charles Rangel, center, during o
Sen. Gordon Smith, left, and Sen. Harry Reid, accompany Congressman Charles Rangel, center, during open house. | Photo by Kristy Glass
Assemblyman Keith Wright and Susan Wright meeting Elder Earl C. Tingey
Assemblyman Keith Wright and Susan Wright meeting Elder Earl C. Tingey | Photo by Kristy Glass
Mike Wallace, famed broadcast journalist, was among many who attended VIP reception and open house.
Mike Wallace, famed broadcast journalist, was among many who attended VIP reception and open house. | Photo by Kristy Glass
Ordinance room with murals, woodwork will seat 40.
Ordinance room with murals, woodwork will seat 40. | Copyright Intellectual Reserve
Grand Hallway leads patrons down beautiful corridor to a painting of the Savior.
Grand Hallway leads patrons down beautiful corridor to a painting of the Savior. | Copyright Intellectual Reserve

E-mail: shaun@desnews.com

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