In Arizona’s capital and largest city, visitors are touring the new Phoenix Arizona Temple during an open house that runs through Saturday, Nov. 1.
At the northern edge of a 1,000-acre desert conservation park, Arizona’s fifth temple will serve 60,000 members of 16 stakes in the western part of the metro Phoenix area and several communities north of Phoenix.
Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, conducted tours for the media and special guests prior to the public open house, which began Oct. 10.
“We welcome the community and all interested parties to come and see the interior of the temple and learn about its function and purpose,” Elder Richards told local media Oct. 8.
“It’s a beautiful building,” he said, explaining that temples “are the most sacred buildings” in the Church.
After the temple is dedicated Nov. 16, it will become the Church’s 144th operating temple.
The Mesa Arizona Temple, which opened in 1927, served Latter-day Saints of Arizona and the Southwest for decades before the state’s second temple, in the small town of Snowflake in the northeastern part of the state, was dedicated in 2002.
According to Church leaders, there are about 400,000 Latter-day Saints in Arizona. During recent years the Mesa temple was one of the busiest outside of Utah.
After Thomas S. Monson became president of the Church in February 2008, the first three temples he announced were to be built in Arizona.
“It is my personal priority to make sure members of the Church have access to the blessings of the temple,” President Monson said at that time. “It is here where members learn of their divine origin and destiny, where they are strengthened spiritually as individuals and as families. Temples are sanctuaries from the storms of life.”
President Monson dedicated The Gila Valley Temple in eastern Arizona in 2010 and the Gilbert Arizona Temple, southeast of Phoenix, in March of this year. He also announced a sixth temple for the state, in Tucson, to be built.
Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States, with a population topping 1.5 million, and is the country’s most populous state capital. The metro area’s population surpasses 4.3 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Phoenix temple will serve about 60,000 members of the Church in Phoenix and the communities of Glendale, Goodyear, Peoria, Buckeye and Surprise — areas west of Phoenix that experienced tremendous growth in the last decade. The cities of Prescott and Cottonwood, both of which are within a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, are also included within the temple district.
The Phoenix temple is at 5220 W. Pinnacle Peak Road, adjacent to an LDS meetinghouse. Originally the proposed temple would be two stories, but after neighbors were upset about the height that required rezoning, the Church submitted plans for a 27,423-square-foot, single-story structure with a full basement. Additional parking spaces were also added to meet concerns about parking, according to local news reports.
Nearly 500 residents who live near the temple attended a special tour Oct. 7 and Elder Richards said there were many positive comments.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) toured the temple on Oct. 6 with Elder Richards. Gov. Brewer spoke to a group of local dignitaries at a luncheon afterward.
“The opening of the Phoenix Temple is especially exciting for me,” she said in prepared remarks. “No doubt, the other temples are wonderful. However, you see, I am a West Valley girl and you have to be loyal in life. So I am officially declaring today that the Phoenix temple is my hometown temple!”
Nearly 5,000 youth are expected to participate in a cultural celebration, titled “Keepers of His Light,” Saturday, Nov. 15, at Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria. Event planners say the celebration commemorates the heritage of the Phoenix area through narration, song and dance.
The temple will be open to the public through Nov. 1, excluding Sundays. Reservations can be made at templeopenhouse.lds.org/tickets.