Calling it a “beautiful beacon” on the hill, Elder Larry Y. Wilson, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Temple Department, welcomed a group of local media on a tour of the Tucson Arizona Temple on May 30 in preparation for the public open house.
Gary Rasmussen, local committee coordinator for the event, agreed. “The ‘mountain of the Lord’s house’ is right here on this mountain,” he said.
The 38,216-square-foot structure sits at the base of the Catalina Foothills on 7.4 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert. As backdrop to the temple are the Santa Catalina Mountains, the most prominent mountain range in the Tucson area. The highest point in the Catalinas is Mount Lemmon at an elevation of more than 9,000 feet.
The temple overlooks the Tucson metro area south to the Mexico border about 60 miles away. Tucson, Arizona’s second largest city, is home to nearly a million residents and there are more than 30,000 Church members in the area.
“Those who live here have long looked forward to this day, really, for many decades,” Elder Wilson said in remarks at a stake center at 939 W. Chapala Drive, where all temple tours will begin. The public open house starts Saturday, June 3.
The temple will serve members of nine stakes, including Sierra Vista, Marana, Tucson, Tucson West, Tucson North, Tucson South, Tucson East, Tucson Rincon and Sahuarita.
A unique feature of the temple is an elongated dome, reminiscent of the local county courthouse built in 1928 and nearby San Xavier del Bac, a historic Spanish Catholic mission built in 1797. It is also similar to the Duomo in Florence, Italy. Angel Moroni stands atop the dome.
“It’s different from other temples in the Church,” Elder Wilson said. “It reflects the character of local architecture.”
The temple grounds are also filled with native plants and approximately a third of the site has remained in its natural state.
Elder Wilson explained carefully to the tour group the sacredness of temples to Latter-day Saints and answered many questions in and out of the temple.
He also pointed out design features, including stylized patterns of the native ocotillo and prickly pear cacti shapes and blossoms and original artwork of the surrounding area.
“These are some of the things the Church does to tailor the temple to local environments,” Elder Wilson explained.
Jana Cherrington, a Tucson Church member and public affairs specialist, also spoke to the group inside the temple and said she’s often asked how a temple benefits a community.
“Not only is the temple a beautiful addition to an area but Church members are better people when they are coming and participating in temple ordinances,” she said.
The Tucson temple was announced by President Thomas S. Monson during the October 2012 general conference and ground was dedicated and broken for construction by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, three years later.
The open house runs from Saturday, June 3, through Saturday, June 24, except for Sundays. Reservations can be made online at templeopenhouse.lds.org. More than 80,000 reservations have been made and another 20,000 time slots were made available this week.
The temple, which will be the 157th temple of the Church, will be dedicated Sunday, Aug. 13 in three sessions and broadcast to members of the Church in Arizona. It will open Tuesday, Aug. 15.
Michael Moeller of the Tucson Rincon Stake will serve as temple president with his wife, Marina Moeller, as temple matron.
A cultural celebration featuring more than 2,000 local youth will be held the evening prior to the dedication.
Brother Rasmussen said the event will not only celebrate the history and diversity of the area through song and dance, but will also personalize each youth’s experience with the theme of “I will.”
“These youth are making ‘I will’ statements to prepare for the temple,” Brother Rasmussen said. “These are statements personalizing what each participant will do to prepare themselves to attend the temple.”
While seating is limited to the event, it will be broadcast to stake centers in the temple district.