Temple open house exceeds hopes

The spirit of the Las Vegas temple is reaching the entire valley, not only strengthening the Church, but also improving the image of the city.

Church leaders say the temple is helping members and non-member residents build bridges to each other. And, with more than 150,000 visitors touring the temple during the first 13 days of the open house, a message is being sent that this city has more to offer than just its reputation as the gaming capital of the world. A total of 161,249 people had visited through Nov. 28.Visitors are almost universally impressed by the temple. Many recognize the spiritual atmosphere, and most appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the temple's crowning feature, the celestial room, said Lloyd M. "Tag" Taggart, director of the Southern Nevada Public Communications Council and temple committee member.

The temple opened to VIPs on Nov. 13, and to the public Nov. 16, and will remain open until Dec. 9, except on Sundays. The temple will be dedicated in 11 sessions Dec. 16-18.

Among those touring the temple have been leaders of state, county and city government, business and industrial leaders, residents of the city, and many visitors from out of state.

"The open house is going very well," he said. "The crowds are cheerful, and the hosts are courteous and friendly. I personally could not be more pleased with how it is going."

He said that visitors have responded earlier, and in greater numbers, than expected, and that the weather has remained pleasant. These two factors suggest that the total may soon eclipse original estimates of 200,000 visitors.

He noted that the temple open house is the first in recent years in the vicinity of many members, particularly youths. As a result, many youth groups are coming from Southern California, Arizona and southern Utah. "As I stood in line to greet people, almost everyone I spoke to was from out of town." He estimated that 20 percent of the vistors are from out of town.

Brother Taggart said construction of the temple sends the message that "if the LDS Church is willing to put a sacred building in this city, it says to other parts of the world that Las Vegas is not just a `Mecca for gaming,' but it is also a solid, wonderful, rich community."

On Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, more than 23,000 people walked through the temple. They enjoyed the quiet elegance and serenity in a building "where all you do is receive.

Visitors were impressed by the wonder of it all, the beauty of the finish work so understated. This is the most peaceful place in the valley," said Brother Taggart.

Visitors to the temple have felt love and the Spirit at the temple, said Ann Harris, special projects chairman of the Public Communications Council. "As they enter the celestial room, they are almost awestruck," she said. "They don't want to leave.

"One 4-year-old said, `Where is Heavenly Father? I felt Him there, but I couldn't see Him.' "

A man from Minnesota commented, "This is one of the most beautiful houses of worship I have ever visited. It is the highlight of our visit to Nevada."

Sister Harris said, "We have had specific comments from many religions and from less-active members of the Church. After a tour, one such person wrote: `I have been inactive for such a long time. The spirit I felt today testifies that which I have been taught in my youth is true.

`As of today, I commit myself to living the gospel, and relearning what perhaps I have forgotten. I will be back and will enter the temple as a worthy and devoted member.' "

Pres. Gerald L. Scott of the Nevada Las Vegas Mission said the temple has generated a new surge of interest in missionary work among members.

"There has been a great deal of involvement among priesthood leaders in various stakes," he said. "Efforts have been made to contact every family in the stake boundaries with personal invitations."

Throughout the valley, people are aware of the new temple and the open house, he said. "It is an incredible time to serve a mission in Las Vegas. We are thrilled to be a part of it."