Take a look inside the classic 100-year-old Hawaii temple with this new model

LAIE, HAWAII — Millions of curious people around the world who previously only had the chance to tour inside new or renovated temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before they were dedicated during brief open house periods, can now “look inside” a spectacular new cut-away model put on permanent display in the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center.

Elder Stephen B. Allen, director of the visitors’ center, noted a team of artisans spent over eight months building the highly detailed model on the U.S. mainland. After disassembling and shipping it to Hawaii, they spent more than another week reassembling the model. 

“This is a rare opportunity to ‘see’ inside this building, and most importantly, to learn why temples are so important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Elder Allen said. “Our most sacred experiences and our most binding promises are made to God in our temples, uniting us eternally in God’s Kingdom.”

The Laie Hawaii Temple in 2016.
The Laie Hawaii Temple in 2016. Credit: Jeffrey Swinton

Elder Allen explained the new display in Laie is only the Church’s fifth cut-away temple model in the world. He said this is particularly appropriate as members here celebrate the centennial of the Laie Hawaii Temple, which became the Church’s fifth temple on Thanksgiving Day 1919 and also the first to be built outside North America. The Church currently operates 166 temples around the world (with another 51 announced, under construction and/or renovation).

In its earlier years, the Laie Hawaii Temple served all of Hawaii (though there’s now another in Kailua-Kona), Asia and the South Pacific islands. The other four existing cut-away models are located in Latter-day Saint temple visitors’ centers in Salt Lake City, Utah; Washington, D.C.; Paris, France; and Rome, Italy.

“Our approach here is to allow people to browse at their leisure but be available to answer questions,” Elder Allen said. “We’re not intent on giving a prepared tour about the cut-away model. We think as people look at it, questions will arise in their hearts and we’ll respond to those.”

More information is also available online. For example, in addition to the similar new cut-away model in the Rome visitors’ center, Elder Allen suggested anyone interested can “take a virtual tour” that Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducted during the recent Rome Italy Temple open house period.

The cut-away model of the Laie temple found within the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors' Center shows details of one of the temple's sealing rooms (foreground) and the baptistry.
The cut-away model of the Laie temple found within the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center shows details of one of the temple’s sealing rooms (foreground) and the baptistry. Credit: Stephen B. Allen

He also stressed that the interiors of Church temples and the ceremonies conducted therein are “sacred, not secret. Guests have asked me a number of times, ‘Can we go in the temple?’ At times I’ve said you absolutely can, but you can’t go into the temple until you are ready to make the promises that we make there. That requires you to be a member of the Church and have reached a point in your progress where you’re willing to make these highest-level promises to God.”

“We feel greatly blessed to have the model at the visitors’ center, and we’re very grateful for those who made it for us,” Elder Allen said.

Karl Walser, a Church Missionary Department manager who oversees fabrication and installation of visitors’ centers exhibits, explained he used a 3D camera to videotape all the Laie Hawaii Temple core rooms, along with reference photos and blueprints to help Clark Schaffer, owner of Schaffer Studios in Spanish Fork, Utah, and his creative team build the model.

A simulated night view of the Laie Hawaii Temple model, with the cut-away windows showing a portion of the foyer in the foreground and the assembly room chapel above. The Laie Hawaii Temple is designed for progressive endowment ceremonies.
A simulated night view of the Laie Hawaii Temple model, with the cut-away windows showing a portion of the foyer in the foreground and the assembly room chapel above. The Laie Hawaii Temple is designed for progressive endowment ceremonies. Credit: Stephen B. Allen

Schaffer, who worked for years building models in the Hollywood film industry before opening his own studio, said they first created a “paper model that allowed us to successfully visualize the finished one and make it easier to experiment with the placement of the cut-away ‘windows.’ ”

Once approved, Schaffer foreman Nick Stephens said the creative team did most of the finished work by hand, “rather than using a lot of machines, 3D printers and computers. We did things in an old-fashioned way to create a more sculpted look. We spent a lot of time and attention on the details of the artwork in the model — in part to pay tribute to the original artists who worked on the temple here 100 years ago.”

The Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center is located at 55-600 Naniloa Loop, Laie, HI, 96762, and is open free to the public year-round, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Multilingual guides are also available, or visitors are welcome to browse the center and temple grounds on their own.