Elder Soares dedicates new and relocated Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center

MESA, Arizona — In dedicating the new Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center, Elder Ulisses Soares underscored its objective — to provide guests with an experience that both immerses them in Mesa’s rich spiritual heritage and focuses on learning more about Jesus Christ.

Elder Soares, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presided over the Thursday evening, Aug. 12, dedication ceremony for the Mesa facility, one of a dozen such temple visitors’ centers worldwide for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The idea,” he said, “is to integrate the messages of Jesus Christ, the temple, eternal families and history in a way that helps guests understand how they are part of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and provide them an inspired opportunity to take a new step in their spiritual journey.”

The Mesa facility is all new — a new building, a new location and a new look and emphasis from its predecessors.

Elder Soares said he felt “honored to follow the footsteps” of those who had dedicated the previous temple visitors’ centers in Mesa, beginning in 1951 with Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicating the original building known then as the Bureau of Information.

The Mesa Arizona Temple, left, and Visitors’ Center, front right, are pictured in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.
The Mesa Arizona Temple, left, and Visitors’ Center, front right, are pictured in Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Later, a new building was constructed, and dedicated in 1958 by President David O. McKay, then the president of the Church, with Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicating a subsequent addition in 1981.

The new location — 455 E. Main St. in Mesa — is across the street and a couple of short blocks away from the previous visitors’ center, which was razed from alongside the Mesa Arizona Temple as the surrounding temple grounds and gardens were relandscaped and revitalized.

The center’s exhibits, kiosks and features explain key doctrines of Latter-day Saint beliefs, including the sacredness and importance of temples, Elder Soares noted. The entire interactive experience relates to faith, with the new visitors’ center being a gathering space to enjoy with friends and family and a place to learn about religious beliefs that might seem new or different, he added.

Read more: Young adults play a key role in design, emphasis of new Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center

“The displays in this visitors’ center teach us that there is hope and an individual plan for everybody. We hope that every person who comes and sees will understand that our life has a purpose and come away hoping to fulfill his or her purpose.”

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors' Center in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

In the dedicatory prayer, the Apostle reiterated the center’s multiple purposes, dedicating it as a place of gathering, inspiration, spiritual strength and spiritual learning.

“We recognize the purpose and importance of this facility in providing experiences to all those who will come to visit it and learn more about the Savior Jesus Christ and Thy marvelous plan of salvation developed for us.”

Elder Paul B. Pieper, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s North America Southwest Area, underscored a common theme of the dedication program and a key purpose of the visitors’ center — connecting guests with the community, with ancestors and the past, with God and faith, and with friends and neighbors.

“Most importantly as we do those things, we come to connect with ourselves, we begin to find out who we really are and what our purposes are in this time and what strengths we can bring in a world that is disconnecting and dividing,” he said. “We need connection, we need to be together, and this is a place to do that.

Elder Pieper concluded his remarks with a reflective question for his listeners: “‘Am I a connector, or am I a divider?’ And if you are a divider, then find ways to be a connector instead. … There are plenty of people willing to divide, but there are a very few who are willing to connect, and we need those who will connect.”

The 55-minute dedication program was broadcast to meetinghouses throughout Arizona and livestreamed on MesaTemple.org.

Griff Hiatt and Brittny Hiatt take a selfie in the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors' Center in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.
Griff Hiatt and Brittny Hiatt take a selfie in the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Two local young single adults — Paige N. Carnahan and Daniela Raymundo Ponce — also shared brief remarks about connections. Carnahan spoke on connecting with Christ’s light and connecting with each other, and Ponce on connecting to Christ through temples and family history.

Mesa City Council member Julie Spilsbury opened with a message of Mesa’s heritage.

The program also featured a five-minute video produced by the North America Southwest Area with those who will serve as the temple visitors’ center “guides” — local young single adult volunteers and full-time sister missionaries — explaining the center and its multiple features and exhibits.

The center was designed with young adults, youth and children in mind, providing a self-guided experience through interactive displays and features where visitors can learn about Mesa’s diverse history and spiritual heritage as well as learn about the Savior, the temple and their own family heritage.

Video: Take a virtual walk through the new Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center and see its interactive features

The two-floor facility includes a kitchen to share food with friends, individual quiet pods for personal meditation, a play area for children, a chalkboard for responses to questions and a coloring wall for self-expression. A scale model with cutout views of the Mesa Arizona Temple sits near a window offering a view of the actual temple.

Elder Soares led a news conference the morning after the dedication with media representatives from the metro Phoenix area as they got their first looks at the new visitors’ center. The previous Mesa temple visitors’ centers played a prominent role in welcoming guests for seven decades to the temple grounds, including the annual Easter pageant that started in 1938, and more than 40 years of the yearly Christmas lights display.

Both traditional events have paused during the renovation of the Mesa temple and grounds.

Making its public debut Saturday, Aug. 14, the new visitors’ center will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, including Sundays. Admission is free, with experiences available in both English and Spanish. For more information, visit MesaTemple.org.

The dedication of the new visitors’ center precedes the upcoming open house and rededication of the nearby Mesa Arizona Temple, the 94-year-old temple that has been closed since May 2018 for its second major renovation.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, will preside at the Sunday, Dec. 12, rededication, which will be done in three sessions — at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.

The Mesa Arizona Temple public open house is scheduled from Saturday, Oct. 16, through Saturday, Nov. 20, excluding all Sundays during the five-week event. A youth devotional is planned for Saturday, Dec. 11.