Neighbors and commuters along the Loop 202 — those who have watched with curiosity and interest as the tallest building in Gilbert has been under construction at the corner of Greenfield and Pecos roads — will have an opportunity to tour the structure in January.
With a spire that reaches 195 feet, the new "Gilbert Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" is not only among the tallest is the East Valley, its 85,000 square feet makes it the largest temple the Church has constructed in 17 years.
The Gilbert Temple will be the 142nd of the Church's operating temples around the world, the fourth in Arizona. The Mesa Temple, dedicated in 1927, was the first Arizona temple and first within the continental U.S. outside of Utah. The second Arizona temple, in Snowflake, opened in 2002 and the third, in the Gila Valley, began operation in May 2010. A fifth is under construction in Phoenix and a sixth has been announced for Tucson.
In an announcement that a temple was to be built in Gilbert, the church stated, "Gilbert and its surrounding communities enjoy a high concentration of church members, who currently attend the ‘Mesa Arizona Temple.' A temple in Gilbert will help relieve demands currently placed on the Mesa temple..."
Church President Thomas S. Monson, said, "It is my personal priority to make sure members of the church have access to the blessings of the temple."
He continued, "It is here where members learn of their divine origin and destiny; where they are strengthened spiritually as individuals and families. Temples are sanctuaries from the storms of life."
While services in the Church's meeting houses are open to anyone who wishes to attend, temples are open only to faithful LDS church followers after they are formally dedicated. According to the church's website, "Temples are considered ‘houses of the Lord' where Christ's teachings are reaffirmed through marriage, baptism and other ordinances that unite families for eternity. Inside, members learn more about the purpose of life and make promises to serve Jesus Christ and their fellow man."
But the public – non-Mormons included – will have an opportunity to tour the Gilbert temple prior to its formal dedication in March; for approximately one month beginning in mid-January, the Temple will host a free (reservation required) open house.
Following the announcement and approval of the plans for the Gilbert Temple, an estimated 5,000 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 13, 2010. Since then, more than 60,000 people have visited the viewing and display area at the construction site.
The five-level temple was designed by Architekton's Tempe office, with principal architects for the project, Gregory B. Lambright, RA, and John Cahoon. Okland Construction Company had the construction contract.
The building includes a sub-basement for mechanical equipment; a basement, which houses the baptistry; entry and administrative offices on the first floor; a chapel and instruction rooms on the second floor; and sealing rooms, where marriages will be conducted, on the third floor. The motif of the agave plant is seen throughout, including in the art glass windows. The ivory-colored exterior is made of high-quality precast concrete and stone, accentuated with textured details. Lush landscaping features fountains, shaded plazas, 10 kinds of trees and 24 species of shrubs, groundcovers and vines.
The public open house will run daily from Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 through Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, excluding Sundays. Free reservations can be made through the gilbertmormontemple.org website in the coming weeks.
The temple will be formally dedicated Sunday, March 2, 2014. In conjunction with the dedication, there also will be a cultural celebration featuring music and dance on Saturday, March 1, 2014.