Mormon temple in Gilbert: Family talks about temple's sacred meaning

GILBERT, AZ - Pictures cover the walls of the Peters' Gilbert home. They chronicle the more than 20 years since Mike and Suzie married, had four children, and had their lives devastated by cancer.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, their faith always played a key role in their family. It became even more important when then-16-year-old Matthew was diagnosed with cancer. Eight months later, he was gone.

Despite the loss, Matthew's mom Suzie Peters takes comfort. "He's in heaven," she said.

"We were lucky to have Matthew for 17-and-a-half years, we're thankful for that," said Matthew's father Mike Peters.

Like people of many faiths, the Peters have a strong belief in life after death and the promise of seeing their son again. They point to the temple as the center of that faith.

"It's a short term deal, everyone is going to die," said Mike, "but knowledge of life after this death, the temple helps bring that and it's just comforting."

The Peters look forward to the opening of a new temple in Gilbert, just down the street from their home.

The temple is set for dedication by church leaders on March 2, and while only members in good standing are allowed after the dedication, anyone who wants to see inside will have that opportunity during an open house set for January 18 through February 15.

"The work of the temple is not secret, but it's sacred," said Elder Todd Hansen, an area authority for the church. "It will be an opportunity to explain and share and nothing more."

The open house will include a 45 minute tour answering questions about temple service and taking attendees through the 83,000 square foot building, the largest temple to open in 17 years.

Inside, those who attend will walk through the entrance where members present a recommend card that must be signed by their church leaders every two years. 

PHOTOS: GET LOOK INSIDE MORMON TEMPLES

"Someone that goes to the temple can expect to see different rooms and places where the sacred work is done," said Hansen.

That includes a baptismal font resting on the backs of 12 oxen, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. This is where Mormons perform the sometimes controversial baptisms for dead relatives. Mormons believe this was practiced in ancient temples but was lost.

The Gilbert temple includes three instruction rooms where the church leaders say the purpose of life and the central role of Jesus Christ are taught.

The center of the temple is the celestial room. According to LDS.org, church members use this room to symbolize the peace and harmony of heaven.

Elder Hansen said, "The family is central to the doctrine of the church" and that is why marriages are performed in so-called sealing rooms. Mormons believe marriages performed in these rooms are not just until death do you part, but can last into eternity.

The Peters were married in the Las Vegas temple and said that is a foundation for their family during Matthew's sickness.

"That is what kept us together, the church and the temple, knowing that we'll be together again after this life," said Mike.

On the wall in the Peters' home is a drawing of Matthew in the arms of Jesus Christ. Above it, words of comfort and motivation for the family: "The best way to feel heaven in your home is to have someone you love in heaven."

"Just knowing that I get him back when I go to heaven, it's all worth it," Suzie said.

Reservations for temple open house tickets will begin on December 30.  

Read an account of Matthew's cancer journey through a blog kept by his older sister Jenell.

Infographic - Mormon temples vs. chapels:

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