SALT LAKE CITY — A new, small-scale replica of the Salt Lake Temple helps underscore the purpose of Mormon temples and dispel some misconceptions surrounding them.
The model, unveiled Friday at the Temple Square South Visitors' Center, has two of the four exterior sides cut away, allowing a 1/32nd-scale look into the Salt Lake Temple layout.
Despite 132 operating temples and some 17,000 meetinghouses across the globe, there's still confusion about the difference between the two types of edifices central to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Open to the public, LDS meetinghouses — also called chapels — are sites of regular Sunday worship services and meetings, as well as midweek activities and social and recreational events.
Also called "houses of the Lord," temples are considered holy, sacred structures where only members in good standing — those who attest to local leaders they're observing basic LDS principles — are allowed to enter and participate in ceremonies.
In the Mormon temples, church members also attend instructional sessions, where they learn of the purpose of life and one's relationship to God.
LDS authors describe the temple as a model — or a presentation in figurative terms — of the pattern and journey of life on earth.
Temple participants also make formal promises and covenants to God, taking part in the church's highest ordinances, including marriage of couples and the "sealing" of families for eternity.
They can also participate in baptisms, marriages and sealings for deceased ancestors.
Latter-day Saints who participate in temple sessions and ordinances consider the ceremonies sacred and therefore don't discuss them outside the temple.
While the public is restricted from entering an operating LDS temple, open houses prior to dedication allow individuals to tour the sacred edifices and see the rooms, facilities and functionalities of the temple.
Both the Old and New Testaments speak of the importance of temples — the Tabernacle of Moses' time, King Solomon's great temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus Christ clearing the temple after its sacredness was violated when the court areas became makeshift common markets.
Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the LDS Church, was directed to build temples in Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Ill. His successor, Brigham Young, plotted the site for the Salt Lake Temple just days after the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
Most LDS temples and meetinghouse feature spires. One difference, however, is that most temples feature a gold statute of the angel Moroni, an ancient prophet of the Book of Mormon. The statue symbolizes the preaching of Christ's gospel to the world.