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Natalie J. Pakiz
Andrew H. Johnson shows his Lego replicas of the Washington D.C. and Nauvoo Illinois temples.
I still look at it today and ask myself, 'How did I get that done?' It's a monster

DENVER — Andrew H. Johnson has four models of Mormon temples in his home.

James Holmes has one of the Salt Lake Temple he built as a freshman in his high school geometry class. It took him and a partner 40 hours to fashion since it had to meet strict geometric standards as well as resemble a world famous icon.

It resides in the library of East Lincoln High School in Denver, N.C.

And while the replicas were built to meet different goals, they all represent the faith and love of temples of their builders.

Holmes found building a wooden temple an opportunity to let his classmates know about his faith and what he believes in. Between the project and playing high school soccer, he is now well known as the "Mormon," said his mother. The family lives outside Charlotte, N.C.

Johnson, of Denver, Colo., had always wanted to be an architect. Growing up, he dreamed that one day he would design and build a series of temples representing the buildings sacred to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1999, he found himself unemployed with time on his hands so he decided to get rid of his stress by devoting himself to building an authentic model of an existing temple.

"At that time, the Nauvoo Temple had not been announced as a rebuild, so I found the original blueprints and built it from those," Johnson said. "My family loved it and forbade me from ever taking it apart. It's still sitting on our entertainment center in our home."

After that, Johnson built the Denver Colorado Temple, the Salt Lake Temple and the Washington D.C. Temple.

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple was built with Lego building bricks Johnson had on hand. (He soon starting shopping on bricklink.com to find his material.)

"That's a lot of white," Johnson said, "Then when I got to the top, my wife found a submarine model with the right pieces. I then blew $35 to get four yellow dome pieces."

The Salt Lake Temple took 22,500 bricks, five years and took over the Johnson's son's room.

The iconic Mormon temple is the largest of Johnson's models at 3 1/2 feet square. There are wires threaded through the six towers so it can be lighted.

"I still look at it today and ask myself, 'How did I get that done?' It's a monster," Johnson said.

"I kept track of every single brick and kept a journal so if I had to rebuild it I could."

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple measures 1 1/2 feet by 2 feet and has no Moroni. The other three have little yellow figures for the familiar gold angel atop the steeple.

The Denver Colorado Temple was built as a template for a future temple kit.

"The smaller ones are actually harder to create because they need to retain the look of the actual temple," Johnson said.

"The larger it is, the easier to build," he said.

As far as paying for the building the temples, Johnson built the first one a little at a time (hence the five-year build time). The others average about a dime per brick.

Fortunately, Johnson said, his wife doesn't keep strict track of the cost involved.

"It can get way expensive," Johnson said. "Look at the towers, for them we need hexagonal pieces and borders for all four corners."

Johnson said before starting a temple project he looks at his arsenal of bricks and tries to envision what he'll use for each area such as the moonstones, Moroni, the cornices and ledges. He knows he has to get the base right so it will be stable. (He doesn't glue anything together.)

He tries to visualize the end result.

"You do that enough, you get excited."

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Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com