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Cheryl Taylor
The gold leaf-covered statue of the Angel Moroni begins its careful ascent to the Phoenix Arizona Temple's spire.

PHOENIX — Hundreds of people, including dozens of families, braved triple-digit temperatures Wednesday in the Valley of the Sun to watch as construction crews placed a golden statue of the Angel Moroni on top of the new Phoenix Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It was supposed to be low-key — just the construction workers and their families," said Cheryl J. Taylor, whose husband, Scott, is president of the church's Arizona Phoenix Mission. "But it's hard to keep it quiet when there are these two massive cranes towering over the temple. People have been watching and waiting for this for so long, so word got out pretty quickly."

Some watched from lawn chairs outside the neighboring LDS meetinghouse while others watched from the hiking trails on the hills south of the temple in the Thunderbird Recreation Area as workers placed the pedestal portion of the temple spire followed by the glistening gold leaf-covered fiberglass statue of Angel Moroni, an iconic figure that adorns most of the 141 LDS temples currently in operation around the world.

"Everyone was so happy and excited to be there," Sister Taylor said, adding that cheers erupted when the pedestal was placed and again when the Moroni statue was placed. "There were lots of children, lots of families all there focusing on the temple."

Latter-day Saints in the Phoenix area have been focusing on this temple for nearly five years since LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced the church's intent to build Arizona's fifth temple in Phoenix (there are also temples in Mesa, Snowflake and Gila Valley, with a temple in Gilbert expected to be dedicated later this year or early next year; a sixth Arizona temple in Tucson is still in the planning stages). Church officials have worked closely with neighborhood groups to overcome their expressed concerns, offering at least two different designs and numerous adjustments to site plans before construction could officially begin.

But it was all smiles, cheers and celebration under Wednesday's clear, blue skies as the glistening statue finally rested in its place atop the temple spire. Taylor said the crowd burst into a spontaneous rendition of "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" — an LDS hymn that will likely be performed again when the temple is officially dedicated about a year from now.

Prior to the dedication the temple will be open for public tours during a multi-week open house, the dates of which have yet to be announced. Following the dedication it will be open only to active, practicing church members who have been recommended by their local ecclesiastical leaders to participate in Mormonism's highest and holiest sacraments, including proxy baptism for deceased ancestors and eternal marriage, or "sealing."