TUCSON, Arizona — The LDS Church unveiled its new Tucson Arizona Temple for a first look Tuesday, complete with its unique-for-Mormon-temples dome-shaped cupola — as local media toured the 38,216-square-foot edifice.
Tuesday's event served as one of several lead-in sessions prior to a public open-house period for the latest in a long line of what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider to be the houses of God.
Simultaneous to Tuesday morning’s media event, a series of images, videos and descriptions of the Tucson temple were posted on mormonnewsroom.org, the church's online media resource.
Located at 7281 N. Skyline Drive, in the Catalina Foothills of northern Tucson, it will be the LDS Church’s 157th operating temple worldwide.
With construction materials and furnishings coming from across the globe like other Mormon temples, the Tucson Arizona Temple features a dome-shaped cupola — a rare element, since nearly all other LDS temples have one or more towers, steeples or spires.
Tucson’s dome design — elongated, octagonal and ribbed— is similar to Italy’s Il Duomo de Firenze (The Dome of Florence) of that city’s Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.
But the cupola doesn't have solely a Florence flavor but a taste of Tucson’s own domes, too. The dome design gives nods to the nearby historic San Xavier del Bac Mission — the state’s oldest intact European-style building — as well as the city’s old Pima County Courthouse.
The Tucson Arizona Temple was initially announced by LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson during the church’s October 2012 general conference, along with a temple for Arequipa, Peru. Construction began in Tucson following the Oct. 17, 2015, groundbreaking by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency.
The temple will serve nine southern Arizona LDS stakes — similar to Catholic diocese, a "stake" is comprised for five or more "wards," or local congregations.
Tuesday’s media day signaled the start of a series of open houses for the Tucson Arizona Temple. Other sessions preceding the public open house are for special guests, contractors, construction workers and neighboring residents.
The free public open house period runs from Saturday, June 3, through Saturday, June 24, excluding Sundays. Additional information and ticket reservations for the open house are available at https://templeopenhouse.lds.org/.
Unlike a number of other temples, there isn't an LDS meetinghouse adjacent to the site, so open house visitors will park at Tucson North Stake center meetinghouse and be bused some three miles east to the temple property.
The temple will be dedicated on Sunday, Aug. 13, in three sessions — at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.,m., with the dedication being broadcast to church members in Arizona. A cultural celebration will precede the dedication, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 12.
Once dedicated, the Tucson temple will be the sixth operating temple in the state of Arizona, along with temples in Mesa (1927), Snowflake (2002), Gila Valley (2010), Gilbert (2014) and Phoenix (2014).
An estimated 416,000 Latter-day Saints reside in Arizona.
Utah and California are the states with more LDS temples, with 18 and seven, respectively. Utah’s 18 include one under renovation (Jordan River), one under construction (Cedar City) and one recently announced (Saratoga Springs).
Idaho is home to six temples, but only three are currently in operation. One is to be dedicated this weekend after renovation (Idaho Falls), another to be completed and dedicated later this year (Meridian) and the third recently announced (Pocatello).
The temple was designed by FFKR Architects, with Big D Construction the contractor.
The exterior features cast-stone panels and the aforementioned dome. Atop the cupola is a simple lantern and pedestal for the traditional gold-leafed Angel Moroni statue. Rather than typical ceramic tiles, the cupola is covered with zinc shingles.
The building has bronze-colored doors and window framing, with the windows’ recessed panels featuring a stylized pattern of the ocotillo cactus and the exterior art glass that of native flora.
A third of the seven-acre site is left to its natural, dry, rocky and sandy state, compatible with the Sagauro National Park that serves as bookends on the east and west sides of the city of Tucson. The natural landscaping includes mountain laurel, mesquite and palo verde trees as well as saguaro and ocotillo cacti.
Lawns cover more than 4,237 square feet of the site, with flowering annuals another 850 square feet.
Inside, the tiling of the entry and baptistery is marble from Turkey and Greece. The area rugs for the entry, patron waiting and brides’ rooms come form China and feature ocotillo-based motifs.
The lighting throughout underscores the prevailing Art Dcco theme, including fixtures fitted with square or bowl glass pendants. The celestial and sealing rooms feature crytal square pendants, while the brides’ room fixture is of Swarovski crystal.
The interior art glass of the celestial room suggests paddle cactus leaves and ocotillo plants in green and orange shades.
Sapele wood from Nigeria is used for millwork and doors throughout, with hardware for the temple fabricated in Georgia.
Purpose of temples
LDS temples differ from the church’s meetinghouses, the latter open to the public and used for Sunday worship and weekday meetings and activities. Once dedicated, the temple will be accessible only to active Latter-day Saints who are in good standing.
Rather than used for Sunday worship meetings, the temple is considered by Mormons to be a place of holiness, a house of the Lord, where members meeting in smaller temple sessions throughout the week make promises and commitments — or covenants — to God.
They also participate in the highest and holiest of ceremonies, including the marriage of couples and the “sealing” of families for eternities.
Also, The temple is the only place where ceremonies or sacred rites such as baptism and sealings can be done in proxy or in behalf of those who have died, similar to teachings found in the New Testament.
Besides the ceremonies, temples are a place of instruction for members about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and their teachings.
This story will be updated throughout Tuesday.