A First (And Last*) Look at the New Mormon Temple

*That is, it's the last chance anyone who's not a Mormon will have to see this palatial edifice - unless they sign up for the public tours that run from Aug. 10 to Sept. 9.

The "sealing room" in the temple, where Mormon couples are joined together for eternity. | Photos: © 2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. unless otherwise noted

The “sealing room” in the temple, where Mormon couples are joined together for eternity. | Photos: © 2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. unless otherwise noted

“Like Solomon’s Temple, we seek to use the finest materials and the highest quality craftsmanship in our construction,” Elder Larry Y. Wilson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said as he welcomed the news media to this morning’s tour of the new Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple, the first Mormon temple in the Keystone State and the 152nd to be completed worldwide.

That commitment to quality showed in ways large and small throughout the four-story, 208-foot-high structure, the most unabashedly historical of the LDS Church’s recent efforts. This, Wilson explained, was because “the church has tried to interpret the history and the architecture of this city in the construction of the temple.”

Not to mention the history of the LDS Church itself. Wilson, who oversees the operations of the church’s temples, explained that Pennsylvania holds a place of significance to Mormons because the founder of the faith, Joseph Smith, was baptized in the Susquehanna River in northeast Pennsylvania after hearing the call to re-establish the ancient Christian church in a glen in upstate New York. In addition, noted Elder Milan F. Kunz, the highest-ranking church official in the Northeastern United States, half of the church’s other sacred text, the Book of Mormon, was translated in northeast Pennsylvania.

It was clear from the tour that the church spared no expense in making this structure one of the most solid and substantial buildings constructed in the city in recent years. Italian and Egyptian marble, wood, brass, bronze, golden trim and Swarovski crystal each made appearances as the group progressed through the building, designed by Perkins + Will and FFKR in the Georgian Revival style.

And as befits a structure designed to bring the faithful closer to God and promote contemplation, the temple is perhaps the quietest building in the city: not only are the noises of the outside world shut out, but even the air conditioning system makes nary a sound. (Once the temple is consecrated in mid-September, there will be some noise in the form of soft organ music, presentations on church teachings and the performance of the sacraments of the church, the highest of which is marriage.)

As the Mormons consider the founding of America divinely inspired, the Philadelphia temple contains many references to the historic events that took place in Independence Hall along with the usual references to the life of Christ and events in the Bible. The photo gallery below provides examples of these references while it explains the purposes for which each of the rooms in the temple is used.

Once the temple is consecrated on Sept. 18, only Mormons who receive the recommendation of their bishop may enter. But from Aug. 10 until Sept. 9, the LDS Church invites the public to come take a look around for themselves. The church expects some 150,000 people to pass through the temple during the open house period. The tours, which take place every day of the week except Sunday, are free, but reservations are required; to reserve a tour spot, visit www.philadelphiamormontemple.org or call 1-855-537-2000.

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