20 January 2015
Located in Arizona’s capital and largest city, the Phoenix Arizona Temple stands on a five-acre site adorned with desert foliage. The 27,423-square-foot edifice, completed in 2014, is the 144th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the fifth in Arizona.
The temple has a contemporary square design, with a spire made up of layered sections that gradually transform from sharp to round edges. Within the temple are a baptistry, sealing rooms (where marriages are performed), instruction rooms and a celestial room, which represents eternal life with God. These rooms house beautiful wood- and stonework, stained glass and terra-cotta details. Bordering the tops of the walls are painted gold stems, a motif that is also carved into the staircase posts and much of the stonework. The temple’s many murals depict beautiful nature scenes, including desert views that reflect the surrounding environment.
The Phoenix Temple serves a portion of the more than 410,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who live in Arizona, a statistic that came as a result of years of hard work and sacrifice. The first Church presence in Arizona can be traced back to the Mormon Battalion, a group of Mormons who prepared to participate in the Mexican-American War and passed through the state in 1846. Later, in 1873, the prophet began sending Church members to Arizona to colonize the area. These Latter-day Saints worked hard to settle the desert by building a fort, canals and dams. In 1912, the area’s population received a large increase when the Mexican Revolution caused many Mormons in Mexico to flee to Arizona for safety. The Latter-day Saint population continued to grow, and in 1927 Arizona’s first temple was completed in Mesa. This was the only temple in the state until 2002, when a temple was completed in Snowflake. A few years later, in the spring of 2008, plans for three more Arizona temples were announced: the Gila Valley, Gilbert and Phoenix.After the announcement of the Phoenix Temple on May 24, 2008, a groundbreaking ceremony was held under the direction of Church leader Ronald A. Rasband on June 4, 2011, and construction began. The construction project manager, Dawson Stewart, later said of the process, “I was amazed at the things built into the design and the purpose for them.” He added that he enjoyed seeing “how much attention there is to the principle of progression in the temple design, so that even the finish in one room needs to be slightly better, a little more elegantly done than in a previous room.”1 The progression in the design corresponds with the fact that Church members experience a sense of progressing on their journey in mortality as they walk through the temple.
Upon the temple’s completion, the public was invited to attend the open house, which lasted from October 10 to November 1, 2014. Arizona governor Jan Brewer was among several dignitaries who participated in the open house. She said of the experience: “I have learned that the purpose of the temple is even more beautiful than the building. … Temples are sacred places to commune with our loving God and know that we can return to His presence with our loved ones.”2The day before the temple’s dedication, a cultural celebration was performed by the youth of the area at Sunrise Mountain High School. The theme of the celebration was “Be a Light,” which referred to both the desert sun and the Son of God. The purpose of the celebration was to show how all can be a light to those around them. The writers of the program’s script wanted the performance to reflect the culture of the area and showcase the youth participating. Youth were divided into six groups. One group told the story of the Native American culture and the canals that carried water to the desert area. Another group focused on Hispanic cultures, and yet another represented the military (since there is an air force base in the area). There was even a group that told the story of the air conditioner—when it was invented in the 1950s, the population of Phoenix doubled. Another group showcased the youths’ talents, and the final section was about service and teaching others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The youth sang and danced, showing their appreciation for the temple and what it meant to them. One youth participant said prior to the performance day, “Going to the temple helps me regain perspective on what’s important in my life and helps me spiritually refuel” — she even compared the temple to a “fresh water spring in the desert.”,3 For many Arizona Mormons, being able to attend the temple since its dedication on November 16, 2014, quenches their spiritual thirst as they strive to draw closer to God.
1 Cecily Markland, “Phoenix Arizona Temple to Open for Public Tours,” Beehive, Sept. 20, 2014, http://arizonabeehive.com/phoenix-arizona-temple-to-open-for-public-tours/.
2 “Phoenix Arizona Temple Opens for Public Tours,” Oct. 12, 2014, ttps://www.lds.org/church/news/phoenix-arizona-temple-opens-for-public-tours.
3 Cecily Markland, “Youth in Phoenix Temple District Prepare for Cultural Celebration,” Beehive, Sept. 20, 2014, http://arizonabeehive.com/youth-in-phoenix-temple-district-prepare-for-cultural-celebration/