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San Diego to be Home to Major Mormon Temple

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is building in San Diego its first California temple in more than 25 years.

The 75-room temple will be only the third of the church’s large temples in the state; the others are in Oakland and Los Angeles.

For years, church members in the San Diego area trekked to the Los Angeles temple for marriage ceremonies and other rites. The new temple will serve not only them, but Imperial County and parts of southern Orange County and northern Baja California.

“We build a temple in an area when membership warrants it--that is, keeps it busy and operating,” said Don LeFevre, a spokesman at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

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Robert McGraw, a local church representative, placed the San-Diego area’s Mormon population at more than 45,000, with about 100 congregations.

The temple was planned six years ago and ground was broken on the 8-acre University City site in February, 1988. But design changes and other refinements held up construction until four months ago. Completion is expected by spring, 1992, although Dennis Agle, spokesman for Deems Lewis McKinley, the architectural firm that designed the temple, said that is flexible. “The project will be finished when it’s finished.”

Bill Magnuson, project architect, said he considers the temple a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Magnuson said the Mormon church allowed the design team to redesign the original draft, which simply called for construction of a standard temple. “We then started from scratch,” he said.

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The four-level Charmant Drive temple, with twin towers soaring up to 190 feet, will be visible from Interstate 5. White marble, light golden cherrywood and gold leafing are some of the materials being used in the design.

“We wanted the temple to stand out. We wanted it to stand out like the governmental buildings in Washington, the cathedrals in Europe. We wanted that kind of pride and power behind it,” Magnuson said.

The temple will not replace the 20 or so Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ meeting houses in San Diego County. Sunday morning worship services, as well as other church activities, will continue at those buildings. In fact, the temple will be closed on Sundays.

Considered the sacred house of the Lord, the temple instead will serve the Mormon community as the place for marriage, baptism and other rituals.

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LeFevre said ceremonies such as those sealing the family together as a unit will be held in the new temple.

Such special ceremonies for area Mormons are now held in the Los Angeles temple, 2 1/2 hours away.

“We try to place temples so that there is reasonable access to all people,” LeFevre said.

The San Diego temple is different in style and smaller than its counterparts in Los Angeles, but McGraw said it is comparable in size to other temples recently built.

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The Los Angeles temple was built in 1956, and the Oakland temple was built in 1964.

When construction is completed, an open house will be held--the only time the facility will be open to the public.

“After that, only those worthy can go through it,” said Bill Lewis, an architect on the design team and a church member. “To go to the temple, you must be a member. The temple is not so much a secret, but sacred,” Lewis said.

The temple will house instructional areas, assembly rooms, offices and other areas. It will not feature one large room, as do many cathedrals.

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The San Diego temple will be the 45th Mormon temple in the world. Worldwide, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 17,000 congregations. Temples in Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas, Nev., were completed last year. Plans are being made for two temples in South America--one in Bogota, Colombia, and the other in Guayaquil, Ecuador--and for temples in Orlando, Fla., and Bountiful, Utah.


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