Eastbound on Bonita Canyon Road from MacArthur Boulevard, the
landmark is already a sight to behold. A 90-foot-tall, white steeple
pointing toward the heavens, capped off by a golden statue of the
It's not officially open for business yet -- sometime this summer
is the grand-opening date -- but the new Temple for the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was to be the topic at
Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council lunch on Wednesday.
The meeting took place at the Mormon church's Newport Beach Stake
on Bonita Canyon Road right next door to the aforementioned temple.
So why do you need a temple and a church so close to each other?
Well that's what I was about to find out.
Sitting at the table with me were a few notable Mormon leaders.
One was Joe Bentley, who was a key leader in some of the
discussions, or more like arguments, that took place three years ago
over the temple.
Mainly, the residents near the temple wanted to keep the steeple
to a certain height and Mormon leaders wanted to keep it to a certain
height, the Mormon leaders opting to go higher.
In the end, the council intervened, the steeple was shortened by
about 10 feet and everything was settled.
Now, Newport Beach is on its way to be home to one of only four
temples in the Southern California area, the other three being in San
Diego, Redlands and Los Angeles.
Others at my table to hear of the significance of temples were
Mormon and Interfaith Council leader Jamie Day and Mormon church
media liaison Kathleen Lubeck Peterson.
Also sitting next to me was Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian
chaplain the Rev. Don Oliver, whom I met a couple years ago when he
graced our 103 Most Influential list.
And sitting right across from me was a former No. 1 member of the
103 list, retired state Sen. Marian Bergeson.
We all were ready to learn just what Bentley and other church
leaders were fighting so hard for.
First up to speak was Brett L. Holbrook.
Holbrook has a bachelor's degree in near-eastern studies and a
master's degree in international and area studies from Brigham Young
University, where he taught on the history of Jerusalem. He also
teaches with the Church Educational System at UC Irvine.
Holbrook gave us an interesting history on temples and the reason
for their creation in all the different religions.
He said temples are created for "cosmic orientation," to celebrate
and cherish that which is sacred and as part of religious rituals to
share with divine powers.
At least that's how I understood what he said.
Next up was Peter Vidmar, the former USA men's gymnastics team
captain who took home two gold and one silver medal in the 1984
Vidmar is a South County resident now and author and speaker and
more importantly, a member of the Newport Beach Temple committee.
Vidmar told how the temple is so important to Mormon families.
"To worship in a temple is a personal and spiritual experience,"
he said. "The temple is tying a holy place between heaven and earth."
Vidmar noted that when Mormons get married, their belief calls for
them to do so in the temple to ensure that their bond will be held
together for all eternity, not just here on earth.
That's why my table mate, Lubeck Peterson, was happy about the
temple's creation also.
"I have such sweet joy, knowing that my husband and I will be
together, even after we slip through to the other side," she told me.
"We had both been single until we got married in our 40s. True love
pulled us together, and nothing can pull us apart, as long as we keep
the covenants we've made with God.
"My sister and I went to Denmark to find out more about our
great-great-great grandfather Anton Iver Christensen Lubeck," she
said. "We found his farm, out in a remote area. We wanted to know all
about him. We're tied together through bloodline, and 'sealed'
together in the temple. Families are so important."
The Rev. Oliver was telling me that just before lunch on Wednesday
-- that Mormons really believe in family.
And if family is the reason behind the creation of the temple,
it's easy to see why that was something worth fighting for.
* TONY DODERO is the editor. He may be reached at (714) 966-4608
or by e-mail at tony.dodero @latimes.com.