It was an invite too big to pass up -- a tour of the new Newport
Beach California Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
The personal invitation to tour this temple, the first in Orange
County and only the 122nd in the world, came from local church
members Kathleen Peterson, Ann Owens and Joe Bentley.
I was flattered to be on the invite list, and I must say, the tour
Perched at the edge of Bonita Canyon in Newport Coast, the
completed temple is 17,800 square feet, 90-feet tall and made of
Salisbury pink granite imported from North Carolina.
Atop the steeple, which was a source of neighborhood controversy
before its construction, is a golden statue of the Angel Moroni. The
Angel Moroni, I learned, always faces to the east with his golden
My tour included half a dozen other invitees and was led by church
member Roy Christensen and his wife, Carol.
Peterson, who accompanied me on the tour, noted that the church
has received requests for tickets from people in 47 states and 18
countries, including Mongolia, the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Cambodia
We started the tour on the grounds of the temple, which are
punctuated with a pair of sparkling fountains and some 54,000 .
Peterson explained during the tour, and later in an e-mail, some
of the terminology used in the temple and the Mormon church that
those of us who aren't members may not understand.
In fact, even some published reports didn't get things quite
"For example, no Mormon would recognize the term 'the three-part
ascent toward the holy spirit,' or 'services' in regard to a temple,"
she explained. "We might say that our faithful members receive
instruction about where we came from, why we are here, and what
happens after we pass away. We are taught symbolically.
"We believe that through priesthood authority, we can be sealed
together as a family throughout all eternity," she continued. "Our
members can always enter the temple if they are faithful members.
That includes being honest with your fellow men or women, being
faithful to one's spouse, paying tithing, and keeping our 'word of
wisdom' that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meat
sparingly, avoiding alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, tobacco, etc."
As we entered the front of the temple for the tour, inscriptions
of two phrases that characterize all temples stand out for all to
see: "Holiness to the Lord. The House of the Lord."
Before we entered the building, we all had to cover our feet with
No, that was not some secret ritual. The reason was simple -- to
keep the carpets clean, something my wife would appreciate.
In fact, the tour was designed to clear up lots of misconceptions
about the temple and the rituals performed there.
"As you come in the temple, you leave the world behind," our tour
guide Roy Christensen said. "A temple isn't secret; it's sacred."
The first thing you see is the baptismal font that sits atop a
sculpture of 12 oxen, which represents the 12 tribes of Israel.
Next we visited the Ordinance Room, a room of instruction whose
walls are splashed with a California-coastal-themed mural. It's a
Peterson pointed out to me that as we went from room to room, we
climbed a little higher through the building. In addition, each room
gets lighter, symbolizing how more light comes into your life as you
become more versed in the ways of the church, she and Christensen
Continuing the tour, we saw the Bride's Room, where brides prepare
for marriage, and the Celestial Room, where we all stood in silence
to admire its architecture and beauty and of course its dazzling,
We visited the Sealing Room, which Christensen noted is the most
sacred place in the temple.
"The highest ordinance of the temple is performed here," he said.
An ordinance, I should explain, is a ceremony or ritual, such as
baptism or marriage. It's one of the biggest reasons why Mormons are
so happy to have a temple, rather than just the chapel or stake
center that sits adjacent to the new building.
"That building [the stake center] is busy all week long with
activities," said J. Donald Turner, a church member and Newport Beach
dentist for more than 30 years. "The temple is something different
entirely. It's where those members of the church who qualify can take
part in ordinances."
For example, a civil wedding can happen in the chapel, but
weddings that seal or bind families for eternity can only take place
in the temple, Turner said.
Building the Newport Beach temple to serve the 50,000 Mormon
church members in Orange County means that Orange County Mormons
won't have to travel to Los Angeles or San Diego to attend a temple.
"It fulfilled all of my expectations," Turner said of the new
building. "It looks so beautiful inside and out. I just feel the
community is going to be so pleased."
After all the arguments and concerns about the temple, a quick
tour like the one I took most likely will assure community members
that they have a treasure in their neighborhood.
Public open house of the temple will take place every day except
Sunday through Aug. 20. The dedication of the temple will take place
Sunday Aug. 28 and after that, the only thing open to the public will
be the temple grounds at the 8.8-acre site.
Tied to the temple opening is the 175th birthday of the Mormon
church and the 200th birthday of its founder, Joseph Smith.
Turner summed up the feeling of local church members best with
"We didn't, in our wildest dream, think we would have a temple in
Newport Beach. It's a dream come true."
* TONY DODERO is the editor. He may be reached at (714) 966-4608
or by e-mail at email@example.com.