Renovated Mesa Arizona Temple Opens to the Public This Week
This article was contributed by a local member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The views expressed may not represent the views and positions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the Church's official site, visit churchofjesuschrist.org.
Larry Frost was 10 years old and present when the Mesa Arizona Temple was first dedicated in 1927. As the temple’s public open house begins this week (it starts on October 16 and ends on November 20, excluding Sundays), the 104-year-old Frost is excited for the temple’s December 12 rededication. “I look forward to it,” said Frost, who served in the Mesa Temple for more than two decades. “I hope I get to go. The feeling you get in there [is] probably the same feeling you get when you go to heaven.”
Free Open House Reservations at mesatemple.org/open-house.
The Mesa Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been closed since May 2018 for major renovation. This is its second major refurbishment in its 94-year history. It was originally dedicated by Church President Heber J. Grant. It was rededicated in 1975 by President Spencer W. Kimball, who was raised in Arizona, following expansion and remodeling.
“The Lord will be very pleased [with this remodel],” said Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric. “It’s clear that everyone that worked on it was blessed. It’s not easy to modernize a building that’s almost 100 years old.”
The Church considers each of its temples to be, as the text engraved on the exteriors says, a “house of the Lord.” Jesus Christ’s teachings are reaffirmed through special ceremonies and covenants. These are the faith’s most sacred worship spaces. As such, the Church seeks a high quality of production for each.
Public is Invited Inside the Temple for the Third Time in Almost 100 Years
“Similar to temples of ancient times like Solomon’s Temple, we gather the best from the world to make the temple the house of the Lord,” said Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations for the Church. “We dedicate the best materials and craftsmanship to His house. It signifies the sacred nature and the special nature of a temple. It’s a sacred place on Earth where we can go to commune with God. That process really needs the best materials we can provide.”
When first built, the Mesa Arizona Temple was the Church’s seventh operating temple and the first temple in the Grand Canyon State (Arizona now has five other temples). The 2018-2021 Mesa Temple renovation improved both the temple exterior and interior.
New Visitors’ Center Offers a Variety of Activities for All Ages
The visitors’ center (completed in August 2021) was relocated to the northwest corner of Main Street and LeSueur, at 455 E. Main St., to avoid blocking the view of the temple from Main Street. Inside, visitors can learn what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in, including the history and purpose of temples and the eternal nature of families. They can also view a 3D scale model of the Mesa Temple and what rooms inside the temple look like. There is a family research area full of computer work stations and helpers to assist visitors find out more about their ancestors and connect and expand their family tree online. There is a fun children’s play area, with interactive activities; a hangout room for teens; a community section, with beautiful displays explaining the historical origins of the area; a coloring wall for all ages, and lots more!
Stroll Through the Gardens and Enjoy Newly Relandscaped Grounds
The temple grounds feature an expanded reflection pool and are beautified with more than 300 olive and palm trees, along with other ornamental trees, preserved and relocated with other greenery. A new irrigation system keeps the landscape hydrated by collecting and reusing water.
The 80-Year-Old Easter Celebration at the Mesa Temple Continues
The Mesa Easter Pageant (staged in an open area north of the temple) is coming back April 6-9 and April 12-16, 2022. The production will have a new script and score written by local composer Rob Gardner. All the words in the script are taken from the New Testament…every single line is scripture. There will also be new scenes, updated sets, a partially new stage that faces west, and nearly 10,000 chairs set up for attendees. Spanish night is April 9th and should have fully translated narration and music. The Easter celebration started at the temple in 1938 as a simple Sunrise Service and moved to multiple evenings in 1977. Since that time it has grown into the largest annual outdoor Easter pageant in the world and a beloved community tradition.
Hundreds of Thousands of Christmas Lights Will Return in 2022
The Christmas lights, nativity scene and other Christ-centered holiday displays will be coming back in 2022 in their full splendor in redesigned areas around the temple. And technology is now in place throughout the area to allow visitors to see Christmas lights and enjoy the beautiful grounds.
“The Church’s invitation to invite the community in for Christmas lights and Easter pageants, and just the very welcoming attitude that the Church has always had here, has created a tremendous amount of goodwill,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “We’re very fortunate as a city that the Church was willing to come and invest in our community, create something that’s going to last generations — and it’s top quality.” All events are free and planners consider them “a gift” to the community. Everyone is invited all to come and enjoy!
Temple Interior Was Updated But Retains Historic 1920s’ Atmosphere
The temple’s interior beauties, colors and motifs stay true to the colonial revival era. Design cues popular in 1920s America are found throughout. The classical grand hall, built of gray granite, looks just as it did when the temple was first built. Important works of art have been preserved and restored. These include murals in the grand hall depicting Joseph and Hyrum Smith sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Native American nations. Another mural shows John the Baptist giving Joseph and Hyrum the Aaronic Priesthood. Conservators removed layers of paint from years of modifications to the original works, reattached the canvas to the wall and filled in damaged areas.
Mural Artist Creates New Murals Reminiscent of Original Artwork
The Church commissioned Linda Curley Christensen and a team of artists to create new murals to encompass the four walls of each room, similar to how they appeared in 1927.
“All of the sketches were designed from the original photographs, and even the concept and intent of the original artist was maintained,” Christensen said. “I’ve thought a lot about each of those painters and studied their strokes and studied the remaining pieces and tried to understand what they were portraying, what their goal was. … I became very connected to feeling akin to them. I felt a harmony and a resonance with their intent in what I was portraying. I began to feel like I was just helping them refine and refresh something that they had begun to create.”
Hanging the new murals was a challenge with the rooms’ radiused corners and chamfered window enclosures. Linda’s team developed innovative ways of installation for a precise and consistent fit. “There’s only one time you put up that canvas. That’s it,” said Linda’s husband, Gregory Lynn Christensen, supervisor of the mural installation. “And if you make a mistake, you have to live with it. And so we have to do it exactly right every time. It was just a huge, huge challenge. After it’s been painted and blended together, it looks like one piece of canvas that covers the entire wall. But it’s really 48 pieces.”
The Mesa Arizona Temple offered Spanish Sessions Starting in 1945
Many who have worshiped in this temple are Latinos. In 1945, when the Mesa Temple was the nearest house of the Lord for Latter-day Saints in the Southwestern United States and Central and South America, the Church made an important innovation. The faith responded to its growing Spanish-speaking population in these regions by conducting the temple ceremony (then done with live actors) in Spanish. The new option encouraged large groups of Latino families to make the trek to the Mesa Temple, often at great sacrifice.
Local Latter-day Saints are excited to return to the worship experience in the Mesa Temple after a three-year hiatus.
“It’s amazing just stepping on the temple grounds,” said Sinia Lutui. “This place just holds a special meaning and a special place in my heart because this is where I grew up. But every temple is so important. Even just being on the temple ground, you feel the spirit of the Lord.”