Temple Construction, Open Houses Touching Hearts

Phoenix Arizona Temple, Open House.
Phoenix Arizona Temple. Image via Ldschurchtemples.com

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has dedicated two new temples and rededicated another this year. Before the year’s close, The Church will dedicate one more temple, the Phoenix Arizona Temple, on Sunday, November 16.

Prior to a temple dedication or rededication, the temple is open to the public for free tours. The tours provide opportunities for not only Church members to tour the sacred edifices, but for people of other faiths as well. The opportunity to visit temple grounds or attend a temple open house before a temple is dedicated can be an experience that touches hearts and changes lives.

Michael Morton knows this to be true.

In November 2012,  Morton traveled from Denver to Mesa, Arizona, for “just a simple business trip” that would turn into so much more.

Before that trip, he had never spoken to the missionaries or held, let alone read, the Book of Mormon. But, by the end of the five-day trip, he had a copy of the Book of Mormon, had viewed a movie about Joseph Smith in the visitors’ center and seen the construction site for the Gilbert Arizona Temple.

“It was that week that got things going,” he said.

One of his first experiences that week with the Church was the trip to a visitors’ center, where he viewed the Joseph Smith movie.

 I had a profound reaction [to the movie] where it made me angry to see all the persecution in it, probably because of all the persecution I felt as a Jew. 

Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith. Image via mormonchannel.org

On the final day of Morton’s trip, he insisted on visiting the construction site for the Gilbert Arizona Temple, which was dedicated earlier this year. There, he watched a short video about why the Church builds temples, something he was curious to know more about, having grown up in a Jewish household with knowledge of Moses’ tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s temple.

After moving to Phoenix just two months later and attending sacrament meetings there, Morton was baptized on April 8, 2013—his birthday. Now that he is a member of The Church, he has been asked to give firesides that compare the similarities and differences of Judaism and Mormonism. He has already given four of these firesides, as well as taught missionaries and conducted several Family Home Evenings.

The temple, he said, has played an instrumental role in his Church membership.

 The adversary cannot be in the temple. There, I can get clear instruction. 

A few months ago, Morton received his own endowment, returning to the place where it all began for the special moment.

“[I chose] to go through the Gilbert temple since that’s where I received the Book of Mormon [for the first time].”

Now, he attends the temple weekly and is able to use each experience to receive personal revelation from Heavenly Father. During each trip to the temple, he takes his patriarchal blessing, which he also received recently, and reads in the Celestial room.

“Something jumps out every time I read my blessing in the temple,” said Morton. “It has become a habit and I really enjoy doing it.”

He recently attended the Phoenix Temple open house, which started October 10 and concluded November 1.

For the open house, he went through with a member and a nonmember.

The nonmembers can feel something there. They might not know what it is or how to identify it. At the very least, I think people can see the incredible workmanship of building the temple and seeing that it’s the Lord’s house. 

One thing that has particularly struck Morton during construction of temples has been the reverence of the construction workers. He had the opportunity to help with building shelves in an access tunnel at the Gilbert temple. Being in real estate, he has seen many construction sites in his life, and he compared workers at a normal construction site to “more like going to a football game than anything else.”

But it’s different with the construction workers at temples, even with the majority of them not being members of the Church.

“They were talking in hushed voices. The level of the noise from them was pretty sedate and respectful,” he said. “They showed so much reverence.”

Morton also commented on everything that goes into making sure the temple is a quiet sanctuary filled with God’s love, with all the “noisy stuff” such as air conditioners and electrical wires, being put outside or wired under the building.

 The level of workmanship is just incredible. You just don’t see that level these days. 

Morton is not the only one being touched by the temple.

Just over a month ago, LDS Church News reported that over half a million people attended the open house of the newly remodeled Ogden Utah Temple.  The Spirit touched many there.

One man, upon exiting the temple after his tour and being asked how it was, replied:

 Your temple is just beautiful, but the real effect is right here in my heart. 

Similar sentiments were expressed at the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple open house from March 29-April 19 this year. In an article written by Jason Swenson for LDS Church News, Miami Lakes Florida Stake President James Robinson said of the open house visitors,

“They walked away from the temple with a great change in their heart. Some asked if they could become members. Others have said they wanted to be married inside the temple.”

There will be plenty of opportunities to attend temple open houses in the coming years. There are currently 14 temples under construction, three undergoing renovation and 12 more announced. President Thomas S. Monson has said in the last two General Conferences that more temples will be announced and constructed when all previously announced temples are completed.

Morton hopes others will take advantage of the opportunity to visit a temple open house or a temple site.

“It’s a great feeling to go inside and see that these temples are being built and that they are sacred places.”

Michael Morton is currently writing a book about his conversion experience, which details more about similarities and differences between Judaism and Mormonism. The book will provide a more detailed explanation of how he was exposed to the Church and the experiences he has had since then. His book will also detail how he sees the Church as a continuation of Judaism. He hopes for the book to be available by next summer. He will also be scheduling more firesides. Morton can be contacted at [email protected].

Kara is a newsroom intern for LDS.net and former journalism and media production student from Washington State University. She grew up in Washington state, where she currently lives.