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Brigham City Temple Opens Doors to Reveal No Secrets

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Celestial Room inside the new Brigham City Temple.

Correction: On August 31, 2012, we erroneously reported that the Brigham City temple would help take some of the pressure off the nearby Logan and Pocatello temples. There is no LDS temple currently in Pocatello. The corrected version of the story is below:

For 3 weeks, the newest temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is open to the public. This is a special invitation to a place that has a reputation as secretive, but regular temple-goers would rather it be understood as sacred. For non regular temple visitors, who are in fact restricted except on this special occasion to even set foot in an LDS temple, this is a hospitable gesture.

Before the Brigham City Temple in Box Elder County is dedicated to its official task of serving members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its doors are open wide to an anticipated 300,000 visitors, some of whom have no idea what to expect.

The Church uses the metaphor of a beacon. A shiny white temple in the middle of a town is supposed to attract attention. But is that why the doors are open wide enough to include non-members of the Church? I ask 2 missionaries working at the temple how many visitors they suspect are members of the Mormon Church.

“They told us that probably 90% are members, so we were to treat everyone kindly because we don’t know which are which.”

And they should know. The missionaries, or Sisters, are working at the temple 6 days a week for 4 weeks during their time of service in nearby Ogden.

I’m part of the 10% of non Church members visiting the temple. A curious member of the public who won’t pass up an opportunity to sneak a peek  behind a usually closed door.

Tour groups are herded onto buses from the parking lot of the nearby airbag factory to the temple and directed into makeshift rooms in the parking garage of the temple itself, where we watch a video that gives a very brief overview of the purpose of temples to the Church.

Then we pass through a line of volunteers who cover our street shoes with paper surgical booties. There’ s no explanation for why this is happening but when we get inside and see the snow white carpet of the temple rooms, it seems quite sensible.

What’s surprising about a Mormon temple is that it isn’t cavernous inside like an old world cathedral. It’s more like an office building made of overly-decorated administrative offices. There isn’t that much gilding. It’s more subtle than that. At least at first. As you head higher and higher into the temple, the ceilings get higher and more, well, celestial with sparkling glass bead chandeliers and some tastefully done gold leaf painting of peach blossoms on the ceiling which is a major theme of this particular temple, located in the heart of Utah’s fruit orchards.

The peach blossoms make sense for one of the more rural of the Church’s 139 temples. Even though Brigham City has fewer than 20,000 residents, the temple will serve 40,000 Mormons in Northern Utah and Southern Idaho, taking some of the pressure off the nearby Logan temple.

At the end of the tour, we take off our shoe coverings and throw them in the trash and are encouraged to stay and mingle in the parking garage over cookies and bottles of water. Everyone tries to get a picture of their family in front of the temple but it’s nearly impossible. The temple is gleaming white and every one is backlit. The temple is 165 feet tall and we are ants on the screens. We get back on the bus and back to the parking lot. Some of us will be back. Some of us never will.

The Brigham City Temple will be dedicated on September 23 in a ceremony that will be broadcast into local LDS churches throughout the region.