It is unmistakable, rising up like a castle from a rolling prairie, the gold leaf statue of the angel Mormoni adoring its main spire. The new Mormon temple in Kansas city symbolizes a rare pattern at a time when many faiths see their numbers in north America shrinking.
Walker: Our church is growing very nicely, we now have over 14 million members of the church worldwide. About six and half million members of the church in the United States.
And for the members of the church, this is the house of the Lord We were shown around by Elder William Walker, a top church official who oversees the operation of 137 temples worldwide, with 30 more on the way. How much did it cost to build this? Walker: A lot.
He won’t say how much but it doesn’t look like any expense was spared. The chambers are striking. We saw ceiling rooms where weddings take place. An instruction room with a mural depicting earth as Mormon’s belief just after creation. And the pristine celestial room, the most sacred space inside for reflection and meditation, complete with crystal chandeliers. This is the biggest room you’ll find in the temple. There’s no large sanctuary.
Walker: The purpose of the temple is not for a big meeting, we have other chapels throughout the church and throughout the world, assembly halls and meeting halls. And when we come to the temple this is more for private and individual communion.
While we were given an extensive tour, the church denied out request to record it and instead provided these pictures. I asked Walker if that doesn’t play into perceptions, right or wrong, that the church is secretive.
Walker: it’s not about secret, it’s about sacred. And that’s a very sacred and special place and therefore is reserved for those worship functions and those ordinances that take place in the temple. So it’s not about secret.
But once the temple closes its doors to the public next month, not even all Mormons will be allowed in. Worshipers are supposed to wear white when they come in here on a normal basis. During these visits we have to wear foot coverings so we don’t mess up the carpets.
Now once this place is dedicated you cannot come past this front desk, which is called the recommend desk, unless you have a recommendation from your local Mormon church leader.
Inside, the ornate baptismal font, resting on twelve oxen, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel but the font also symbolized controversy for the LDS church. Here they’ll perform hundreds of posthumous baptisms.
Specifically for Mormon’s ancestors who were not of the faith, an invitation to accept Mormonism as an avenue into heaven. But some people have used the church’s genealogy database to baptize others who are not Mormon ancestors.
But some Mormons have used the church's genealogy database to baptize others who are not Mormon ancestors, like murdered Jewish reporter Daniel Pearl, and Holocaust victims like Anne Frank, a practice that has outraged Jewish leaders.
The critics say that this speaks of a theological arrogance and intolerance. You believe your faith is the only avenue in which to get into heaven. What do you say to that?
Walker: Well, I would say to that, Jesus didn’t say this is just for people of a particular persuasion. Jesus taught it’s necessary to be baptized to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Walker says there’s no desire to offend anyone. He says the church used this as a loving, kind gesture but is cracking down those who violate their policy. When I asked him how he would respond to those who say the damage is done, too many people have already been offended by posthumas baptisms, Elder Walker said “maybe we didn’t do some things as well as we should have.” He said, “we would tell them we’re sorry but we live by our word when we say we’ll do something about it”. Brian Todd CNN, Kansas City, Missouri.