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New LDS church temple in Gilbert to open in 2014
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Gilbert that is opening next year is at Greenfield Road and Pecos Road, at 3301 S. Greenfield Road. (Photo by Lauren Thompson, special to Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA)

A new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple opening in Gilbert next year will give local church members another place to worship and hold special religious services. The temple is at Greenfield Road and Pecos Road, at 3301 S. Greenfield Road.

Cindy Packard, a public affairs representative for the Latter-day Saints church in the greater Phoenix area, said in a phone interview that the church’s members in Gilbert will have an easier time accessing temple services after the new temple is dedicated, allowing them to visit the temple more often than they could before.

“All of the members are just so excited,” Ms. Packard said. “Having a temple in the community is such a blessing.”

Marian Priday, a fifth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints, said in a phone interview that she lives near the Gilbert temple site and currently visits the temple around once a week. Once the new temple opens, Ms. Priday said she might visit more often.

Curtis Keller, a bishop in the Latter-day Saints church whose congregation is close to the temple site, said in a phone interview that church members in his ward are happy that a temple is being built near them.

“Having it close to us is an inspiration,” Mr. Keller said.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, temples are viewed as sacred buildings where members can go to receive guidance from God, according to Ms. Packard. Religious ceremonies, such as marriages, are also held in the temple.

“Temples are central to LDS beliefs,” Ms. Packard said.

Ms. Priday said the temple helps her connect to her religious beliefs.

“Being able to see it [the temple] in the community and drive by it helps me focus on what’s important,” Ms. Priday said.

Mr. Keller said that temples are peaceful places for church members.

“You go to the temple, and it brings peace to your life,” Mr. Keller said.

According to the church’s online newsroom, there are currently three completed LDS temples in Arizona, including one in Mesa. Ms. Packard said the church most likely built another temple in Gilbert due to the high percentage of active church members in the area.

“We do have a very large LDS population,” Ms. Packard said.

According to the church’s statistics, there are around 400,000 LDS church members in the state of Arizona. This makes Arizona the state with the fourth highest number of LDS church members in the country, after Utah, California and Idaho. According to Ms. Packard, many of Arizona’s church members live in the East Valley. Ms. Packard said that around 12 percent of Mesa’s total population are registered members of the LDS church and that the percentage of church members in Gilbert’s total population is probably a little higher.

Ms. Packard said the Gilbert temple in particular is significant to the church because it is the largest temple built in 17 years. The temple is roughly 85,000 square feet and has five levels. Ms. Packard said the Gilbert temple is also remarkable in its decoration – the exterior walls are made of ivory stone and the art glass windows are based off the agave plant.

“It’s kind of a beautiful theme,” Ms. Packard said.

Ms. Packard said the temple’s dedication is also important to church members. On March 1, 2014, the temple will host a cultural celebration that will be broadcast to different chapels. The celebration will feature around 12,000 young church members from the valley. The next day, a leader will come from the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City and join members in dedicating the church. After this dedication, the temple becomes a “house for the Lord” in the eyes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once the temple is dedicated for this purpose, only members of the church are allowed to enter.

Though the temple is closed to non-members after its official dedication, the general public will have a chance to see the temple’s interior and learn more about its significance within the faith. From Jan. 18, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2014, the temple will host an open house. During this open house, the general public can get free tickets and see the inside of the temple every Monday-Saturday.

Mr. Keller said his congregation is also hosting a Q&A session for non-members regarding the temple. This Q&A session will take place on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 2700 E Galveston St. in Gilbert.

Editor's note: Lauren Thompson is a journalism student at Arizona State University. She is covering the Gilbert beat for an intermediate reporting and writing class this semester.

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