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New Mormon temple welcomes visitors

July 29, 2005|By: TONY DODERO

No, that was not some secret ritual. The reason was simple -- to

keep the carpets clean, something my wife would appreciate.

In fact, the tour was designed to clear up lots of misconceptions

about the temple and the rituals performed there.

"As you come in the temple, you leave the world behind," our tour

guide Roy Christensen said. "A temple isn't secret; it's sacred."

The first thing you see is the baptismal font that sits atop a

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sculpture of 12 oxen, which represents the 12 tribes of Israel.

Next we visited the Ordinance Room, a room of instruction whose

walls are splashed with a California-coastal-themed mural. It's a

stunning room.

Peterson pointed out to me that as we went from room to room, we

climbed a little higher through the building. In addition, each room

gets lighter, symbolizing how more light comes into your life as you

become more versed in the ways of the church, she and Christensen

explained.

Continuing the tour, we saw the Bride's Room, where brides prepare

for marriage, and the Celestial Room, where we all stood in silence

to admire its architecture and beauty and of course its dazzling,

14-foot chandelier.

We visited the Sealing Room, which Christensen noted is the most

sacred place in the temple.

"The highest ordinance of the temple is performed here," he said.

An ordinance, I should explain, is a ceremony or ritual, such as

baptism or marriage. It's one of the biggest reasons why Mormons are

so happy to have a temple, rather than just the chapel or stake

center that sits adjacent to the new building.

"That building [the stake center] is busy all week long with

activities," said J. Donald Turner, a church member and Newport Beach

dentist for more than 30 years. "The temple is something different

entirely. It's where those members of the church who qualify can take

part in ordinances."

For example, a civil wedding can happen in the chapel, but

weddings that seal or bind families for eternity can only take place

in the temple, Turner said.

Building the Newport Beach temple to serve the 50,000 Mormon

church members in Orange County means that Orange County Mormons

won't have to travel to Los Angeles or San Diego to attend a temple.

"It fulfilled all of my expectations," Turner said of the new

building. "It looks so beautiful inside and out. I just feel the

community is going to be so pleased."

After all the arguments and concerns about the temple, a quick

tour like the one I took most likely will assure community members

that they have a treasure in their neighborhood.

Public open house of the temple will take place every day except

Sunday through Aug. 20. The dedication of the temple will take place

Sunday Aug. 28 and after that, the only thing open to the public will

be the temple grounds at the 8.8-acre site.

Tied to the temple opening is the 175th birthday of the Mormon

church and the 200th birthday of its founder, Joseph Smith.

Turner summed up the feeling of local church members best with

these words:

"We didn't, in our wildest dream, think we would have a temple in

Newport Beach. It's a dream come true."

* TONY DODERO is the editor. He may be reached at (714) 966-4608

or by e-mail at tony.dodero@latimes.com.

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