New LDS Center in Mesa Serves Multiple Purposes | New
MEsa’s historic connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is impossible to ignore, from the covered wagons full of settlers to the streets named after pioneers, to the temple which is part of the city center. city since 1927.
The Church’s recently opened Mesa Arizona Tempe Visitor Center seeks to chronicle this heritage and share it for future generations. It is also a vital step towards the reopening of the historic temple in December, with the two facilities set to operate in tandem for years to come.
“We are living through a difficult time when people are losing their connection with God,” Ulisses Soares, a senior Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said at a press conference after the center was dedicated.
“This building will help people understand what we believe in and introduce people to the temple,” he said.
The new visitor center combines several different functions in one building, telling the story of Mesa and its intersection with the church while also serving a missionary function by introducing non-members to the beliefs and practices of the church.
The church’s emphasis on genealogy also offers members and non-members a unique free service, where volunteers will help them trace their family roots back to many generations.
The center also has spaces specially designed for young adults in order to help them develop their identity and foster a sense of belonging.
For practical reasons, the visitors’ center serves an important function for the church due to its own rules.
While the church anticipates that hundreds of thousands of members and non-members will visit the renovated temple in October and November, such access is very rare and will not be permitted after dedication.
Only church members in good standing are permitted to enter temples, where “sacred ordinances” are performed, including weddings and baptisms. Even members are required to have a recommendation from church officials to gain access to the temple.
For this and other reasons, the visitor center presents a realistic model of the temple and explains its functions. Temples differ from church facilities of other denominations in that they do not have a gathering area where members would attend services.
Instead, Church members attend services in stake centers, with temples dedicated to sacred ordinances.
“Our hope is that church members invite friends and family to visit the temple,” said Denny Barney, church spokesperson, former Maricopa County supervisor and PHX East president. Valley Partnership.
“Our goal is not conversion,” said Barney. “It’s to give people a sense of who we are and what we believe in. “
He said the church has about 435,000 members in Arizona. It is estimated that 400,000 to 500,000 guests are expected to visit the temple between October 16 and November 20, except Sunday.
Barney said the drop-in center is “really focused on young adults, 18-25, who feel disconnected from their family and their faith.”
“It’s really more of a unifying resource than a social service resource,” he said, with other departments providing counseling services.
The reception center is open to the public
Daily. Anyone wishing to visit the temple must make a reservation on mesatemple.org.
The Ancestry Research Center, located on the second floor, features a series of computers and large computer screens where volunteers will help visitors develop their family tree.
Visitors can also search if
they are related to one of the pioneer families of Mesa.
Mark Freeman, Mesa City Council member and retired Mesa firefighter, proudly displayed his family tree on his cell phone during the press conference.
Freeman’s roots go back to the family of Charles Crismon, who is considered one of the four founding fathers of Mesa. Crismon is commemorated on a statue in Pioneer Park, opposite the visitor’s center, with fellow pioneers Frances Pomeroy, Charles Robson and George W. Sirrine.
“I would like to invite anyone to come to the center to find your ancestry. I think it’s invaluable for people to know their ancestry, ”Freeman said. “It gives you potential, to know what people have done for us. “
Beyond developing a sense of identity, genealogical research is an essential tool in which church members practice their faith through the sometimes controversial ritual of baptism of the dead.
Tanner Kay, Project Manager and Experiment Creator, is a native of Mesa who helped design the center. He said his work was deeply personal to him because his family stretches back seven generations in the city.
“When I was young, I read the newspapers of my great, great, great grandfather,” Kay said, saying the experience had a huge impact on his life.
A video on the second floor of the visitor’s center explains the church’s baptismal practices, which begin with full immersion. The religious aim of ancestral research is to find relatives who died decades ago and to baptize their “spirits”.
After locating the records, church members enter the baptismal font and “represent” their ancestors at baptismal ceremonies. It is up to the spirits to accept baptism or not, he said.
However, the church has been criticized in the past for baptizing Holocaust victims, celebrities and politicians with no obvious connection to their church. In response, the church launched a series of guarantees, requiring church members to obtain permission from a living relative before baptizing someone.
“All Church members are encouraged to submit names for proxy baptism only for their own deceased relatives as a family love offering,” according to the church’s website.