For the first time in 64 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is opening the doors to its flagship place of worship – the Hamilton Temple in New Zealand.
Journalist Te Aorewa Rolleston was able to take a first look inside.
From atop a wide hill, the pristine white exterior of the Great Temple overlooks the village of Temple View.
I had passed through the village several times, and something about this temple has always caught my attention.
As one of the elders of the church says, the temple was the center of their community.
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“We live in the light of the temple,” said the elder.
“As you walk through the temple what you will see are beautiful images of the savior, he is at the very center of everything we do.”
About 4,000 followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — better known outside the church as Mormons — volunteered to build the temple.
At 47.5m high and 4,204 square meters in area, it is peacefully surrounded by the village of Temple View, which itself looks like something out of a simulation: pristine streets and lawns and clean, but barely a soul to be seen quietly. weekday visit.
The Church has not opened the temple to the public and non-followers since its completion in 1958.
Once a temple is built, it is consecrated and becomes sacred. Those of faith who meet the requirements can enter, while others cannot.
After carrying out renovations to the interior since 2018, including reinforcement and seismic upgrades, this year people of all faiths had the opportunity to tour the grand structure.
It is a once in a lifetime experience.
Arriving at the temple entrance, several volunteers offered to help put white plastic coverings on visitors’ feet to protect the soft carpets. Cameras are not allowed.
There’s an eerie quiet in the building’s lobby as we pass an unoccupied reception down a hallway where shelves of white jumpsuits hang in perfect rows.
“We believe that we are all the same and we are all equal,” said an Elder.
These are the garments that each member of the church changed upon entering the temple.
We are guided into the Baptistry Room, it is a living room-like area, with a small round pool, the baptismal font, serving as the focal point. It is supported by seven oxen sculpted to symbolize the seven prophets of the Bible.
The baptismal font is not a place for the living but rather for the dead, where the faithful of the church can offer prayers and messages to those who have passed away.
Those of the faith say their ancestors are central to their beliefs and existence because there is an eternal bond each member forms with their family.
Another captivating location is the sealing room, it is an immaculately furnished room with plush furnishings and a cushioned section in the center where couples kneel and make their pledges to each other.
This is where “a man and a woman” are sealed in an eternal bond, through marriage.
“Marriage can be for eternity” says the church.
But it is above all the Celestial Room that resonates the most.
Furnished and tidy like an upscale hotel but without the hustle and bustle, it’s a quiet place for reflection and, for believers, for prayer. It envelops its occupants in tranquility under chandeliers and amid flowery vases and gold leaf.
We sat in that room for a few minutes in complete silence. One begins to reflect on life, adversity, friendships, family, experiences and hopes, whether one is religious or not.
Until September 17, the Church is holding Temple tours, during which it expects to welcome thousands of people.
On October 16, the Temple will be rededicated and the sacred veil will once again be placed over the structure.