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A giant temple in my back yard

Sep 20, 2023

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been busy recently announcing a number of new temples, especially here in the United States. When you look at many of the announcements, they would be what you might expect in terms of size and the population centers where they will be built. Here are some examples of the recent announcements:

  • Fort Worth, Texas, population 957,000, temple size 33,000 square feet

  • Austin, Texas, population 964,000, temple size 30,000 square feet

  • Bakersfield, California, population 403,500, temple size 30,000 square feet

  • Modesto, California, population 218,000, temple size 30,000 square feet

  • San Jose, California, population 1,000,000, temple size 30,000 square feet

  • Grand Rapids, Michigan, population 199,000, temple size 20,000 square feet

However, one recent announcement stands out in stark contrast to those listed above and most of those recently built. The LDS Church has proposed an 88,000-square-foot temple in Heber City.

Heber City’s population is 16,859. If you wanted to include all of Wasatch County, where Heber City resides, the population is 38,166. So the church is proposing an 88,000 square foot structure in a rural/residential community.

For perspective, the LDS Church is proposing to build a temple 60% larger than the White House next to hay fields and residential homes.

It gets even more curious: The proposed temple will have two spires, one rising to 210 feet and the other to over 140 feet in the air. To compound the spectacle, the temple will be built on an approach to the Heber Valley Airport. So to accommodate the FAA, the building will require red lights and the tallest spire will need flashing red lights at the top 24 hours a day.

I think you would be hard pressed to find any architect from any notable university that would find the aesthetics and scale of this proposed temple is in any way appropriate.

So how did we get here?

That is a question that many of us are wondering and perhaps even some in the LDS Church. These temples are opulent structures. Little expense is spared in the materials used in building them and lighting them. Recent temples have had limestone quarried from Bethlehem and Turkey, wood imported from the Congo River, and the most modern lighting available.

In the words of a church bishop, Gérald Caussé, “We have a vision of the church that is, can I say, grandiose.” With a cost estimated near $90 million (based on a recent Wall Street Journal article) that is an understatement and especially in a small community of 17,000 people.

Building temples is not the problem, per se. Other religions, like Islam and Hindi, build them as well. But are there no limits?

I was raised a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Building temples, whether for the glorification of God or for outreach to grow the flock, is not a part of that faith. Lutheran teaching more often focused on charity, austerity, morality and humility — some of the defining characteristics of Jesus. It is hard to find any of those characteristics in the building of this temple at this expense in a community of this size.

Maybe those characteristics are not important in this case. Maybe it is about showing devotion and the glorification of God. Then I guess there will be much less of that in Austin, Fort Worth and Bakersfield.

I am not sure how the LDS Church decides. But is it not possible to show devotion and to glorify God, for let’s say half the money and scope of this temple while putting the rest to work on some of those other teachings of Jesus I am more familiar with?

Bruce Quade

Heber City

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