Rare op to view inside the Mormon temple

6 11 2010

A look at the interior of Laie Hawaii Temple with two special visitors to the studio.

My glee club sisters Nani and Rae came to see my paintings yesterday! In planning the day, Nani invited me to join them for a visit to the Mormon temple in Laie afterward. It is newly renovated, and it is open for public tours through November 13 (closed Sunday). An open house!

Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Laie, Oahu

Note: After the temple is re-dedicated on November 21, it will be closed to the public, so yesterday’s viewing was a rare opportunity for us. You can make a reservation to see it by phoning 1-866-537-8457.

None of us three are Mormon, but we were curious to see the temple interior and interested in hearing why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints builds temples and what the LDS beliefs were.

Clear signs from Kamehameha Highway in Laie directed us to the parking lot. There, ushers greeted us with white umbrellas for the rain and escorted us to a series of white tents for an orientation video, that gave a brief history of the Mormon religion, and for some remarks on what to expect on the 25-minute walking tour through the temple.

At the last minute I saw two familiar faces. My former project assistant Kura, ever cheery :-), and her husband  joined our group. Kura and David were married in the temple before the current renovation, and this was their first time to see the new look.

Before entering the front door, volunteers gave us booties to cover our shoes.

Once inside, a husband-and-wife team (we have now been greeted by seven church members) guided us through the halls and different rooms. There was an usher at every turn and doorway. Near the end of the tour I asked how many people staffed the milestone open house event. The number varies with the day and time of day or night, but all LDS members on the island of Oahu are involved, I was told.

For the uninitiated, an informative brochure explains that LDS members have churches, chapels, and other meeting facilities for their Sunday worship services and weekday activities. The temple, however, is considered to be the most sacred place on earth. It is reserved for LDS members who are worthy in the eyes of the church. Then, the more one visits the temple to study, the closer one can become to God.

On entering, I am immediately impressed with the superb wall-sized paintings, art glass windows, and bas-relief panels in the waiting area.  It is like being in an art museum. (Think Elgin marbles of the British Museum in London.) More large and fine paintings line the hallways and lovely murals line some of the rooms.

All of the interior space is very beautifully decorated, welcoming, serene, peaceful. Actually, it is divine, and designed to feel ethereal. (Think HGTV’s “Divine Design” with Candice Olson). I had a similar lightness of feeling touring Catherine Palace just outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. Tastefully grand. The temple, however, is much smaller, more intimate, and not ornate like the palace. Perhaps the way the art is treated reminds me of Catherine Palace.

What happens in the temple? LDS members believe in the Book of Revelations, eternal life, and are interested in their ancestors and their progeny, i.e., one’s family’s past, present, and future; hence, their dedication to genealogy research. In the temple one may perform baptisms for one’s ancestors who have died. A couple may seal their marriage and can have their children sealed to them forever. As one advances in the teachings given in the rooms for instruction on the commandments, one may grow spiritually closer to God.

Furnishings of hardwood, soft green upholstery and drapes, crystal chandeliers, gold leaf inlay, sculpted carpeting, white calla lilies, excellent craftsmanship — these decorated a waiting room, the men’s changing room (one must change into white clothes while in the temple), a bride’s dressing room, a baptismal font, instruction rooms, a sealing room, and the white celestial room at the top.

After the open house tour we were escorted to the refreshment tent for cookies, and Kura and David cordially chatted with us and answered our questions. Thanks, Nani, for inviting me. And thanks to the LDS church members for a pleasant and educational afternoon.

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

Rev. Rebekah Luke is ordained by the Universal Life Church that has two tenets: “freedom of religion” and “do the right thing.”

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