To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, temples are the most sacred spaces on earth, where we seek to feel close to God, to make promises to follow His Son, Jesus Christ, and where we learn about life’s purpose and our part in God’s plan. What a privilege it has been for us during these past few weeks to welcome our friends and neighbors to the temple. I have been touched by the response of so many in our community who have come — sometimes repeatedly — to see and understand why temples are so important to our faith.

Temple worship has been a pattern for Latter-day Saints since the Church was founded in 1830. Almost immediately, early Church members began work on the first temple in Kirtland, Ohio. From that time to the present, Mormons have built temples wherever they have settled, including in Arizona, where Mormon pioneers were among the first to settle in the Valley of the Sun. Now, there are more than 140 temples around the globe, and the Gilbert Temple is among the largest and most beautiful ever constructed.

But why do we build them?

Temples have been an important part of worship since the earliest days of the Old Testament, when God provided His people with detailed instructions about the construction of temples and the worship that would occur there. Modern temples are similarly constructed with the finest materials and workmanship. They are places of peace and beauty for all in the community, and for LDS Church members, they are where we go to strengthen our faith and feel close to God.

Many people who have visited the Gilbert Temple recently have shared their feelings.

“This temple is a beacon of hope, faith and love to all those who come to this sacred building and its beautiful grounds,” said Gov. Jan Brewer. “It is a special place, a place of spiritual refuge in this troubled world.”

Local church leader, President Jay Andersen, said, “Sacred places can certainly benefit society. They can be a physical reminder that there is more to life than the hustle and bustle of everyday living. Sacred places can remind us that there is more to life than this one.”

In a very personal way, I have felt close to those who have visited during this special time. As I’ve guided people through the temple, I’ve felt a close connection to them, and I am reminded that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. We are grateful for the warm reception this temple has received from community officials, media, leaders of diverse faiths, and most especially from the good people of this area, who have all responded to the temple in a warm and gracious way.

The Gilbert Temple has not yet been dedicated for worship and welcomes all visitors to tour the building and grounds through mid-February. Visitors can avoid wait times by registering for free tickets online at www.gilbertmormontemple.org. For detailed information about LDS temple worship, visit www.lds.org and search “temple worship.”

• Cindy Packard is Greater Phoenix Area Public Affairs representative for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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