Mormon Newsroom
News Release

The Renovated Mesa Arizona Temple Opens to the Public This Week

The second major renovation of this 94-year-old house of the Lord is complete

Larry Frost was 10 years old and present when the Mesa Arizona Temple was first dedicated in 1927.

As the temple’s public open house begins this week (it starts on October 16 and ends on November 20, excluding Sundays), the 104-year-old Frost is excited for the temple’s December 12 rededication.

“I look forward to it,” said Frost, who served in the Mesa Temple for more than two decades. “I hope I get to go. The feeling you get in there [is] probably the same feeling you get when you go to heaven.”

Free open house tickets can be reserved at mesatemple.org/open-house.

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The Mesa Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been closed since May 2018 for major renovation. This is its second major refurbishment in its 94-year history. It was originally dedicated by Church President Heber J. Grant. It was rededicated in 1975 by President Spencer W. Kimball, who was raised in Arizona, following expansion and remodeling.

Senior Church leaders met with the media, including Hispanic journalists and social media influencers, to discuss the renovation and take them on a tour of the temple on Monday, October 12, 2021. 

“The Lord will be very pleased [with this remodel],” said Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric. “It’s clear that everyone that worked on it was blessed. It’s not easy to modernize a building that’s almost 100 years old.”

The Church considers each of its temples to be, as the text engraved on the exteriors says, a “house of the Lord.” Jesus Christ’s teachings are reaffirmed through special ceremonies and covenants. These are the faith’s most sacred worship spaces. As such, the Church seeks a high quality of production for each.

“Similar to temples of ancient times like Solomon’s Temple, we gather the best from the world to make the temple the house of the Lord,” said Andy Kirby, director of historic temple renovations for the Church. “We dedicate the best materials and craftsmanship to His house. It signifies the sacred nature and the special nature of a temple. It’s a sacred place on Earth where we can go to commune with God. That process really needs the best materials we can provide.”

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A view of the celestial room of the Mesa Arizona Temple. Lustrous crystalline chandeliers highlight the neoclassical motif with fluted pilasters and Corinthian capitals, which are offset by crystalline sconces. These, combined with exquisite hand-crafted furnishings, are designed to uplift the spirit and inspire the soul. Entering this sacred space represents the ultimate progression one can achieve: into heaven itself, May 2021.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Mesa Temple renovation improved both the temple exterior and interior. The visitors’ center (completed in August 2021) was relocated to enhance the view of the temple from Main Street. The temple grounds, accessible to anyone, feature an expanded reflection pool and are beautified with more than 300 olive and palm trees, along with other ornamental trees, preserved and relocated with other greenery. A new irrigation system keeps the landscape hydrated by collecting and reusing water.

The experiences for the Mesa Easter Pageant (staged in an open area north of the temple) and the Christmas lights are also improved. The stage for the pageant now faces west so patrons can await pageant productions with the sun to their backs instead of in their faces. And technology is now in place throughout the exterior to allow visitors to see Christmas lights and enjoy the beautiful grounds.

“The Church’s invitation to invite the community in for Christmas lights and Easter pageants, and just the very welcoming attitude that the Church has always had here, has created a tremendous amount of goodwill,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “We’re very fortunate as a city that the Church was willing to come and invest in our community, create something that’s going to last generations — and it’s top quality.”

Learn more about the Church’s recently completed redevelopment project in Mesa

Inside this house of the Lord are new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. In such a hot climate, said Dawson Stewart of Porter Brothers Construction, “if we do not improve the HVAC and the comfort level of this building, it won’t matter how nice everything else looks.”

The temple’s interior beauties, colors and motifs stay true to the colonial revival era. Design cues popular in 1920s America are found throughout. The classical grand hall, built of gray granite, looks just as it did when the temple was first built.

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A detailed arched door casing in the upper grand hall of the Mesa Arizona Temple shows off the Colonial Revival style, popular in 1920s America, that includes fluting, rosettes, and egg and dart motifs, May 2021.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Important works of art have been preserved and restored. These include murals in the grand hall depicting Joseph and Hyrum Smith sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Native American nations. Another mural shows John the Baptist giving Joseph and Hyrum the Aaronic Priesthood. Conservators removed layers of paint from years of modifications to the original works, reattached the canvas to the wall and filled in damaged areas.

“When you walk in the grand hall today, that’s about as close as we can get to the original without moving sections back around the room,” said Emily Utt, historic sites curator with the Church History Department. “When you look at the mural of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry to the priesthood, [John] has rays of light coming from him. All of those rays of light had been obscured over the years by other people painting over them. And so the mural conservators came in. They removed those elements. And J. Leo Fairbanks’ original John the Baptist is back in his full glory in this temple.”

Instruction room murals were removed to allow repairs to walls and upgrades to utilities. Remnants of the original murals are now displayed in other areas of the temple.

The Church commissioned Linda Curley Christensen and a team of artists to create new murals to encompass the four walls of each room, similar to how they appeared in 1927.

“All of the sketches were designed from the original photographs, and even the concept and intent of the original artist was maintained,” Christensen said. “I’ve thought a lot about each of those painters and studied their strokes and studied the remaining pieces and tried to understand what they were portraying, what their goal was. … I became very connected to feeling akin to them. I felt a harmony and a resonance with their intent in what I was portraying. I began to feel like I was just helping them refine and refresh something that they had begun to create.”

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A portion of the ceiling and walls show the ornate décor found in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Neoclassical cues of egg and dart, flutes, rosettes and urns accented with gold leaf are ever-present in the popular 1920s design, May 2021.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Hanging the new murals was a challenge with the rooms’ radiused corners and chamfered window enclosures. Linda’s team developed innovative ways of installation for a precise and consistent fit.

“There’s only one time you put up that canvas. That’s it,” said Linda’s husband, Gregory Lynn Christensen, supervisor of the mural installation. “And if you make a mistake, you have to live with it. And so we have to do it exactly right every time. It was just a huge, huge challenge. After it’s been painted and blended together, it looks like one piece of canvas that covers the entire wall. But it’s really 48 pieces.”

See this media kit PDF for additional details on the exterior and interior changes to the Mesa Arizona Temple.

A Model for Worship in Temples in Other Languages

When first built, the Mesa Arizona Temple was the Church’s seventh operating temple and the first temple in the Grand Canyon State (Arizona now has five other temples).

Many who have worshiped in this temple are Latinos. In 1945, when the Mesa Temple was the nearest house of the Lord for Latter-day Saints in the Southwestern United States and Central and South America, the Church made an important innovation. The faith responded to its growing Spanish-speaking population in these regions by conducting the temple ceremony (then done with live actors) in Spanish.

“This doesn’t seem like a big deal to us today because we have the temple available in so many languages,” Utt said. “But then the temple ceremony was completely live. So, they had to find members of the Church in the Phoenix area that were fluent in both Spanish and English and train them to do the entire temple ceremony in Spanish. It would have been a remarkable feat because not only did they have to be temple workers who knew the ceremony in English perfectly — they had to learn it in a second language just as well.”

The new option encouraged large groups of Latino families to make the trek to the Mesa Temple, often at great sacrifice. Elizabeth and Francisco Vallecillos sold all they owned to make the journey from El Salvador to Mesa.

“The reason why this temple is so special to me is because … it’s where we were sealed as a family,” Elizabeth said.

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A sealing room in the Mesa Arizona Temple. A replica crystalline chandelier, fluted pilasters and inlaid wood-backed chairs are reminiscent of the Colonial Revival style popular in the 1920s. Here, families are joined together for time and eternity, May 2021.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Expanding worship in the temple to Spanish speakers had ripple effects for the global Church, Utt said.

“Suddenly you could do temple work for your ancestors even if you weren’t from the United States or didn’t speak that language,” she said. “It opened up temple work and family history work for the entire Western Hemisphere. All of Mexico, all of South America was able to come to this temple because the Church did that bold thing in 1945 and did the temple ceremony in Spanish.”

Within 10 years, the Church translated the temple ceremony into additional languages. This included, at the Bern Switzerland Temple, the first film presentation of the ceremony. This was a blessing, Utt said, because temple workers no longer had to memorize “huge amounts of information in two languages at once.”

Local Latter-day Saints are excited to return to the worship experience in the Mesa Temple after a three-year hiatus.

“It’s amazing just stepping on the temple grounds,” said Sinia Lutui. “This place just holds a special meaning and a special place in my heart because this is where I grew up. But every temple is so important. Even just being on the temple ground, you feel the spirit of the Lord.”

The temple will be rededicated on Sunday, December 12, 2021, by President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency.

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