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TOURS GO SMOOTHLY AT MOUNT TIMPANOGOS TEMPLE

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Visitors began pouring onto the grounds of the Mount Timpanogos LDS Temple Saturday, and it appeared American Fork was ready.

Despite a series of setbacks suffered by the city and Utah County in getting key roads ready for the influx of visitors, everything seemed to flow smoothly on the first day of the six-week temple open house."There were absolutely no problems," said American Fork Police Chief John Durrant. "The traffic flow was very heavy but consistent throughout the day."

American Fork officials were told about 25,000 people would visit the city each day beginning Saturday until Sept. 21, when the open house concludes. Besides the out-of-town visitors, the temple site will also be inundated with local residents taking a peek at what's going on and normal business traffic, Durrant said.

All the cars were expected to wreak havoc on what once were little-used roads surrounding the temple. But American Fork and Utah County officials were able to complete road improvements just in time.

"The roads into the temple were more than adequate," Durrant said. "We're very pleased. But we also realize we still have six weeks to go."

On Saturday, two of the roads people worried most about - 1100 East and 700 North - were lined with white temple flags as well as U.S. and Utah flags.

The newly paved streets and directional signs were apparently enough to get most of the visitors to the temple without a hitch.

Once they arrived, visitors were guided by volunteers into expansive parking lots. Tours of the temple, which also featured a short video presentation, lasted about half an hour. Most liked what they saw.

"It's really beautiful," said Larry Johnson of Cody, Wyo. "We're kind of hoping they build one up by us someday."

Johnson, along with his wife and eight children, made the trip to Utah for a wedding. When they found out the temple open house was going on at the same time, they got tickets. Johnson said he felt fortunate to get enough tickets for his family because he called to reserve them just Friday.

Another family from Layton on their way to Park City decided on the spur of the moment to detour through American Fork in order to see The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' newest temple. They also felt fortunate because they got tickets at the gate. Others have been planning their trips to the open house for weeks.

Jeff Hansen of Provo toured the temple in the late afternoon with family members from Salt Lake City and Virginia.

"It was beautiful," he said. "I liked it because it was a self-guided tour and they kept people moving through the temple quickly. They did a good job of crowd control."

Signs posted in a tent full of displays about the LDS Church and inside the temple itself were printed in both English and Spanish. Guides positioned at various locations on the tour said they had already welcomed visitors from all over Utah, several Western states and as far away as Holland.

The day's warm temperatures put a premium on the few small patches of shade provided by young trees on the temple grounds, but air-conditioned canvas tents and temporary outdoor drinking fountains provided some relief.

Many of the visitors were seeing the inside of an LDS temple for the first time. Others, already familiar with temples and the worshiping that goes on inside, still couldn't resist the opportunity.

"It was definitely worth it," said Vera VanderKnaap of Salt Lake City. "I couldn't pass up the chance to come and see it. They each have a personality all their own."

The open house, which officials say may draw as many as 1.5 million people, continues through Sept. 21. Officials say tickets are still available.

Plans for the Mount Timpanogos Temple - which sits directly in the shadow of Mahogany Mountain, and further back, Timpanogos - were announced by LDS officials in October 1992. Construction began about a year later. When it is dedicated Oct. 13, the temple will become the LDS Church's 49th operating temple and the ninth in Utah.