More than three years after it closed for a major renovation, the doors of the historic Mesa Arizona Temple open again this weekend for the first public open house tours since 1975, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in a news release.
The open house for the 94-year-old temple will run from Saturday, Oct. 16, through Saturday, Nov. 20, except for Sundays (Oct. 17, 24 and 31, and Nov. 7 and 14). To make a reservation, visit mesatemple.org/open-house.
A youth devotional is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 11.
President Dallin H. Oaks of the church’s First Presidency will preside at the temple’s rededication in three sessions on Sunday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.
Five church leaders participated in a news conference and media tours on Monday, the Church News reported.
Those on hand were Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the church’s Temple Department; and Elder Paul B. Pieper, a General Authority Seventy and president of the church’s North America Southwest Area.
“The Lord will be very pleased (with this remodel),” Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, of the Presiding Bishopric, said in a news release. “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 Mesa Arizona Temple district includes the cities of Mesa, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Payson and parts of Phoenix and Tempe. It will serve about 83,000 members who attend 215 congregations, 17 of which speak Spanish.
There are more than 436,000 Latter-day Saints in Arizona attending 926 congregations, according to the church.
History of the Mesa Arizona Temple
The Mesa Arizona Temple was announced on Oct. 1, 1919. Local Latter-day Saints donated $125,000 to the temple construction fund.
The groundbreaking took place on April 25, 1922. The design was inspired by Solomon’s temple of ancient Jerusalem.
- Church leaders and members gathered for the Mesa temple dedication ceremonies, Oct. 23-27, 1927. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- The celestial room of the Mesa Arizona Temple at its completion in 1927. Fluted pilasters with Corinthian capitals are design cues popular in the Colonial Revival style of 1920s America. Entering this sacred space represents the ultimate progression one can achieve: into heaven itself. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Early stages of building the Mesa Arizona Temple (then called the Mesa Temple). Construction began in 1923 and took more than four years to complete. Architects chose terra cotta blocks for the cladding of the temple. The dedication took place October 23-27, 1927. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- An aerial view of the Mesa Arizona Temple circa 1950. Its 20-acre grounds were used to grow plants such as citrus trees, pictured here, on the south end of the property. During the Depression, alfalfa and corn was grown. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A view from the upper grand hall of the Mesa Arizona Temple at its completion in 1927. The project broke ground in 1923 and took over four years to complete. The dedication took place October 23–27, 1927. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A rebar reinforced concrete frame before blocks of terra cotta were used to clad the Mesa Arizona Temple is pictured in 1924. The project broke ground in 1923 and took over four years to complete. The dedication took place October 23-27, 1927. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The temple was originally dedicated by President Heber J. Grant on Oct. 23, 1927.
Larry Frost was 10 years old when he attended the first dedication. Now 104 years old, Frost hopes to attend the rededication on Dec. 12.
“I look forward to it,” Frost said in a news release. “I hope I get to go. The feeling you get in there (is) probably the same feeling you get when you go to heaven.”
When originally dedicated, the Mesa temple was the church’s seventh operating temple and the first in the Grand Canyon State. Arizona now has six temples (Mesa, Phoenix, Gilbert, The Gila Valley, Tucson and Snowflake).
One interesting note about the history of the Mesa temple is that it was the first in the church to conduct the temple ceremony in Spanish using live actors in 1945. This was done to accommodate a growing Spanish-speaking population and because the Mesa temple was the nearest for Latter-day Saints in the southwestern U.S., Central and South America regions.
The renovations of the Mesa Arizona Temple
The Mesa Arizona Temple was first renovated in the mid-1970s.
President Spencer W. Kimball, who was raised in Arizona, rededicated the Mesa temple on April 16, 1975.
A second temple renovation started in 2018, which included the relocation of the visitors’ center to enhance the view of the temple from Main Street.
Elder Ulisses Soares, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the new Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center in August.
While the Mesa temple was being renovated, the church orchestrated a three-year community revitalization project with the city that included 240 apartments, 12 town houses, 70,000 square feet of landscaped open space, ground floor retail space and underground parking.
New features outside and inside the Mesa Arizona Temple
The new temple grounds feature an expanded reflection pool, more than 300 olive and palm trees, as well as other ornamental trees, preserved and relocated with other greenery.
A new irrigation system will keep the landscape hydrated by collecting and reusing water.
The new grounds will improve the Mesa Easter Pageant, which is staged in an open area north of the temple, and technology has been added to enhance the Christmas lights. 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.
Inside, those who tour the temple will see the same colors and motifs of the original temple, as well as other popular designs from the 1920s. The classical grand hall, built of gray granite, looks just as it did when the temple was first built.
- View of the grand foyer of the Mesa Arizona Temple. More than 50 decorative paints from the original 1920s color palette were used to bring this room back to its original luster. Checkerboard marble flooring from Turkey and Spain and marble wainscot and base from the original quarry in Birdseye, Utah, are some of the other materials used. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A view of the redesigned front entrance (west side) of the Mesa Arizona Temple with artwork of the Savior Jesus Christ as the central focus. Dark walnut finishes, checkerboard marble flooring from Turkey and Spain, and marble wainscot and base from the original quarry in Birdseye, Utah, help bring back the authentic Colonial Revival décor of the 1920s. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- The Mesa Arizona Temple underwent an extensive three-year exterior and interior renovation that included a new guest waiting area just off the main entrance. All interior changes were done within the existing footprint of the structure. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A view of an instruction room in the Mesa Arizona Temple. This is where members learn about God’s creation and the purpose of life. New murals that honor the original murals’ artists cover the walls. Unique to the Mesa temple, patrons advance room to room. Each instruction room is slightly elevated above the previous, symbolizing progression to heaven. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- The Mesa Arizona Temple baptismal font. Its purpose is in keeping with the Savior’s commandment that all must be baptized. Here, temple patrons act on behalf of those who didn’t have that chance in this life. The font is cladded with rare terra cotta tiles and rests on oxen, also made of terra cotta, that represent the 12 tribes of Israel. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 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. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 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. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 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. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- The bride’s room in the Mesa Arizona Temple. A crystal chandelier, decorative friezes just below the crown molding, mahogany-framed mirrors from Vietnam and custom-painted walls are some of the features designed to create a warm and calm ambiance. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- 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. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A detailed arched door casing of the celestial room in the Mesa Arizona Temple shows off the Colonial Revival style, popular in 1920s America, that includes fluting, rosettes, cartouches, and egg and dart motifs, accented with gold leaf. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A major project during the Mesa Arizona Temple renovation was the restoration of two murals in the upper grand hall. The original artwork depicts the first president of the church, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum sharing the message of the gospel to the Native American nations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A team of muralists install a large section of canvas in one of the instruction rooms of the Mesa Arizona Temple in July 2020. They use an innovative process that allows precise placement of the large swaths of material. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- A view of the rare terra cotta-clad baptismal font in the Mesa Arizona Temple baptistry. Oxen representing the 12 tribes of Israel shoulder the font. Here, in keeping with the Savior’s commandment that all must be baptized, temple patrons can act on behalf of those who did not have the chance in this life, as an offering to those departed. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Remnants of one of the murals originally covering the walls of the instruction rooms are now displayed in other areas of the Mesa Arizona Temple. The artwork needed to be removed to allow room for repairs and the updating of utilities behind the walls of the instruction rooms. New murals that pay homage to the original artists’ concepts now decorate those rooms. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Mural artist Linda Curly Christensen adds foliage onto the newly installed instruction room mural in the Mesa Arizona Temple in July 2020. The touch-up process hides the seams of the 15-foot sections of canvas to produce a seamless finish. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Artwork has been preserved and restored, including 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.
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.
Every effort was made to preserve the original grand hall, said Emily Utt, historic sites curator with the Church History Department.
“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,” Utt said. “When you look at the mural of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery 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.”
Linda Curley Christensen and a team of artists were commissioned by the church 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.”
The temple also has new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.