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April 7th, 2012
08:48 AM ET

Taking a rare tour of a Mormon temple

By Eric Marrapodi and Brian Todd, CNN

Kansas City, Missouri (CNN) – Elder William Walker slipped white booties over his black wing-tip shoes and instructed his guests to do the same as he led them into the newest Mormon temple in the world.

This day was the first chance the public had to see inside the sacred space for the area’s 49,000 Mormons, and it was also one of the last.

On May 6, when Thomas S. Monson, the head of the 14 million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, dedicates this temple, the doors will close forever to the public. The church said it expects as many as 100,000 visitors in Kansas City before the temple will be closed to the public.

After that, only temple-recommended Mormons will be able to walk through the heavy wooden and stained-glass doors.

“This is a sacred space, set apart place for only those who are devout followers of the faith,” Walker said.

For Mormons, temples serve as places of contemplation, instruction and worship experiences, like weddings and posthumous baptisms.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The 67-year-old Walker is the executive director of the Temple Department, and he is the point man for the church’s 137 temples.

Walker is a top official in the LDS church as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and he reports directly to Monson. The Canadian-born hockey fanatic has been a lifelong member of the church. He graduated from Brigham Young University, served a Mormon mission to Japan and spent time in the private sector working in securities and investment banking before being called to serve the church full-time in 2002.

Kansas City’s temple is the latest to open. The church has announced it will build 29 temples across five continents. Construction is under way in Paris and Rome, and temples are planned for Peru and South Africa.

“We’re building temples where the church is grown and have a concentration of members,” he said.

Outside the new Mormon temple in Kansas City, Missouri.

Inside the temple the required first stop is the Recommend Desk. After the dedication, only Mormons who have a recommend card are able to enter and participate in worship. The personalized cards are given by local church leaders to adherents who profess to be living in accordance with church teachings.

As he explained the process, Walker reached into his wallet, pushed his Utah driver’s license aside and pulled out his recommend card, which was endorsed by Monson, his bishop. Walker said his credit-card-sized recommend card, like all others, is only good for two years.

CNN was invited by church officials to tour the temple with Walker before its dedication. The church denied CNN's request to film inside the space, saying it was against church policy. The LDS church provided still images after the tour, which accurately depicted key parts of the temple. In a rare move, CNN was permitted to film inside the front of the temple at the Recommend Desk, but no farther.

"It's not about secret. It's about sacred,” Walker said after the tour, making what the church sees as a key distinction. “We feel that it's a very sacred and special place and therefore it is reserved for those worship functions and those ordinances that take place in the temple. It's not about secret."

Walker said the policy is not unlike that for Shinto shrines in Japan, where he served his mission.

But it's a thin line between sacred and secret. Public tours of the temple are only available when they are first built or undergo massive renovations. After that, outsiders and Mormons who are not temple recommended are kept out, even from wedding ceremonies.

In the sealing room, where eternal weddings take place, Walker points out the altar at the center of the room. The bride and groom kneel facing each other and the officiant stands off to the side. The room is richly decorated with Swarovski crystal chandeliers and massive gilded mirrors on either side of the room, and Walker raves about the design on the white carpet, carefully explaining how local artisans cut the meticulous pattern by hand.

Despite the grand size of the building, each room is small: This is the biggest of the three sealing rooms, and its capacity is just 49 people.

Guests are welcome at Sunday worship at one of the church’s 18,000 meeting houses, Walker is quick to note. The temple, he observes, “is a sacred, special place that’s unique. There are only 137 of these temples in all the world.”

The temple also contains a gleaming baptismal font. Though it’s a point of pride for Mormons, it has been controversial elsewhere. A church ceremony called “proxy baptisms” by Mormons includes posthumous baptisms of Jews, some of whom have protested the practice.

The baptismal font at the newest Mormon temple.

However, in Mormon doctrine, baptism is essential for salvation. While converts to the faith are baptized in services at local wards, the weekly meeting place for services open to the public, proxy baptisms take place only in the temple and in private.

The proxy baptisms are supposed to be for Mormons’ ancestors who were not of the faith. Walker said the baptism serves as an invitation to accept Mormonism as an avenue into heaven.

Explainer: How and why do Mormons baptize the dead?

At the temple, Walker took his visitors through the process as it is supposed to work.

The font rests on 12 oxen, which he said represent the tribes of Israel.

Adherents change into white gowns he jokingly referred to as "jumpsuits," provided by the temple. A male priest leads the proxy into the waist-high water, gives the blessing and the name of the ancestor, then the proxy is lowered into the water, fully immersed, then brought up to the surface. The desk next to the font has a small monitor and a light. That person's job is to record the act for the church's central database.

When the temple begins operation, Walker said, this is a scene that will play out “hundreds of times a day.”

But some Mormons have used the church’s extensive genealogy database to baptize others who are not Mormon ancestors, such as the murdered Jewish reporter Daniel Pearl and holocaust victims like Anne Frank. It’s a practice that has outraged Jewish leaders.

“When people violate the church policy of doing baptisms for those who our leaders have said we’re not going to do that, they’re acting on their own in contradiction of church policy,” he said. “We’re unhappy about that. We love our Jewish friends. We don’t want to offend them or anyone else by our religious practices.”

“We’re sorry. We live by our word and when we say we’re going to do something, we’re going to try and do it,” Walker said.

He promised disciplinary action.

“We’re now tracking those who’ve done this contrary to church policy and we’re going to shut down their access to the church’s database, Family Search, so they can’t do this.”

He acknowledges interest in proxy baptisms, and other Mormon practices, has spiked thanks to Mormon Mitt Romney’s run for president.

While the church takes no position on party politics nor allows its officials to endorse candidates, Walker can see some good coming out of Romney's run for the White House.

“I think it’s perfectly understandable people who are considering him would want to know more about the church he espouses,” he said. “In many ways it may be a good thing that people will want to know more. Maybe some of the old ideas about the church that have persisted in American culture can change.”

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Content Partner • Faith Now • TV-The Situation Room

soundoff (4,366 Responses)
  1. Gary Duits

    The fool says that there is no God,,,, that's because he is A FOOL,hence we have April fool's day ! Happy Easter every One.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • YeahOk

      Things prayer changes... Nothing.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • biologixco

      Now there's a positive response...

      April 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • another repentant sinner

      Prayer changed my life .

      April 7, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  3. Gary Duits

    The fool says that there is no God,,,, that's because he is A FOOL,hencse we have April fool's day !!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • YeahOk

      So clever. Did you make that up all yourself?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So, is April 1st a religious holiday, dear? Is it on the church calendar? Do you hold special services in recognition of it?

      And you wonder why people ridicule you.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  4. A little bug who lived in a fig tree

    Jesus destroyed my house!
    Jesus, you're a real stupid asshole!!
    I'm glad they killed you!!!!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  5. Orphaned Fig Tree

    Jesus killed my mommy!!!
    JESUS IS A MURDERER!!!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • biologixco

      Planet Kolob is calling....

      April 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  6. Brian Forte

    Why does the mormon faith receive so much attention?
    Oh wait, is there a potential presidential candidate running for office that is mormon?!?!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Oh, wait

      Oh, wait!

      April 7, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • O.T.

      And CNN is practically the media arm of the Obama reelection campaign. Notice how Obama gets messianic photos, his opponents the worst ones possible.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • biologixco

      Because they are a cult like scientology and islam.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • YeahOk

      EXchristian.net

      April 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Laura

      What amazes me is that CNN FAILED to report that the Mormon's (LDS) also "posthumously baptize" people who knowingly rejected them in life, and chose to be real Christians instead. Does CNN even know that they have already "Posthumously baptized" General Robert E. Lee (a devote Anglican)? I know that the LDS Church have forced this abomination on some of my Catholic, Methodist, Mennonite, and Lutheran deceased family members because I called their temple and asked! When will this church come clean and admit to their devious offensive practices against fellow Christians? I want to know!

      April 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Randy

      You also should have asked if the baptism ment your honored ancestors where now LDS. The answer is this, the dead choose rather to accept the baptism or not. Heavenly Father gave all his childern free will.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  7. Pipe-Dreamer

    Most religions of today's timeperiod believe there to be but One God. After that, the gloves are off. I believe there to be One God who begat Creation and many of God's Sons who begat Creation's creations or Life Forms as we now know them to be. Even within the Gospels wherein the scriptures of Genesis God is mentioned to have said "Let us" meaning quite arguably that there were others around God in the very 1st moments of Creationism. Kahpeesh?

    April 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "capisce", ya fuckin' brain-dead idiot.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Furthermore, in scripture is made mention, "The Sons of God" and if correct, it was also said within Genesis. It may well be that Momonists who see Satan as being Christ Jesus' brother are bellowing such reasoning around what Genesis did say regarding this/these very scripture(s). Still with me?.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      TOMMIE TWO SHOES,,,,,,,,,,,

      I am a phonetics engineer and no longer have a dictionary within my computer,,,,, EEEGash, I am but a lard of a tard,,, :-)

      April 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nope. You're a drooling troll. Nobody is "with" you.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, you are a lard of a tard, all right. That's about the only thing you've posted that is remotely intelligible, and I doubt you are the real poster.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

      Surely God was not speaking to himself when He spoke the words, "Let us". This is a problem for many of Christendom's Churches to consider. They stand mostly mute and rarely if ever want to explain it away. They, Christendoms Churches also seem to get this verse as being the creation of mankind wrong as well. If I were to say, "Let us build automobiles in our own image and build them after our likeness", would they appear to us as being likenesses of our bodies? God forbid!

      April 7, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Uh-huh. And if you were to say, "Blaha, ahhal, blahs duh vomit deep dommuptlp-0-2034uiojal.." , it would be just as meaningful.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  8. gregor1971

    The way I look at it is that Mormons are no more weird than any other religion. I work with a handful, and they are truly the most honest and integritous people I know. They are an extrmely happy people, and that has to be worth something. My Mormon neighbor even told me that they have tons of emergency supplies tucked away in the house, and that it is not just for them but for their neighbors as well. Nice to know that if the Big One ever hits here in California, my Mormon neighbors have my back.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  9. Ryan in Miami

    WARNING!!! Comments connected to stories having to do with religion may lack of any kind of civility, logic, reason, or educated insights. Reading the comment section, without a grain of salt, may make you as stupid and ignorant as the posters themselves.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • biologixco

      Thank you for your intellectual insight (?)

      April 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • gregor1971

      It is too bad. Like I said in my other post, the Mormons I know are just so honest and sincere, and the guys I work with are just so highly intelligent. They really have it together. Can't say anything about it. They don't don't complain about the persecution from other churches/believers when we talk religion (I am not religious, by the way). Just real down-to-earth people, and that's really the only way I can judge a religion – by its adherents.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  10. Chuck D

    Mormonism is simply a sect of Freemasonry. Joseph Smith started the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge and invented the Mormon long underwear with Masonic symbols sewn into it. Romney will serve the Masons above all others. He has sworn an oath. The Masons are pure evil at the highest levels and the lowers levels serve the interests of the Grand Architect of Freemasonry without full knowledge of what they are really doing. Romney was the worshipful master of his community lodge before he ran for president. BTW, the Shriners were created after Freemasonry was banned. It was a good works sect designed to draw attention away from the evil done by Masons and put a happy face on the secret society.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Chris F

      Interesting theory Chuck. You seem to know more about the church I've been going to for over 20 years than I do. Everything you just said is 100% false. Watch what sites you go to for information :) it doesn't do anyone any good. I appreciate your understanding, thanks.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  11. Russ

    http://bibtruth.com/1vis.html

    Best that this cult gets the exposure of the press and the truth, else we'll blindly elect one of these fools to the highest public office in the land.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Jason

      Harry Reid.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • biologixco

      Shout it from the highest mountain.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  12. Diana

    April 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      ....Except that is NOT the doctrine of the LDS church. Fact: Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to a black man in the 1830's and appointed him to the Quorum of the Seventy (a very high calling in the LDS church). Fact: sometime during Brigham Young's leadership the policy allowing blacks to hold the priesthood was changed, likely due to social reasons and prejudice that enveloped the entire country during the 1800's. Fact: the policy was changed in 1978 to allow all worthy black males to hold the priesthood in the LDS church. Fact: The policy towards blacks and the priesthood was never based in doctrine, but some inside and outside the church have attempted to explain it that way.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      BTW....those are not Mormons in this video. It was taken from an ABC interview with a polygamist break-off group that is unaffiliated with the LDS church.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Kindly Believer

      Who is this guy? Not an official representatives of the Mormons?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  13. Jason

    Who are Christians? Jesus said this (in the book of John): "By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

    Guarantee.... by this definition many that think they are Christian.... aren't. Likewise, many that may not view themselves as Christian.... Christ may disagree with.... "When fed we thee or clothed we thee...?"

    Think about it people. The BS that many of your preachers are feeding to you to cause you to have hate towards others is not of God. It is nothing more than propaganda designed to keep a revenue source from depleting.

    What did the Bible say about the love of money?

    April 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • biologixco

      I dunno 'bout money, but Deuteronomy 18:20 pretty explicitly explains what God thinks of false prophets and their followers...

      April 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • YeahOk

      And if you check out Harry Potter, Dumbledore has some strong words about Voldemort.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      @ biologixco, Yes, but where there are "false prophets," there are true prophets as well. Mathew 7:20 says "by their fruits ye shall know them" and be able distinguish the true prophets from the false ones. What are your 'fruits'????

      April 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  14. YeahOk

    biologixco endorses Keith Ellison 2012!!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • biologixco

      That's the second time you put words in my mouth. Pleas refrain from doing so. Thank you.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • YeahOk

      Com'n, you keep saying anybody but Romney. Just trying to help a brother out.

      EXchristian.net

      April 7, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  15. rockyballbuster

    http://www.mrm.org/one-nation-under-gods. God wants us to search for the truth. Read the truth, not the official History of the Church.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • biologixco

      Go to EXmormon.org for the REAL truth.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Objective

      Bio- Propoganda.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  16. mary

    Once again the argument is doctrine..
    Its always amazed me that it is not good enough to believe in God, love him and try to do what is right and good.
    But you must also "belong" to a group of people of like mind.And then people fight, not over their belief in God. but the petty difference in how they love their God..
    Go figure..

    April 7, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • biologixco

      Its spreading false prophecy and allowing practices like multiple wives that America doesnt like. Along with alot of other things.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Objective

      Bio–Again spreading lies.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • mary

      False prophecy according to your particular beliefs..
      Thats exactly the point I was making.. Its the nit picking and the arguing over 'doctrine' that is amazing..

      April 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  17. Dave S

    What a sad and even pathetic thread of comments! Why do I say this? With very few exceptions, all of the comments come from a spirit of contention – just a bunch of proud, even arrogant, people on both sides of the "argument" bashing all those who don't see the world through their religious lens.

    I am particularly disappointed by my supposed Christian colleagues. In my mind, each of you is conducting yourself in exactly the opposite way of the One whose example you profess to follow. In addition to the numerous examples of how Christ turned the other cheek and preached with love and graciousness, I also recommend that you read Proverbs 18: 6-7 and James 3: 13-18. As for the Mormons making comments, i find your tone ito be generally a little less vitriolic but you're nonetheless involved in the same mudslinging and a lot of the dirt is sticking to you as well. If you profess to believe in the teachings of Christ, the same scriptures apply to you as well (and I bet there are similar ones in your "scriptures" if you look hard enough).

    With all the concern and love of which I am capable, I pray that, whatever your religion, if you love Christ and accept him as your Saviour, you will rise above all of this and start trying to live a little more like Him.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • biologixco

      Its the duty of all good Christians to call out false prophets when they see one. Not cower in a corner.
      Anybody BUT mittens romney 2012

      April 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Dave S

      Biologixco: if Christ's second coming was to take place 15 minutes from now, would you be completely comfortable reading through all your comments here with Him reading alongside you? Something tells me that, just maybe, you might be a little embarrassed by posts such as "Or was that wive (sic) number 9's dirty panties?" (to mention but one). He loves you more than you can understand, but He also expects more of you (and everyone else making similarly derogatory and destructive comments here).

      April 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  18. Red

    Most Mormons are extremely ignorant of Mormon history outside the trimmed-down version presented by the church. When they finally read it from credible, unbiased sources, they sometimes feel betrayed and lied to by the organization. Unfortunately, this happens late in life for many people. Mormons need to get acquainted with the scholarly history of the church, and then make an educated decision about whether or not they want to be a part of the organization.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • recent convert

      Last year over 260,000 non LDS converted and were baptized as members of the church. 130,000 were born into it. Never will a Mormon try and convince you of the truth of the church. The spirit does all of the teaching.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Objective

      So Red, I take it that you've read the entire book of Mormon, the bible, researched Mormonism, and were once Mormon to know what you speak of?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Kindly Believer

      I have to agree with Red on this one. I was born in the Church....was active....served a mission....married in the temple.....lived an active life......BUT.....then I read some LDS authored histories of the early Church.....in particular the Nauvoo period.

      THERE IS NO DOUBT that Joseph Smith ventured far afield and I dare say the "Nauvoo Expositor" was about 50% accurate.

      ONE PERSPECITIVE on the death of Joseph Smith is whether he was martyrd or "taken out." We inthe Church are fond of saying that "the Lord will not allow the Church to be led astray.".......Some of us think that's true and that Joseph Smith was not allowed to lead the Church FURTHER astray.

      I remain an active member, but one who has many questions.

      April 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  19. biologixco

    Learn the real truth.
    Go to EXmormon.org
    I smell a cult.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • biologixco

      And its stanky...

      April 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • biologixco

      Smells like planet kolob. Or was that wive number 9's dirty panties?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • biologixco

      Somebody's gottta tell the truth here.
      No pablum fo me.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • YeahOk

      Oh, and don't forget to visit exchristian.net!!

      April 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Yoshinobu

      That makes just as much sense as going to theblaze.com to learn about Islam.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Objective

      And you are spreading lies, Red. Did someone do something to you in the past that makes you hate Mormons so much? Every Mormon I know would gladly help you out if you are in need and not think twice about it. Can you say the same for your friends?

      April 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  20. DW

    mormonchannel.org has some amazing Easter videos of Christ. Please check it out!

    April 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Wow. I didn't know they had video cameras back in the bronze age.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Pardon me. 2000 years ago was later than the bronze age. However, I do think it was still a little early for video technology, even VHS.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ahhhhahhhahhhahhhah! Videos of Christ? Sure.

      April 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.