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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.


soundoff (4,366 Responses)
  1. heguido

    It's incredible how bitter some people are against mormonism. They are obviously not tellling the true about why they hate mormons so bad. If you want to know this church beliefs, you can simply watch the las General Conference, available in lds.org. There was no single speech that didn't talk about Jesus. How can anyone possibly say that mormons are not christians? Also, you can see the new Easter video just published.
    BTW, CNN, you can fire your photographer.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • Wrong!

      Your Cult, Your church your whatever you claim is a group that alienates, hates, and practices prejudice every day.
      I live in SLC and have to deal with the church run state everyday. You are backwards!
      The church only feeds on the weak.
      You missionaries are JOKE, your state run politics a JOKE and your history are a JOKE! In short, your whole religion is a JOKE!

      April 8, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Abinadi

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the 4th largest church in North America and is one of fastest growing religions in the world! Any one who calls it a cult is ignorant, backward, and uninformed!

      April 8, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Heguido

      Wow! Have you ever lived near yourselves? You guys are fanatics with no common sense! I too live in Utah and the previous poster is 100% correct! If you are not part of the "club" then you are not welcome!
      As for watching your video, are you kidding? I spend and have spent everyday for 12 years living here. Do you think I need to watch your silly video about the church? Your cult practices deception, cover ups and racisim. I for one cannot stand you people but thankfully nobody in my neighborhood can either so we truly enjoy ourselves at your expense! Utah is a great place but it is a religious state.
      No go put on your underwear and leave us heathens alone!

      April 8, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • heguido

      First of all, thanks for using my own nickname to answer my comment. Second, yes, I have lived near myself my whole life. Third, so good for you that you find a neigborhood full of people that think like you, and so you can altogether make fun of the mormons. Enjoy it.

      April 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  2. RitaB

    I made the horrible mistake of joining the mormon church in 1987. One year later, after giving them 10% of my gross pay so I could get my recommend I was able to go to the temple.No one tells you what you're going to do in there. It's shocking! I was HORIFIED that I had to pantomine killing myself by slitting my throat and gutting my stomach– I would NEVER had joined if I knew THAT! I realized that I had joined a cult. The next week I took off the silly underwear that only temple recommend holders wear and never went back to church. I am still counted as a mormon since I never resigned. The mormon church sends their salesmen out (missionaries) and they lie and beg to get people to join. They talk about 14 million members and that's a lie. Most people that are baptized drop out quickly but the church keeps counting them as members until they're 110 years old!
    I've lived being a mormon and I know it's all a ruse to get your $$$ money by making the temple the ultimate club to join

    April 8, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • midnitejax

      I agree...It's nothing more than a pyramid scheme. I have no clue as to why the Feds allow it to continue.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  3. Jesus is Lord

    HE IS RISEN !

    April 8, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  4. midnitejax

    I wouldn't care to see a Mormon anything. In fact, I would prefer to not see any Mormons. They multiply like rats, and spread their venomous and ridiculous so called religious rhetoric like the plague. They are child molesting, closet polygomists that claim to have abolished the practice, and yet they never arrest or prosecute anyone for the practice. They have plundered and murdered innocent people. They are a racist organization.There is nothing good about a Mormon.

    April 8, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Jason

      Your language sounds very much like that used by the Nazis towards the Jews. I feel sorry for you. It must be very difficult having your world-view.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • mb2010a

      And how is this different from any Christian religion? The same could be said about all of them...

      April 8, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • midnitejax

      Show me where I am wrong...JASON!! Large families are a common practice in Mormonism right? Mormons never allowed blacks or any ethnic races for that matter other than white, to join the church right? Mormons believe that magic underwear be worn right? What more need to be said about polygamy and the taking of young child brides ? Why is it the Feds are the ones who make the arrests and prosecute?

      April 8, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • midnitejax

      mb2012.I agree there are no religions in the world that are guilt free.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • Abinadi

      Mormons do not practice poligamy. You have probably seen something about the FLDS church, which is a break off of the Mormon church. These are no more Mormons than Baptists are Catholics.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • David

      Your view of Mormons is completely backwards and not rooted in reality. You are welcome to your opinion but the 'child molesting, closet polygamists charge is slander and intellectually lazy. Same goes for the 'plundered and murdered innocent people'. Really, what history books are you reading? Racism? Ask a black member of the church and see what they say.
      Mormons teach people to love their neighbor, be kind, honest etc... Sounds like you are the one spreading venomous rhetoric.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Josephine

      I work with a Mormon. She's probably the nicest person in the whole company, she's black, she doesn't wear funny underwear, and she's in her mid-30s with no children. Everything you said is wrong, midnitejax. Get your facts straight.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:37 am |
  5. readurbibles

    1 Corinthians 15:29

    "Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead"

    Apparently they baptized for the dead in ancient times...Mormons are the only ones who do this...1 reason why u all are idiots in fighting for Christianity in vain by going against Mormon docterines...everything Mormons do today can be pulled out of the Bible that most of you claim so bodly to follow yet understand nothing in it but what your narrow minds allow...

    April 8, 2012 at 6:34 am |
    • midnitejax

      child molesting perverts

      April 8, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  6. Jesus C

    Are you a Moron?

    April 8, 2012 at 6:15 am |
  7. Nunya

    A tour? Oh goodie! Let's see those golden plates now! Wait...I have to get my hat out first. You can't look! And if you make me read them back to you, the words will be completely different because God will get mad and also Jesus discovered America and preached the gospel to the Native Americans. All this and more...in the Book of Mormon!

    April 8, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • warex1234

      Anouther big Kolob curse! Hahahahah you are so right on....hey China why don't you go after this Guy too? Is he/ she spouting lies also?

      April 8, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • warex1234

      Forget all the crazy stuff they believe which was most of the stuff I brought to the table. Lets go with the fundementals. Crack pot scam artist wanted by the law that was shot dead in a jail house/ court house while trying to escape. Now I fully understand that in the 1823s people were ignorant, but nowadays, come on.....

      April 8, 2012 at 5:45 am |
  8. biologixco

    O great King of Kolob deliver me from evil mormons

    April 8, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • Really??

      ...You mean Heavenly Father? PLEASE! Pray to Him, and see what he says about your persecution against religion. I'd love to know.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  9. power4things

    Masonic lodge with better meeting halls. In Mormon land, "devout" means "big wallet" ... notice how they're all bankers? What an endorsement, coming soon to a foreclosure near you. Bottom line, there's no "Jesus" in "LDS" ... greatest scam since Bernie.

    April 8, 2012 at 5:00 am |
    • chinaman

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints..No there is no Jesus in the last three words..but the full name does include it..There is no Jesus in BAPTIST of SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST of LUTHERAN or CATHOLIC..I disavow mormonism so don't assume I'm defending it..I'm just amazed at how UNINFORMED evangelicals seem to be about things.

      April 8, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • midnitejax

      I agree..........They are control freaks too!! Good luck in trying to operate a business in Utah if you're not a member of the Mormon "Church".

      April 8, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  10. chinaconqueryoueasy

    By warex1234's standard of evaluating the validity of religion, the original Church as started by Christ himself was a cult until either a hundred years afterwards. Or until Christians throughout the world numbered atleast 1million..I love the IGNORANCE of the religious right!

    April 8, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • warex1234

      China, Congrats! You are so right! And I thought you missed my implied point?! Bit what's with the bashing? Settle down we are on the same team. Lets put our power rings together for the forces of good and tackle something more substantial than substantial like than a belief system from a proven wanted scam artist........

      April 8, 2012 at 5:26 am |
  11. warex1234

    China – if you were disavowed whats your issue? You know this stuff is true, forget the numbers. The longer you stay in the religion the more you learn. just like the scientologists. Scientology, you have to pay to learn the secrets though.
    The internet and google are all powerful, anybody can do their own research and get their own opinions. Nuff said...I'm done....

    April 8, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • chinaman

      I admit it..Everything you said is true..the difference here is that I NEVER SAID IT WASNT..MORMONISM IS WEIRD!! So is Chritianity in general..I'm simply SCHOOLING YOU IN DEBATE..I'd like to see evangelicals come up with convincing arguments other than, YOURE GOING TO BURN IN HE!! BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO!!..Any time i hear BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO, I CRINGE!! Everything you want to know about mormonism is PUBLIC INFO ESPECIALLY THE NEGATIVE STUFF..I can't wait til Fiscal Conservatism abandons this religious garbage!! Then we'll have a party that can CHANGE WASHINGTON!! SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE..RELEIGIOUS FREEDOM PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS..no matter how strange...

      April 8, 2012 at 5:08 am |
    • warex1234

      Chinaman you are so right. The Bible thumpers need to get a grip and stopgap preaching about going to hell.because someone believes differently. Bit the fundemental difference all the thumpars believe the same thing, just a little different. Mormonism is so out there, sorry no comparisions...bit this is America, you can believe whatever you want!

      April 8, 2012 at 6:18 am |
  12. LAME

    how do you people who aren't Mormons know the truth? because it's in the Bible? were you all there when the Bible was written? things like Jonah being eaten by a whale...and Noah parting the Red Sea are possible, but things of the Mormon faith aren't because the people in the Bible are cartoon characters? you people are lame! learn from Mormons themselves and quite listening to the stupid lies of your know-it-all priests...talk about being brainwashed...you people are scared to pray about the Mormon faith and ask God...cause you guys know everything about the Mormons and God...smh

    April 8, 2012 at 4:50 am |
    • biologixco

      No. America is scared of the secretive and cultlike mannerisms of mormons.
      There is a reason they were run out of Nauvoo in 1840.
      Now their high priest MITTENS ROMNEY is a whisker away from the Presidency of the United States.
      Its a dangerous situation.

      April 8, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • chinaman

      @biologixco-Apparently americans are actually more afraid of far right evangelicals like Santorum..Apparently people seem to care much less that Romney is mormon..Apparently Romney is in the lead..we'll wait and see but I bet he gets the GOP nomination..DEspite what you may believe you are a rapidly dwindling minority.

      April 8, 2012 at 5:21 am |
    • warex1234

      #1. When you use the word stupid in a sentence in the way you did you are seen as immature and uneducated. #2 you refer to the Bible as stories and tell us to pray to the Mormon faith? Ok who do we pray to? Kolob? His wife? Is there anouther God? Maybe chithu? Oh wait maybe we need a hat to look in so we. An understand its meaning....

      April 8, 2012 at 6:01 am |
    • LAME

      #1. when you need a hat to look in so you can understand things than YOU ARE STUPID! lol
      #2. are the bibles not stories told by ancient prophets you idiot...and nobody told you to pray to the Mormon faith but pray to whatever God you think you believe in to know the truth of all things...that is what the bible teaches us right?
      #3. don't come at me with things you know nothing about...especially the bible...what faith are you?

      April 8, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • LAME

      @biologixco
      Mormons don't have secrets...just made-up rumors that "scared America" makes up about them...the LDS faith can hold their heads up high and stand boldly in what they believe in...all everyone else does is bash on Mormons...nothing you do will ever save mankind...because you don't understand truth...so give it up...Mormons are growing and soon going to take over your surroundings...haha go be scared of that...continue to be the servant of the devil and fight against truth....something you don't quite understand!!!!!

      April 8, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • LAME

      @warex1234

      Go read all your pollution you wrote on this blog and tell me who the immature and uneducated one is...you go get educated on Mormons before you speak about them or anything else for that matter...if not then SHUT YOUR MOUTH cause you don't know jack!!!

      April 8, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • midnitejax

      Mormon "religion" is only a couple hundred years old (if that).. Not much history behind it other than murder, deceit, and polygamy.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • LAME

      @midnitejax...again with the rumors!! know the full stories before you give into them...and what does age of religion have to do with anything...Catholic church is old and they have dark secrets, doctrines that go against biblical teachings, lies, and molest children so what? what faith are you? can you stand bodly and profess what you believe in? besides the typical God, JC, and the Holy Ghost?

      April 8, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • warex1234

      Lame – Who pee'd in your cofee. Mormons dont lie? Ok fisrt let me clear up by mormons I am talking about the entire belief system not anybody individualy. So the cult does not lie? Really? Secret hand shakes, blood oathes, child brides, polygamy, secret ceremony rites, sorry but secret is harmonious with lie. But I will give you the benefit of the doubt. FIND TWO FACTS other than number of mormons or how old the lsd is (I was admittingly wrong about the later.) and Ill shut up.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  13. biologixco

    Im gonna buy me some magical mormon underwear on Ebay.
    Maybe I can get a used pair.
    Maybe that makes em a little MORE magical.

    April 8, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • warex1234

      Me too, eBay here I come... I heard the underoos being so sacred will prevent tire treads from being left....that is a beautiful thing.....

      April 8, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • midnitejax

      You mean airbrushed with racing stripes? NASCAR here we come!!!

      April 8, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • sammy

      make sure you wash out the magical skid marks hehehehe

      April 8, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • David

      have you nothing better to do than ridicule others? Get some class.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  14. Tammy lambert chandler az

    oops..they need baptism in order to be saved and prepared for Mitt to lead us all to?? Kolob?

    April 8, 2012 at 4:31 am |
    • midnitejax

      If Mitt gets elected, it will cost the taxpayers millions to expand the White House.They will have to add extra wings for all of his kids.Wow....Just think how much the deficit will go up feeding all those kids on the taxpayers tab?

      April 8, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  15. Tammy lambert chandler az

    Interest in proxy baptisms has been up since Mittens run for president? I wonder if Mormons believe Mitt in office is a sign and they need to baptism to be saved and prepared for Mitt to lead us all to?? Kolob?

    April 8, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • biologixco

      Freshen up your magical undies.
      Here comes MITTENS!

      April 8, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • midnitejax

      Is that Kolob or Kabob?

      April 8, 2012 at 7:28 am |
  16. warex1234

    Heyy CNN check this out, then do some research......http://www.hiddenmysteries.org/religion/lds/ldsrituals.shtml

    April 8, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • Really??

      Hey wareX1234 Check this out. Mormon.org. It's the truth about the LDS religion.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  17. Sane

    I just watched September Dawn. These people are are own homegrown terrorists, but then again so is every other religion in the states.

    April 8, 2012 at 4:25 am |
    • Tammy lambert chandler az

      True

      April 8, 2012 at 4:28 am |
    • concerned

      So you beleive everything you see in a movie? Unbeleivable! read the book of mormon and know for yourself what it is about.

      April 8, 2012 at 6:16 am |
  18. God

    I jerked off in the temple in Reno before it was christened. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaah.

    April 8, 2012 at 4:20 am |
    • Jim

      Nasty, I think that's why the Mormons don't let just anyone in. I hope you don't do that in public restrooms!

      April 8, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • warex1234

      My hats off to you sir....my hats off to you........wait what's in my hat, ok you can keep the hat.......

      April 8, 2012 at 6:09 am |
    • concerned

      If this is wha you did, you will have to answer to God Himself for desecrating his home.I cannot beleive how ignorant people are, there is but one God and He Can answer prayers if you ask in faith and are willing to listen and obey His word, but then again that would require courage which many of you bloggers lack.

      April 8, 2012 at 6:12 am |
    • warex1234

      Concerned, what part of before of is chistiend did you not understand? Temple is not holy until of has it's ritual performed. As far as passing judgement,you are proof of the idiocy that Bible thumpers present.....

      April 8, 2012 at 6:26 am |
  19. biologixco

    Remember Underoos?
    Do they make those in a magical variety?
    Are they Kosher, too?

    April 8, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • biologixco

      Inquiring minds want to know...

      April 8, 2012 at 4:14 am |
  20. biologixco

    Uh-oh! a little spaceship from Kolob just landed in my yard.
    Mormons are after me.
    God save me!
    HAAALP!

    April 8, 2012 at 4:03 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.