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.
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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.”
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There is no proof that Joseph Smith ever said that and it is not included in the Doctrine and Covenants, the official record of his prophecies, but I think everyone should read it because it would be real interesting if it came to pass. I think given the wickedness of the land that it certainly could happen.
We certainly don't need mormons to save us from this "wickedness"
Politcal activism will be a dangerous endeavor for Mormons.
Dont underestimate the backlash from such activism.
Just remember what happened when you people were run out of Ohio and illinois and Mizou
We had enough of you then.
We've had enough of you now.
interested in that wonderful new temple?
wanna join our little cult?
get the straight facts
Could someone tell me the difference between mormons and some muslims in the issue of having more than one wife?.
I need a religion but I am looking for one that allow me to have more than one girl.
Could anybody tell me what i need to do to have those virgins after I am dead.
Sorry, Mormons only have one and I don't think the Muslins in the US are permitted more than one either. Why don't you move to Afganistan?
10 wives and a chicken in every pot!
Vote Willard (MITT) Romney and Warren Jeffs
Isn't ONE wife enough?
Dear God can you imagine 10 nagging wives? Ack.
But since you asked, the difference between the mormons multiple wives and the muslim multiple wives is simple.
Mormons get to have the multiple wives in this lifetime
Muslims get to have them in the afterlife.
Mormons say the LDS doesn't condone it, but with a little wink and a smile, anything can happen
Bioloxico, I would be interested to know how many wives/women you have had. You know, the reason the Lord disliked the pharisees so much is because they were hippocrites, being guilty of the very things they were accusing others of!
Ive had ONE wife for 32 years.
And that's really none of your business.
Its not MY religion that has a past (and present) history with POLYGAMY!
And Its one of the prime reasons Americans despised mormons.
Many Americans still do.
Gee, I wonder why?
I'm so glad temples are back on the earth. Before 1830's it had been since Solomon. Before that, covenants were made in holy places such as tabernacles, alters, and mountains. I love the Old and New Testament.
The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence that God did not take a vacation after He wrote the Bible. The heavens are not closed. Christ's Church with Prophets, temples, Priesthood, and 12 Apostles did not end. It is still here. That is one reason why so many millions of people have joined or respected the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or Mormon). In the LDS Church, we sing... "We Thank Thee, O God, For A Prophet," as one of many Christ and Gospel centered hymns.
Jesus Christ walked and talked on this earth, set up his church with prophets, apostles, temples, authority, the gift of the holy Ghost by laying on of hands, sacrament, doctrine, hymns, and so much more. It is all back – complete! There are so many churches that argue over interpretations of the Bible. What a blessing it is to have another testament of Jesus Christ on the earth: the Book of Mormon! Please read it – read the Introduction, 2 Nephi 31, Alma 32, 3 Nephi 11, and Moroni 10 to get a taste of it.
With all of the pieces of the puzzle here on the earth, we don't have to search for them any longer. The Mormon church is called the 'Restored' Church of Jesus Christ because of that. Prophets are needed just as much as the ancient days (Amos 3:7).
Prophets and temples are needed just as much today as they were in ancient days. If anyone wants to see all of those parts of the ancient Church of Jesus Christ today – temples, prophets, 12 Apostles, Priesthood authority, and so forth (Ephesians 2:19-21 for one example) – please visit http://www.mormon.org and search for your questions.
You have every right to read through these posts (I'm happy that you have read this one), but please go to a source that can give you an accurate view of what the LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Mormons) church teaches.
DD, you're sad – OBAMA is the best thing for the people right now. Don't believe anyone else is for the people but you will learn!! WATCH AND SEE!
I have living proof that polygamy still exists in the mormon church
Contrary to what their followers have posted here.
The person making the statement has the burden of proof and we anxiously await it. Plural marriages haven't been officially sanctioned by the prophet and church since 9/24/1890 and you can look up the official declaration 1 on lds.org. If you have evidence otherwise, then the church would actually appreciate knowing about it, because then they could put a stop to it.
Are you saying they are performing polygamous sealings in temples or civil marriages by a bishop or stake president, because neither is sanctioned by the church and having them done in a temple would be very hard to believe. I was in a bishopric and we all get the same general handbook of instructions as the stake presidencies and it not only prohibits it, but basically requires excommunication for people found to be participating in polygamous marriages. I'm not saying that people couldn't do it under the radar, but not in the temple and it would be hard for families that are actively attending church, because there is so much contact throughout a given week, it would be hard to keep a lid on it. If you are saying that a bishop, stake president or higher authority is performing them, again that isn't a conviction against the church as a whole, but that this one leader has gone rogue. Once the church leader was found to be doing it, he would be released from his position and everyone involved would face excommunication.
There are several well known polygamous off shoot churches from the Mormons, that you may be confusing this with. They have their own 'prophets' and don't have any connection with us. There are other polygamous families that just live randomly in Utah under the radar. They don't go to our church but live in normal neighborhoods with huge houses or several houses door to door. Again, this has nothing to do with us. For you to have evidence against the church, you would have to have something that physically connects these ceremonies to the first presidency or the 12 apostles. I'm guessing that your proof doesn't qualify, but I'd love to see it anyway.
my daddy married and divorced 5 different women, but they all still live together as one in manti utah
he did it to get away from polygamy law in utah
please dont call me a liar
i was cast out when i got a little older because i asked questions about it
That group in Manti were apostates and were all excommunicated. It was relatively recent – about 35 or 40 years ago as I recall. Oren just has a bone to grind, eh Oren?
bone to grind?
yes i do
the mormon way ruined my family and ruined my life
i tell my story to all who will listen
you people are evil
Mitt Romney has just chosen his pick for his Vice President running mate
Drum roll please...
And the winner is....WARREN JEFFS! (woot woot)
Vote yes to polygamy
10 wives and a chicken in every pot (woot woot)
See a great interview from one of the visionaires of Prgessive Rock music.
these people are NOT Christians! they believe that Mr God, a man, along with his wives, lives on planet Kolob and that good mormons will have their own planets and become gods themselves. THIS IS A CULT.
The Mormon Church is the 4th largest church in the US and is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Anyone who says it is a cult is ignorant, backward, and uninformed.
Abraham wasn't told that God the Father lived on Kolob, but near it. You can read it for yourself on LDS.org Abraham chapter 3.
Mr. Walker: If you think this "white horse prophecy" is a mark against us, please explain it. I'd love to see your reasoning, or better yet, insert some links to proof that we are a cult. I've tried this with others before and it doesn't get very far.
So the Garden of Eden is in Kansas City and Noah's Ark took him to the Middle East. Got it.
If Paul were here today, what church would he belong to? Paul actually answered that question in 1 Corinthians, " 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, abut Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name."
It is pretty obvious that Paul would not approve of the Lutheran church, or the Methodist, or the Baptist or any of the evangelical churches of the day. He said himself that he would only belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and if he were alive today, he would belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Days. You can learn more at mormon.org. You do want the truth, right?
Paul would be absolutely disgusted by the Mega Churches who sell the word of God and rake in millions. Ron Hubbard was heard to say that if he wanted to make a million dollars, he would start a church, and that is exactly what he did. Christianity has apostatized from the truth! Jeremiah said, " 11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. " 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
People no longer worship idols but they have replaced the idols with false churches – churches who preach watered down Christianity, churches which have no power to save them from their sins; churches that have no priesthood authority to perform the sacred ordinances, churches led by uninspired usurpers who pardon sinners in exchange for their money! Well did Christ say of them, "1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." (John 10) Of these he will say, " 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." A man or woman who is too proud to admit they are wrong and accept the truth will never see the Kingdom of God!
“22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
The Church of Jesus Christ could be pentacostal. Paul did not say the chuch of Jesus Christ OF LATTER DAY SAINTS
Sorry, Margie. Paul said that the real church of Jesus Christ would have a foudation of apostles and a prophet.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (New Testament, Ephesians, Chapter 2)
Does the Pentecostal Church have a foudation of apostles and prophets? Then it is not the true church.
Read about the LDS, Mitt Romney and the White Horse Prophecy
How the Republican Party could team up with this boy is beyond belief.
Know your voting choices
Understand the Danger
Say NO to Mitt Romney 2012!
Learn the truth about Jesus, go to http://www.Judas.com
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Learn the truth about Perry the Platypus, go to http://www.DrDoofenshmirtz.com
Learn the truth about mormonism... go to wherever biologixco send you.
Did you know Mitt Romney was considering Warren Jeffs for the VP slot?
Two mormon peas in a pod?
10 wives and a Chicken in every pot!
Earth to Kolob Earth to Kolob Come in please!
Is that death ray fixed yet?
That pesky biologixco is on day 5 of making our life miserable.
His truths are making us cringe.
Take him out before more of these dumb Earthlings catch on
O Captain Smith, hear our plea
I love Mormons.
Those that seek to whittle are those that seek to deceive.
Eloquently put my friend
Where does Warren Jeffs and the FLDS fit in to today's modern LDS?
Lets make this as simplistic as possible for all our readers here. (especially mormons)
Imagine Christianity as one of those childhood toys where you bang a wooden peg into a hole.
Methodist, Catholic, Baptist are all round pegs that fit in the hole.
They are all slightly differently tapered, but they are similar enough to fit in the round hole effortlessly.
Along comes mormonism as the square peg that doesnt fit in the hole.
And with its very sharp corners, you could bang for a million years and it will NEVER fit.
But imagine you're a sneaky mormon and you figured out how to whittle down those sharp edges.
Yes, whittle those edges until it fits so close, no one notices the difference. (you think)
Thats where we are today with the LDS and Mitt Romney and the WHITE HORSE PROPHESY
But Americans aren't stupid. Even a young child discovers the square peg never fits in the round hole.
Even if you try to fool them by whittling down the edges...
Luckily for us that Jesus didn't "whittle down" the "sharp edges" of his doctrine to make "it fit" in the hole of the sadducees and pharisees...
I'm sorry that we don't belong to your hole, but that doesn't prove (at all) that you are right. As a matter of fact, any Catholic outside U.S. would feel insulted by the comparison you made. Baptist are apostates and blasphemous for them.
You're saying that Baptist is to Catholic
As FLDS is to the LDS?
Thats pretty far out there, don't you think?
Jesus didn't write your doctrine.
Joseph Smith contrived it:
book of mormon in the year 1820
book of Abraham in the year 1842
The Book of Mormon was published in 1830, not 1820.
Trying to portray the Catholics, Methodist, and Baptist as a "happy big family" is a form of deception. Living in a Catholic country myself, I know pretty well what they think about "evangelists", and for your information, they mainly believe that "mormons" are "evangelists" as well.
That confusion produced by bitter attacks between different denomination against each other, was what lead young Joseph Smith to try to find out which church was the one that God accepted as His.
Reading your attacks (whicha are very similar of what he suffered almost 200 years ago) make me understand, and treasure, even more the answer that God gave to Joseph's prayer...
1820 or 1830? what difference does that make?
The point is, just like islam, mormonism was "invented" long after the bible was established.
Given the fact that polygamy is still unofficially sanctioned at your church,
Does that also give rise to birth defects from inbreeding?
There is no polygamy in the Mormon church. The FLDS church is an apostate group that practices it, but they no more Mormon than Baptists are Catholic. Please, get your facts straight!
Polygamie is still in our mormon church.
my dad ran me out of our family
there just werent enough wifes to go around for me
he wouldnt share
i was cast out like an old boot
Oren: your statement is not proof. You know with a certainty that your Dad doesn't attend a Mormon church. If he does, tell me his name and address and I will drop a line to his bishop and he won't be in a month. If you have been a member of our church and attending, you know what I am saying is true. If you lived in a polygamous community at the time, I would have believed you. But if you are telling me you and your family were attending a ward or branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it is unbelieveable without proof.
Polygamy is still in the mormon church.
my dad ran me out of our family
there just werent enough wifes to go around for me
he wouldnt share
i was cast out like an old boot
Hooey and The Gooey Kablooie
Prophet to pedophile: Polygamist Warren Jeffs sentenced to life in prison
Oh, I thought that you knew that Warren Jeffs has nothing to do with the mormon church... But, since you are no liar nor bigot, but someone highly interested in the accuracy of the facts, I'm telling you now, so you won't make the same mistake in the future and embarrass yourself.
Touched a nerve there, huh?
The FLDS or Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints are a splinter group of the LDS or Latter Day Saints.
Don't give me that nonsense.
The FLDS espouses hard line fundamentalist mormonism.
They believe in the same hooey as the LDS, they just take the false prophesies of Joseph Smith to a higher level.
To say they have NOTHING to do with the LDS is a bald faced lie that people here can see right through.
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.