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.”
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pastmorm: so you didn't pay taxes when you were a member? is that what your saying? LMAAAAOOOOOO!! stop denegrating yourself...
Oh simple, sad little tumeke, if that's your best shot, you have a long way to go. Especially justifying the reason your leader married a 13 year old girl...pedophilia....creepy cult to belong to on any level, but just downright unethical with that kind of beginning.
Its spelled MORMON not MORMAN....
Kind of like pedophilia vs. warren jeffs???
Should be The Book of Morons
How about Moron?
Perhaps the slip is that the mormon church want more man instead of women. LOL! I mean you people treat women so awful and think that in this day and age you're going to get women votes just cause Santorum dissed them????
Why would I want to read a book written by a pedophile, bigamist and polygamist?
I guess CNN didn't like my comment, it never posted.
Not sure of all the words, but there are certain words that will cause your post not to post at all.
You said, "I guess CNN didn't like my comment, it never posted."
CNN uses automated censoring that looks for words, or fragments of words, that are considered offensive. My guess is that your post had had a forbidden word in it.
Repeat posts, even those that were previously censored and not displayed, will show a message stating that you posted it before.
The following words or word fragments will get your post censored (list is incomplete):
To circumvent the filters you can break up the words by putting an extra character in, like: consti.tution (breaking the oh so naughty "tit").
If you so concern that must be the best comment of all. Don't worry you won't change anything. A Mormon will continue to be a Mormon, and so the rest of the people will go on with their beliefs. BTW take a break and do something useful.
They didn't like the words f_raud, t_ithing, or J-esus I guess.
Must have hit a nerve.
You said, "They didn't like the words f_raud, t_ithing, or J-esus I guess.
Must have hit a nerve."
"fraud" and "Jesus" are OK, but "tithing" has "tit" in it.
CNN, I would think this would be about Muslim not Mormon,maybe getting a little on the soft side!
Lardoggy it should be about you being a pedophile.
Living in Eastern Idaho, where Mormons are about 50% of the population, I can personally tell you that they are very considerate and kind to a fault, and I appreciate that fact regardless of whether I think their beliefs are whacky. Their kids are also extremely well behaved. The church also does an outstanding job of balancing its books and funding its various projects and initiatives throughout the world (new temples, missions, food banks, etc.). My only real beef with them is that life here is fairly boring...not a lot of great bars or night life in town, and everything's closed on Sunday. Things could be a lot worse.....
Yeah, they're just GREAT... unless you're black, a woman, or gay. You know. "Less than human".
Sacred is as sacred does .. an that's all I have to say 'bout thaat.
Look at this guy laughing, You know damn well he is saying, we got all up in this tax exempt thing & we aint even a real religion. SUCKERS!!!!
That's exactly what that ridiculous smile says, "I just won the lottery you suckers and I don't have to pay taxes!"
You could say the same exact thing about every religion in the US. They are all made up.
I never understood why religious people need to have so grandios structures. You'd think God would care more about the richness of what's in the heart than what's in the brain. Gold, gems, crystal, and marble wear overtime. Genuine love lasts forever.
That's why you'll hear no guff from me towards more humble religions.
Is not laughing is JOY. We are happy people. We know the true, not even a million of bad comments will change our beliefs at all. This is the ONLY true church of the whole universe.
Mormonism is at odds with the Goepels of the Holy Bible. To take more than one wife is a falsehood within the Scriptures of the Truths. Such a religion for having more than one wife or even more than one husband is plainly blasphemous cyanide in God's Commandments. I shudder in unpleasent thoughts about such things that mormonists are doing against one man one woman consecration. Yes the ancients of old were of more than one wife to a man but L F I no should we not turn assunder that which was once
In Fact, all the riches from every socialized religions are merely money machines for the benefisciaries of whom, really?
Need to get your facts right, don't believe the LDS church has approved of plural marriage since the late 1800's.
Well, of course the temple will need to close soon. It will take time to arrange the altars for the polygamist weddings and goat pens for the dark ritualistic sacrifices.
Foul! you cry. What do you expect? Any religion that walls itself off from the world and declares that only an elect few are worthy to walk their hallways, certainly should expect stories about whatever it is they feel such a desperation to keep secret. It does not matter if it is a church, a temple, a synogogue, an ashram, a mosque, or a sacred grove. When religion is used as a wedge to push people apart and keep them separate; it fails at its intended mission.
Religion comes from the Latin: Re ligare. To link again. To join together again. Religion should be about bringing people together and celebrating both our similarities and our differences. When the purpose of religion becomes to divide people, to focus on what keeps groups waring with each other through the milennia, it becomes a tool of indctination and war. Religion itself becomes the source of hurt and destruction and evil in the world.
they really aren't like that. There kind gentle people that just want to spread the joy of there "word".
As for the whole secrecy shtick, come on man, low blow much?
There are just somethings in this world i have learned are best to be kept at a whisper,
i wont tell you my PIN# because you or anybody else listening could rob me.
If i come up with a unique formula for a recipe and want to capitalize of it i won't share it, because then it could be swiped away and no one would believe i came up with it first.
Or if i had found a mine of valuable materials, i would scream i am rich, cause then some one could kill me and take possession.
Its just special to them, something that they would like to keep special to those that believe there faith.
It's not about secrecy to them its about sacred practices.
After surveying the invective of most of these comments it becomes obvious that hate is sadly abundant in the world – just as it was in Joseph Smiths time toward him. Just as the jews hated Jesus. Just as the Rome did toward the Apostles. The devil knows his time grows late. And so much hate toward religion that I can't help but wonder about hidden agendas and hidden hurts. It is an interesting time developing for Christians of all faiths as the world grows steadily toward hedonism, materialism, and narrow selfishness. Ironically, those who are most content focusing on themselves will call those with eternal perspective "narrow". I would suggest a renewed call to excellence in our culture. "Eternity pleased our parents, one inch looks good to us." There is high drama in the works in these times that have been called the 'post-Christian era'. A time, in the irony of ironies, when the King of Kings will return to reign over this, His creation.
Joseph Smith was in Jail with his father and brother Hyrum – LONG BEFORE he had an angel visit him – for bootlegging....
Oh and he married a 13 year old girl while he was still married to his living wife Emma. That's pedophilia I believe...not persecution.
Sorry dude, but people are always going to hate swindlers and con-artists. They're the bad ones, not the people who hate them.
I figured replies would be like that. But lies need no elaborate counter argument and earnest, honest seekers of truth will see it. He was murdered in cold blood. I'll defend him.
A remarkable man whose books, though often unread and often reviled, stand as his witness as well.
Sensationalism needs to settle down.
To pastmorm... I guess it makes you feel good to let off your apparent anger. There is no basis for either of your claims. It is sad to think you hope others will believe what you have written. Please be at peace with yourself.
A very well-written article. I have attended many LDS temples across the world, and it is impossible to describe the feeling of peace and serenity you feel there, unless you have experienced it yourself.
There was an article here on CNN about how the brain gives off endorphins that gives you that euphoric feeling, that's religion in a nut shell.
Any religion that takes our tax dollars (which is equivalent to not paying taxes) should be open to all tax paying citizens.
To K Kammeyer: Well said! As active LDS member, I agree. To the responses below your message, please note, the LDS Church does not take tax payer funding in the US or any other nation. Go to Mormon Messages on YouTube and take a brief respite from your busy day... You'll feel uplifted and drawn closer to our savior. Learn more about the Church and, whether or not you choose to study more, you will recognize the goodness that is there.
Yea, its so peaceful and serene. You barely notice that they are filing your head with blasphemy.
You are absolutly not allowed in this Temple, but we absolutely will not tolerate our tax exempt status going away.
Now that is funny
Exactly! How is it that this cult has grown so quickly?
Wow, the guy in the picture looks like he's just won the lottery. Interesting how ALL this mormon stuff is coming up to soften the blow should Romney be running against Obama. They're going to have to do a BIG propaganda drive to hide all their secrets. And yes, by the way, growing up mormon I heard, "it's not secret, it's sacred." Of course that goes along with the blood oath I had to take while I was in the temple to make sure that I kept it secret...OH...I mean sacred....
But you somehow escaped to tell the tale? If you came from that world, then you owe it to others to help them get out as well.
Friend, either you are not LDS or you have issues with LDS people. There are no "blood oaths" in the Temple. The ceremonies are simple and uplifting. The temple is a wonderful place, aside from marriages and baptisms, for contemplation and prayer... a haven from this difficult but beautiful world we live in. Find the best in others and you will discover the best in yourself. It is such a downer to spend one's time knocking another's religion. LDS people are- by in large- decent, kind, generous and hard working. The same I am sure can be said for active members of many religions.
The Blood Oaths were "removed" from the rituals some years ago. But when I went for my first endowments I had to make a slash across my throat and my stomach (symbolically) to swear I wouldn't tell anyone the secrets of the temple. That's creepy and it was only removed because non-mormons found out about it and freaked out. Look up your own history for Pete's sake.
When doing baptisms for the dead, you don't wear long gowns jokingly referred to as jumpsuits. You wear jumpsuits. Eve women doing baptisms for the dead wear jumpsuits instead of dresses. This seems like an odd point to get wrong.
I never asked you to build me a temple. All I asked was for you to care for the poor and love your neighbors. Oh, and don't eat shellfish...that's nasty.
Yeah, I agree with you God, why would you want to take a tenth of all the money of your followers to build such expensive temples just to have secret (oops again....sacred) ritual performed for you? I mean, did you ever tell anyone in your bible to do that????
Thanks for your comment. It is important to note that the LDS Church participates extensively- and effectively- in humanitarian services throughout the world. This includes ongoing assistance- to this day- in Banda Aceh and other areas stricken by tsunamis a few years back, soup kitchens in Warsaw and D.C. in collaboration with the Catholic Church, and so many services in many places- many times in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services. Please do a full review of this marvelous Church... your own conclusions will contradict the many myths or prejudiced stories you may have been exposed to. Best to you.. and all our friends of many faiths. P.S. As members of the Church, we firmly believe in respecting and upholding the rights of each individual to believe according to their own conscience. We also believe it is wrong and unwise to criticize and demean other faiths. We believe in Jesus Christ as our savior, and in prayers in His name.
God: Um, yes, actually I did tell someone to do that. You can read about how I told the Children of Israel to build a tabernacle, and later on a temple. It's all in the Old Testament, in case you wondered.
You're confusing humanitarian aid with BRAINWASHING locals and getting them to convert to your cult.
Wow, how closed can you get. It has always been rumored that the Mormon's were an extension of the Templars. What is so secret in their church. Is it pay to pray? How could we elect a president whose church doesn't allow any transparency? Secrets, secrets, secrets. Love them.
"..always been rumored to be..." Rumors, Rumors, Rumors..... Always fascinating how someone with no knowledge of a subject will be one of the first to spout off when given a chance and a keyboard.
Wow Dave, I've been a Mormon for over 50 years, and that's the first time I've been associated with the Templars, a Catholic order that began in the Middle Ages. Maybe you know something that I don't know?
Dear Dave, Is there no room for religious tolerance in our country? Of course there is.... That is why over 400 Christian religions and many other religions flourish in the US. Please reread Roger William's statements when he left as leader of the Baptist Church in the 1600s. He stated that there was no church on the earth (at that time) with authority to act in the name of God. He stated he was waiting for the Lord to restore his twelve apostles to the earth. My ancestor, Chaddus Brown, took over as leader of the Baptist Church when Roger Williams left. Two hundred years later, the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith. We believe God appeared to prophets of the Old Testament...Is it so impossible today?
I as a Mormon have access to the temple I go there every week because I live really close to the temple. I as a Mormon have a sacred duty to not talk about specifics. But I will tell you this nothing odd goes on there no sacrificing of animals or weird dances with fire. All that goes on there are baptisms for the dead, endowments, and sealings.
In Fact, all socialized religions are merely money machines for the benefisciaries of whom?
Don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent.
I really suggest that you spend five minutes on lds.org or mormon.org, to straighten out the glaring misconceptions you have about our faith. Latter-day Saints have not practiced polygamy since 1890, despite what you may have heard from self-styled FLDS or other splinter groups. If a Latter-day Saint preaches or practices polygamy today, they are excommunicated.
@ K Kammeyer,,, and Jill,,,,,
Tell me about what your views are regarding what happened a year or so ago regarding what you might cleave to as being a "splinter group" when the airwaves were eschewed with many views regarding the polygamous sect of your kinds?
Mormons do not practice polygamy any longer. And they are not Templars either. Joseph Smith copied a lot of handshakes, symbols, and other things from the masons since he was a Freemason for a while.
Mormons are just like any other spinoff of a spinoff of the Catholic Church. The main difference is that their church is run like a corporation. Period.
Even if the Temple President were getting paid, what's it to you? Would that somehow invalidate what they're saying? Do you ask how much the Priest is getting paid? Or the Pastor? The facts are they don't get paid for this service and how a missionary funds their mission is none of anyone's business.
Depends on the proximity of the President of the United States and the Temple President.
CNN Sux a big doodle,,,, Test, a test!
Having your children look for eggs that a rabbit left or one time a year a old fat fart in red and white suit leaves gifts for them and people don't think that is stupid.
None of that is religion, it is just crap for the kids to have fun.
and when they mature & question it's reality, we tell them the truth ... religion just threatens them into continuing the false belief against their common sense.
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.