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. Peri Browner

    Do evangelicals know that the Jesus worshipped by mormons is a SPACE ALIEN? Maybe they will think twice about voting for the man in the magic underwear.

    April 8, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • biologixco

      Haw haw haw...wait til they find out about the magic undies.
      American people gonna run to the big Obama like stink on magic undies.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Questions

      Hardy har har! Never heard that one before. You are very clever. Do Evangelicals also believe every little thing that they are told without finding out the facts for themselves? Do all Evangelicals, or anyone for that matter, spend more time finding out about the Mormon religion to try to prove its falsity than they do in studying their own religion and trying to better their relationship with God?

      Why do people fear the Mormon religion so much? Why do people feel the need to continually degrade another religion? Why do people continue to spout hate and discontent about something they know nothing about? It seems ignorant to me.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  2. Dale Brown

    And this is the cult that Romney belongs too. A Ridulous Work and a Blunder!

    April 8, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • biologixco

      Just wait til the American People learn about
      Planet Kolob and the magical underwear.
      Mittens ROMNEY is toast!

      April 8, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Bo for Chirst

      Isn't America wonderful. Maybe you'd want to change that?

      April 8, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  3. for Mitt

    Seems like the Super PACs for Obama and Santorum are working over time to post negative comments here. Go to church!

    April 8, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • biologixco

      So...does MITTENS ROMNEY wear the magical underwear?
      Is he from planet kolob?
      American people gonna wanna know!

      April 8, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  4. Lizzie

    I once worked with a woman that was Mormon. She told me I could not go to her wedding because I was not WORTHY to enter their temple. Not worthy? Jesus welcomes even the lowest of the low to his church. How dare the Mormons tell anyone they are not worthy to enter a place of worship. Also, you need a card to enter the temple? How ridiculous is that?
    Oh, and one other thing. I have been working on our family genealogy. I have ancestors who came to America on the Mayflower and settled early Jamestown. Some of those ancestors have been baptized into the Mormon faith posthumously. How can they baptize someone who lived and died centuries ago? They lived and died before the Mormons even started their cult. It is extremely offensive to see long dead ancestors baptized into the Mormon faith. Also, baptizing Jews? How dare they! Anne Frank died because she was Jewish. I find those baptisms extremely offensive and I am not Jewish.
    I cannot respect anyone who does not believe all are welcome to enter a place of worship. Sacred? Give me a break. Secret, because they would not want people to see firsthand how creepy they are in their ceremonies... Hands reaching down from white sheets grabbing a bride and groom? yeah, they don't want people to know about that. Mormons do not respect any religion but thir own. Their reflief societies are for their own members, no one else.

    April 8, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Bo for Chirst

      King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
      Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Mark

      Or...the woman in question was a ^$&^. I've known a lot of Mormons and NONE of them acted the way you described.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • James

      they do these things because they are kooks!

      April 8, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Happy Easter

      Calm down, calm down. I can tell you are very worked up about all of this. You can enter any Mormon church building you want. Everyone is welcome to attend and worship as much as you want. However, the temple holds a different meaning. It is not secret, it is sacred. There is a big difference.

      I am really not sure where you are getting your information about what happens in the temple, but it is not correct. Nor is your "insight" of our marriage ceremony. In fact, you are grossly misinformed.

      As for baptisms for the dead, I also invite you to read the scriptures to realize that this is not a new practice invented by the Mormons.

      And as for respecting other religions...we absolutely respect all religions and their beliefs, but that doesn't mean we agree wtih all of their beliefs. You on the other hand need to practice what you preach. It is very hard for you to come out and criticize Mormons for not respecting other religions, while in the same breath state that you do not respect them.

      You don't have to agree with what we believe, but why so dead set on spreading hate about them? It doesn't make sense to me.

      April 8, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  5. misconception

    "I'm a Mormon and I have never tried to be nice to anyone and everyone regardless of who they are or what they have done."

    BIG OOPS on that one. I meant to say I have ALWAYS tried to be nice to anyone and everyone....... lol..... I guess if I have NEVER tried to be nice to anyone and everyone it would show that I'm not bias! lol.....

    April 8, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  6. Bo for Chirst

    King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
    Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

    April 8, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  7. hammer

    Some people went out this morning and faced east and worshiped the sun as it came up.Some churches don't even know they are doing what the pagans did 2000 years ago.Alone with the pagan egg hunt and rabbit a symbol of spring time for pagans.You need to worry about your on self.But some people think they have the power to send you to hell.

    April 8, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  8. darren

    i just loves me some of those magic underwear. yo samantha. guess what i got. take that endora.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  9. Pipe-Dreamer

    Christian moralities are the most important ideologies known by mankind! Christ's teachings far outweigh all Christendom's indifferences! God will be God no matter His Sons' ways of imperfections within Creation's creations of Life here upon this world we call our Earth.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Our bodies are but buildings of living constructs made in fleshened imperfections by the Sons of God. We do labour together with God Almighty as our structured bodies do ferment us thru libations' mintings. We are for God to be eyed from afar off and as creations made manifested by His or God's Sons, we will ever die and be reborn into the structured settings of the Sons of God's Kingdom Domains which lay inside all forms of structured life here upon this Celestial shoreline of terrestrial complacencies.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  10. Conclusion

    Momons will say and do anything to gain acceptance. They are lost souls!

    April 8, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • John

      Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I am a christian, but I do understand my religion has a history of doing bad and evil things in the name of my Lord. So too has your sect done things unapologetic-ally, so let's not go around pointing fingers at who is lost and who is found when none of us truly knows who among us has lived the most righteous life.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Religion

      Taken as a whole ~ Religion is pathetic!

      April 8, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • biologixco

      They aren't lost souls.
      They are from planet Kolob.
      Think Im foolin you? GOOGLE KOLOB.
      These folks are whacko.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  11. Mitch

    The Mormon's don't allow their officials to ...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.

    What about it's members... are we really to believe that the memebers don't take a "position" on politics?

    What about Romney.....duh

    April 8, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  12. LDS

    I am not LDS and I never want to be. I see their beliefs based in hate, prejudice and separation.
    I do believe they are truthful or honest, they are closed minded and not open to outsiders.
    Look at mitt for a perfect example of how they preach to the masses and say what is convenient
    not honest!

    April 8, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"Look at mitt for a perfect example of how they preach to the masses and say what is convenient
      not honest!"

      Sounds also like Obama, GW Bush, Clinton ..... Washington. What you just detailed was a politician.... all of them.

      Well ...maybe except for Christie ... but he might punch you in the mouth in a news conference 🙂

      April 8, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  13. Les

    Hocus Pocus if you ask me.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  14. "the church"

    Hey mormons...it is sunday....go to church and shut up.
    you guys have no idea how stupid you sound on here!
    I think it is time to remove your magic drawers and get a life.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Reply to "the church"

      Agreed! They do sound foolish!

      April 8, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  15. Inquiring mind

    I can't believe CNN made this an open forum where people don't have to register. CNN just wants stupid comments to be tolerated because of it's antimormon stance. Where is your edting CNN when it's really needed?

    April 8, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Juan

      With the creation of the Internet is easy to form an accurate reference point for facts. Please Google 'White Horse Prophecy" as written by a leader of the Mormon Church. To which Romney states that it is not practiced today. You be the judge.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  16. Pipe-Dreamer

    The Celestial Cosmos is a dimension of utmost astoundabilities! Likewise are the creations made manifest from Creationisms Remnants. As the Celestial Cosmos continues to expand in its' continually creating multiplications of universes, our universe in which we find ourselves a part and parcel of seems to be but a finitely small infarction when viewed by the grandness of an ever growing Cosmos of expanding and ever being created universes. Our beings of built offerings by the Sons and Daughters of Almighty God is in retribution and repentances for the very moments of Creationism's birth and death and destruction within the very 1st moments of timeliness. God is God. There is no other God but God Himself the originator of Creation itself and the curator of Creation's creations of Life by the Sons of God doing their Father's will!

    April 8, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Susan

      Too long, didn't read.

      April 8, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer


      Go then to twitter if you want snippets maybe even YouTube,,,,,,,,,,,At least my posts are much smaller then "Reality" postings,,,, 🙂

      April 8, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  17. JSS

    Where's the magic underpants-making room?

    April 8, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • magic underwear

      They are made in china too. I cannot believe how stupid they look.

      April 8, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  18. Zon

    Romney does not want people to know more about what he believes. Evangelical and Catholic voters will cringe the more they hear about this religion. It would be like electing a Scientologist in their minds.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Woody

      And Obama's "Church of Hate" under his "mentor", the mysoginistic Rev Wright, had zero influence on Barry and his beliefs, right?

      April 8, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  19. Zoomie

    Mormanism is a CULT and an EVIL one at that.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Raven

      One mans cult is another mans religion. I was born and raised mormon but at the age of 15 started a long quest for my own true personal spirituality. There is at least an ounce of truth in all religion and much bigotry in all. Some of my family are still mormon and I love them just the same. They have some incredible qualities as people and have some not so good qualities just as many. While i am a Deist on a personal spiritual path I tend to look at organized religion as a glove. Each fits one person where it may not fit another. It is easy to be critical to those that don't fit but I would caution anyone to not be critical to any individual faith. We are all human beings each searching for answers in life. One persons answers will not be the solution for another.

      April 8, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  20. Bo for Chirst

    I was not always of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was raised Catholic and Protestant. I respect a tenet of Mormonism that "Man may worship how and what he may." So from my background I know that a small group of detractors from different churches make the biggest noise against others' beliefs. Christ indicated in the parable of the tares this was necessary. I prefer to speak of the peaceable things of Christ, the power and comfort that He has brought into my life, especially through the temple. The temple has given me power to make better choices in my life in this world of lust and desires. Some have a great need to express disdain for others, while others' take their senses in all directions beyond the pounds that God has set for our learning what true joy is about. I am thankful that I've discovered the great knowledge coming forth to help me be a better father, husband and hopefully, leader of my family. This has happened because of the many arguments for and against what the gospel really is and even if it is real.

    We all make our choices, but I don't understand why our choices need to be placed on others' choices except by a need to support our own insecurity in our individual choice. American is the most diverse country in the world and there are going to be differences of opinion, and nobody there is going to win or change anyone elses mind, except add to their own frustrations by attacking others' decisions to believe or not to believe on whatever the pet argument they wish to put forth.

    But the arguments help those truly seeking which side they will stand, by the simple fact not to become enraged with the bitterness that one group always shows over the other. It will be an easy choice for many, as it is for me.

    April 8, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Susan

      What creeps me out about mormons is their ways of excluding others. They are not welcoming and close ranks constantly. Not letting people into their temples is a great example. They think that God will not let anyone but them into heaven, and they live their lives excluding others just like that. If I really believed that, I would not be able to agree with God. I believe in loving and including all. They really are terrible people, for all their protests about being good. I am thankful I do not live in an area like Utah or Idaho where they have infiltrated public life and have spread their exclusion into areas other than the church. President Obama disavowed that minister when it came to light what he was about – I do not see Mitt Romney distancing himself from this mean spirited church.

      April 8, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • educated mind

      @ Susan
      How many mormons do you know? Or are you making your judgment based on the things you hear from others and on tv about mormons? Have you ever talked to a mormon and asked them about their belief? The dangers about how people like you think is that you don't gather reliable facts for yourself, study it, before making a conclusion. You are making an uneducated conclusion.

      April 8, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Bo for Chirst

      Interestingly, when I was Evangelical I was taught there is either Heaven or hell, but in the Mormon church there are very few, only the ones that actually work against the church and having a full knowledge of Truth will not receive a kingdom of glory. In the days of Chrst, the belief was in either seven or 12 kingdoms of glory, yet the Evangelicals only believe in one. So Mormonism actually is more inclusive as a religion that what is portrayed in the above comment.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Bo for Chirst

      Correction above, those that work against the Holy Ghost and kingdom of God, which includes all of his children.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Bo for Chirst,,,,,,

      All that humanities can build up as Churches are merely reflections of God's buildings, the True churches built as embodiments of Life itself.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • misconception

      I hear people say all the time that Mormons believe they are the only ones who will enter heaven. That is utterly and completely false. Mormons believe that everyone will have an opportunity to enter heaven. Even if you did not have the chance to hear about Christ, like all those people in China who will get arrested if you talk about Christ, you will have the opportunity to enter heaven. Our church is the most inclusive doctrinal church out there. I really think you should take Educated Mind's advice and talk to an active Mormon or go to LDS.org. People who throw out a blanket statement and say "those Mormons are terrible people" should not say those things because it is mean and tasteless. I'm a Mormon and I have never tried to be nice to anyone and everyone regardless of who they are or what they have done. And as far as Mormons not letting people into their temples...... um..... did you not read the headline into this article????!!!! Pretty much any time there is a new temple, they let people walk through and get a tour of the temple before it is dedicated. I really hope you take our advice and talk to someone who knows what they are talking about regarding mormonism. There is so much garbage out there that you have to talk to the source to get a real understanding of the doctrine and who we are.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • misconception

      "I'm a Mormon and I have never tried to be nice to anyone and everyone regardless of who they are or what they have done."

      BIG OOPS on that one. I meant to say I have ALWAYS tried to be nice to anyone and everyone....... lol..... I guess if I have NEVER tried to be nice to anyone and everyone it would show that I'm not bias! lol.....

      April 8, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • theAtheist

      @Susan – Do you not see the hypocrisy in your statement? You say that Mormons are all about excluding others and then you proceed to condemn them all as "terrible people". I am an atheist. I think that the Mormon religion (as well as most others) are inherently evil. However, I do know a lot of Mormon people and they are certainly not terrible. Just like with every other group of people I am sure that some are terrible – just as some are wonderful. Perhaps you should check your own bigotry before accusing others. People in glass houses and all that...

      April 8, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Pipe-Dreamer


      Your Mormonism highlights abound with a tradjectory heading exactly to where? Proclaiming Mormonism as the tell all of the all told truths? Is it too much for me to say that the ONLY tried and trued churches are of Life's embodiments? Scripture imparts such to be a Truth,,,,,,,,,,, 🙂

      I Corinthins 3:9 says it all,,,, we are labourers together with God,,,, we are God's Husbandries and we are God's Buildings,,,

      April 8, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Danielle

      Dear Bo,

      Growing up as the daughter of a man who was raised Mormon- and now a physician- I can tell you
      that these people really are scary. The first time I heard him talk about Jesus, once he returned to the church-
      he said in the same breath- "its those Muslims I dont know about." So, I asked him, well, when was the last time
      you met a Muslim, had dinner with him ( or overall recognized the threads of extremism that are similar to yours)- over
      the years, Ive witnessed many condescending comments towards an African American in the church- the one time I have
      heard him talk about black people- he said that he didnt realize they had such big hands. Ive heard him talk about women
      in ways that would make most men even cringe. He hasnt said a loving or genuine thing to me since re-joining the church. Except once. He has alienated all four of his children who are not Mormon and see the changes he has undergone. I have to tell you, it is very odd to see such behavior in light of the claims to behavior that I assume is pronounced within church walls. SCARY. VERY VERY SCARY for a daughter and the rest of the non-Mormon family.

      November 14, 2012 at 8:14 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64
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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.