An imposing white temple has stood between the green mountains and blue ocean on Hawaii’s windward coast since 1919, but only rarely has it welcomed the public inside. For the past several weeks, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has opened the Laie temple for public tours that end tomorrow.
The temple was the first built outside Utah, and the fifth LDS (Mormon) temple overall. It was the smallest temple the church had constructed, at 10,500 square feet. According to the LDS website, church President Joseph Smith was in Hawaii on business in 1915 when “he was moved by a spiritual impulse to dedicate a site for the Laie Hawaii Temple.”
The temple is open to the public because it has been undergoing remodeling. It was remodeled once before from 1976-78. Then, as now, a public open house was held before the temple was re-dedicated. The current public tours end November 13 and after dedicatory services on November 21 the temple will again be used exclusively for sacred services by members of the LDS church.
This temple is one of three built with no towers or spires. It is in the shape of a Grecian cross, the design suggested by ancient temples found in South America, again according to the church website. The interior of the church features hand-painted murals by LeConte Stewart on the walls of what are called ordinance rooms (used for teaching). Many other paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ decorate hallways and a small chapel.
The most unique room is the baptistry, where a large baptismal font rests on the backs of twelve stone oxen representing the twelve tribes of Israel. This room was repaired and renovated as part of the current construction project. Church members not only undergo baptism themselves, but also perform baptisms for ancestors who have died. Similarly, marriages of the faithful and their ancestors are “sealed” for eternity in the temple. On the tour, we saw several sealing rooms.
Our tram driver assured us there would be a flood of marriages as soon as the temple is re-dedicated. There has also been great interest in seeing the inside of the temple by members of the public. One church volunteer estimated that 10,000 people toured the temple yesterday alone – it was especially busy because Veterans’ Day is a state holiday in Hawaii and many people were off work. Last Saturday, 6,000 people toured the building.
A visitors’ center on the temple grounds has information about the temple and the LDS faith. It remains open to the public and is a popular stop for visitors to the Polynesian Culture Center next door.